In 2004 my sweet grandmother passed away. A 100-year-old text on landscape painting was passed on to me, Landscape Painting by Birge Harrison. My grandmother found it second hand; it has another’s inscription in it and a price of 50 cents. It is a tattered green hardbound book with gold stamped title, author, and an image of a palette with brushes surrounded by a laurel wreath. The pages are yellowed and binding is failing.
At first I didn’t think much of this book. When I was in art school, landscape painting was unpopular. Even so I am a hiker and obsessive drawer. I did it anyway. After reading the book, I was surprised how it delved into esoteric ideas of art, landscape painting and the challenges of a life as an artist with chapters on Temperament, The “Sub-Conscience Servant”, and Character. This book has become important to me not only because it reminds me of my grandmother but because I feel a kinship to the author.
My interests have always have leaned toward more introspective exploration along the lines of Paul Klee, Jean Miro and Jasper Johns. Still I am drawn to the landscape. I moved west after Graduating from Maryland Institute and became more immersed in nature and environmental concerns.
I rarely haul all my heavy gear into the field to focus on capturing what I see. The process can be a barrier to my initial motivation, which is to capture that experience of being in nature. The work is a synthesis of experience fusing the desire to be fully in the world, intense introspection and sensitivity to the materials and making process. I developed an intimate relationship with my “Temperament” as described by Birge Harrison. The conscious, reasoning part of our intelligence is not the sole source of mental energy.
–John Holdway, Jr. 2020