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Changing Course Due to the Pandemic

By Ellen Maidman-Tanner

Thingvellir, Iceland by Johannes Kjarval

For 18 months, my landscapes in oil were the result of two trips to Iceland, in 2014 and 2017. On my first trip to this geologically unique island, I discovered the work of Iceland’s most famous artist, the landscape painter Johannes Kjarval.

I was absolutely dazzled, and I promised myself that when I was finally free to return to full-time studio life, after a corporate career that spanned some 35+ years, I would paint from my photographs of Iceland. My Icelandic landscapes, begun in earnest in 2018, have made their way into private collections, and into over a dozen juried exhibits over the last 2 years. The image you see here is from a trip around Iceland’s ring road.

My husband and I were to return to Iceland this past May, so that I could ‘top up my imagery tank’, but that plan collapsed, like so many other plans for 2020, due to the pandemic.

Waterfall in a Basalt Gorge by Ellen Maidman-Tanner

Like many families, my husband and I added a ‘pandemic pup’, a second rescue, to our household and walking our two girls became a restorative, therapeutic thing to do as the world seemed to unravel about us. In the process of finding nice places to take hikes with the dogs, we discovered Wheaton Regional Park, an area with which we were wholly unfamiliar, despite it being less than 20 minutes from our home.

And then lightning struck again, and android phone camera at the ready, I started taking images there that inspired me. If Iceland was unavailable, it was time to move on, and I was happy to move on to what I captured with my photography at the new park. Unlike many landscape painters, I do not work out of doors, but solely through my own imagery. While I think working outdoors is a laudable activity, I don’t like bugs, schlepping gear, or the vagaries of weather. My work is the distillation of my vision – a unique point in time, that for me captures all I want to convey in oil. It is the particular lighting and composition, not the alterations of wind, clouds and time.

Wheaton Regional Park, Boulder Study #3 (One of my Wheaton studies was just shipped to an exhibit in New York, for the annual New York Artist Equity show, a juried show.)

The image you see here is from Wheaton, a park that has many diverse trees, boulders and the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River running through it. There are rich and complex images around every turn, and hunting just the right image is a gift, as I visualize how these photos will translate into oil.

I can’t recommend ‘green therapy’, taking in nature, highly enough. It has kept me happy, busy, and sane during these destabilizing times, and provided new inspiration for my work.

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