“After many years living in the San Francisco Bay Area and painting with a focus on the figure, I relocated to the Eastern Sierra in 2010 with plans to paint trees, animals and landforms found in its mountainous regions. My decision to move to the desert side of California follows years of autumn camping vacations in Hilton and Rock Creeks, enchanted by their granite canyons flaming with golden aspens. Now I explore the Owens Valley alluvial watershed and its range lands, camera in hand, capturing images to use as sources for compositions in my studio.
I find I am most inspired by the landscape and colors of winter, when underlying structures of fields and thickets, streams and canals, and riparian trees, particularly cottonwoods, red birch and willow, are starkly exposed. My development of a style based on strong graphic linework over watercolor underpainting is well suited to the muted colors and leafless dormancy of natural survival in an arid land. Although bleak in appearance, I am drawn to its quiet power of waiting for monsoon rain or snow melt waters for a renewal of life.
I feel that while I paint real things in the world, my paintings are more expressive than naturalistic; I am using tree trunks, pools, valley vistas, owls and horses as vehicles to convey feelings that arise within myself while contemplating them. I am painting the truth of my experience as well as perception of my subject, and the meaning I am expressing through my painting is distilled from wider experience than the local subjects which inspire me to paint.
I hope that my artwork will contribute to an awareness of the need to appreciate, protect and restore riparian woodlands in California, and everywhere in the world.”
Video courtesy of Mark Pahuta