Pen-and-ink outlines that he usually paints beyond — Mark Kerckhoff’s process is governed by experimentation in that and other ways.
Now through March 11, “Mark Kerckhoff: A Celebration of Plein Air Painting” is on view at Marcia Burtt Gallery in Santa Barbara, California, where visitors will see the results of Kerckhoff’s self-declared “eccentric approach.” The California painter seems to have collected all the traditional knowledge about plein air painting and spread it out before him, picking and choosing methods that suit him and breaking rules when he sees fit.

“Hidden Cove,” by Mark Kerckhoff, oil, 23 x 30 in. Courtesy of Marcia Burtt Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
“I don’t have a set way of thinking,” he says. “I’m always optimistically looking to improve on my past performance. Every new painting has a bit of experimenting involved. I don’t really look for focal points. But I am attracted to the four great planes John F. Carlson describes in his book Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting — sky, ground, uprights, and slanting mountains.”
Kerckhoff paints year-round in California, but he favors the fall. “That’s the prettiest time — after the summer heat goes down, about the third or fourth week of September, through December,” says the artist. “You get better colors then.”
The painter says his current show doesn’t really have a theme, although many of the paintings do have unusual compositions. It’s true that this selection of his work presents arresting designs that pull the viewer in with something more than beauty. The light in his paintings is beautiful, but Kerckhoff’s different vision is the undeniable element.

“Indian Canyon,” by Mark Kerckhoff, oil, 30 x 40 in. Courtesy of Marcia Burtt Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
Kerckhoff sketches a thumbnail design in graphite on a notepad, then transfers that to the canvas, outlining the dark and light shapes with ink. Then he paints over it in oil. “It’s just a scaffolding, really,” he says. “I don’t really paint inside the lines.” He is devoted to plein air painting, in no small part because of his temperament. “I love the freedom of being alone and away from people,” says the artist. “I’ve enjoyed nature since I was a child. I was never a book person; I was always about riding horses, carving my name on a tree, hiking. I try to find places that seem like I’m the first person to come there and paint at that spot. I want to feel like a pioneer out there.”
For more information on the show, visit the gallery’s website.


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