Josh Adam has sold many California landscape paintings, and he has a reputation in Maine for his marine paintings, but sometimes the rain suggests that he switch gears. A concept he pursues in these moments offers the artist multiple challenges.
Lead Image: “Red Mountain Iris,” by Josh Adam, oil on board, 11 x 14 in.
Adam sets up on a deck or porch, just under a roof but still outside, and paints a still life with a vista stretching out behind it. Several artists have pursued this line of thought, and Adam says he feels he was inspired both by Jane Freilicher’s series of window paintings and by Renaissance portraits in which vast landscapes dominate the background.
“The ones I’ve done in the last couple of years have been done when it was a plein air trip but it’s raining outside,” says Adam. “I treat it as sort of an exercise.”
In both cases shown here, Adam was at a location very familiar to him. One was painted in California from his old residence, and the other was painted at his in-laws house in Maine. Rather than paint the views, which he had done before in various other ways, Adam chose to set up a still life. The items in the foreground were simply what was handy. “It was a function of being bored and trying to think of something new to do with the view,” he says.
The concept offers several things to explore. There is the contrast between crisp foreground and hazy background. And there’s the issue of planning how the viewer’s eye can move through the composition. “I think people like them because the eye is a little bit restless looking at them,” Adam says. “It has a lot to do with the tones, making them stronger in the foreground.”
He helps the viewer by making a point of having a foreground element break the horizon line at some point. What he doesn’t do is edit or move things in the composition. “I’m pretty much a realist so I paint what’s in front me, not a lot of editing in terms of making something less busy,” says Adam. “I choose the spot I like rather than changing the spot to what I would want it to be.”
Adam clearly relishes the challenge of painting the glass in which the flowers sit, and he says that may be something he explores further down the road. “I found it most interesting when water is in the clear container, because then you get the refracted landscape visible in the vessel,” says the Maine artist. “You could get much more ambitious with how big the still life is and how complicated the bowl of water can be. It would be interesting to have really ornate 2-gallon vases with lots of flowers.”