Okay so in Section One we have four oil paintings they’re kind of arranged in a - just like a 2 by 2 arrangement, and the one on the top left is called Pennsylvania Trees. It was done in July of 2017. It’s in oil on linen panel, which is what most of my oil paintings are. And it's 5 inches by 7 inches - it’s on the small side. I did this down in Pennsylvania when I was visiting my in-laws, who live in that area. So, what it depicts is a stand of trees on top of a hill, and behind the trees is a gray sky. And the trees themselves are mostly pine trees of some kind so they have that dark pine tree color. And they seem to form a triangular wedge shape, as they grow from the left of the painting across the field. And they stop about two thirds of the way across the painting; and then it just becomes more open sky. Then there are some more distant, probably deciduous trees, light green trees, far away.
Then in front of the tress is large field. And there’s some sunlight, even though it’s filtered by the clouds, falling on the field. So you can see the color of the grass, and the weeds, and all that kind of stuff in the field.At the very front of the field there's a darker line where the field ends and it comes up to a road. And the very foreground of the painting is the road, and you can see that the yellow line that goes down the center of the road kind of divides that from the field, and there’s just the gray of the road below. Which to me was one of the most fun things about the painting - putting in that yellow line.
And that’s pretty much it - the paint is put on with a palette knife; it looks fairly rough. So you can't like, see the definition of a particular tree or a particular. blade of grass for the most part. It’s more like textures that imply those things. But it still looks pretty realistic - you can’t- you wouldn't mistake it for anything but some trees and a field and a road and so on… Okay?
[Kelsey] So, with these, like this cluster of paintings, do you take a photograph of these things, and then paint them, or are you painting them in real time?
[Matthew] Pretty much in real time. Usually what I do, is I paint in real time, and I won’t get it all done before I have to go do something else, or the light changes or whatever. And then I take it home and then I try and just like finish it off. And when I'm at the place I sometimes take a reference photograph which I may or may not use. In general reference photographs are a double edged sword.Because they can - they don't necessarily get it more right than you get it. But they have this authority as photographs, so when you’re working from one, you say “Oh, the photograph put that tree there; it must be right - I should move my tree over." But that’s not the case, because the photograph - the camera may not have the exact same focal length as your eye.When I do take reference photographs I try to set the focal length of the camera to match that of human eye, in general. But its still not going to be exactly what you saw. It just has its own distortion that it brings to things. And furthermore I'm not really trying to make a photographic document of the time and place - I could have just taken a photograph if thats what I wanted. I try to make my painting, which is my response to it, so I don’t want the photograph to dictate to me what I should do. But that's kind of a struggle. So I use reference photographs only with great caution. What they’re good for is documentary stuff, like if you want to know, "were there three trees on that distant hill, or five trees." I didn't catch that detail when I was there, and the photograph will tell me the answer to that. Which I may or may not care about.
So the next one - we're going to go down the columns and across. So the next one down is called Pennsylvania Clouds. That's actually of the very same scene, that the previous one, Pennsylvania trees, was of, at a different time. This is from July of 2016. It’s oil on linen panel, and it's 10 inches by 12 inches. So this one similarly shows a view up a hill at the stand of pine trees, and the other green trees behind them. And in this case there is a big gray kind of rain cloud coming in from the left, but against the right there’s very intense blue sky and intense white clouds, and you’re kind of seeing up through the clouds at the blue sky that remains. That's kind of what the most dramatic part of the painting is in a way. It's a very common scene to happen in that part of the world. At that time in the summer you have these deep, deep, clear blue skies; these billowing white cumulus clouds, and then these rain storms that just kind of come in and go away pretty fast. It’s sort of a very constantly changing sky. So I didn't want to just have the feeling of a moment, but also the feeling of a moment in time, like the sky’s in flux and it's going to change before you know it into something completely different, as it did. So maybe the top half of the painting is given over to these dark clouds, and then below that, from a half to a third down, is the trees and then the field. The field is picking up a pretty bright light because there’s sun coming in where the clouds are parted. So you have these kind of dulled areas where it's under the clouds and very bright yellow areas where little shafts of sunlight are picking out the flowers. And then in the foreground, you can see actually individual stalks of flowers and stuff - there are brown eyed susans and things. Kind of where the edge of the field is right before the road starts, so you’re seeing the sides of the plants. Again the paint is put on with a palette knife, and it’s pretty impressionistic, like you don't see a lot of detail, but there are a few things, like the brown eyed susans, are picked out, to use one little detail to kind of indicate how to see the rest of it, that's more impressionistic, as also being made of similar typical wildflowers and roadside plants and stuff. So that’s that one.
Now we’re going to the next one up in the the right hand upper corner. This one's called Mount Pollux Early Spring. Mount Pollux is a place that I go to a lot because it’s within easy being distance. I ride my bike up to Mount Pollux with my paints, and do views from there. In this case it's looking north from Mount Pollux across into South Amherst and the valley that we're in. And you can see some of Mount Toby very hazily in the distance. So most of the painting, maybe the top half of the painting, is a kind of a hazy light blue sky, and the mountains just appear as kind of a gray shape; you can’t really make out the individual mountains. And then in the foreground things get gradually more distinct - I think actually rain was coming in that day - I had to quit that painting ‘cause I was getting rained on. So you have this feeling like it’s a day that’s - the atmosphere is pretty damp and hazy. In the foreground the greens kind of go from gray, grayish screens to more defined brilliant greens - but it never gets that brilliant - it's pretty low key. And there is some sort of a bushy tree in the really foreground that sort of defines where the space begins. So, all in all, it's a pretty simple painting - it kind of shades from the bluish sky at the top to the purplish grey mountains in the middle, to the more dark and defined greens in the foreground. And it's all very impressionistic - you just sort of see the general texture and tone of the hills and the foliage that covers them. It has the feeling of - let’s see, I did it in May of 2015; it has that feeling of early spring when the leaves are all just coming out. So then the next picture down on the lower right corner is called Stand of Trees. This one was done in July 17. Also in Pennsylvania. These trees are sort of right to the left of the trees thatI was doing in the other two paintings in the section. So it’s the same area, it's got that same field, the same road in the foreground… So starting from the bottom is got like this gray road that kind of defines the base of the painting. Then again you see the yellow line in the middle of the road - because the road is crowned, you see it as being on top of the road rather than in the middle of the road, because I’m looking at the road from the side and from below. And then there is a dark area where the plants that grow by the side of the road which even have a name, I've learned: They're called “berm… berm plants” or something like that. There's a funny story about this painting I’ll tell you. And then there's the sunlit field which is very brightly lit, against a pretty dark stormy sky and the dark trees. Then there's a stand of trees which kind of take up most of the painting, and they kind of form this overall shape which is curved on the left and then slanted diagonally down on the right. Sort of like, I don't know, the prow of a ship or something. But it's made up of multiple trees, but they all are sort of forming a unified shape which is one of the things I find fascinating about trees - when they all grow together, they’re kind of competing with one another for the available sunlight, but they're also kind of, you know, presenting a united front as trees. And you often get these beautiful shapes, as the negative areas between the trees and the trees themselves interact. And then behind the trees which are very brambly and sort of jagged looking, with lots of sky showing through them, there is this dark stormy sky, with the sense that, you know, maybe a thunderstorm is gonna be coming in pretty soon.The funny story about this was that I was out there painting in front of my brother-in-law's house, and there was a guy mowing the berm plants by the side of the road, from the town. It was like you know maybe a half, a quarter of a mile up the road or something. Then this car came up, and this guy got out of the car and came over to me and said “did Victor -“ like, Victor is my brother-in-law’s name - “did Victor tell you there’s a fee you have to pay for painting here? [laughter) So, so I said “No, but he told me what to say to somebody if they ask me that.” And a guy like laughed a lot - he thought it was pretty funny that I came back with that: “Hey you're pretty quick on the feet," you know. But what happened is that while he was distracting me, the mower, had been mowing down my berm plants, so when I turned around to do this painting all those berm plants that are in the painting were gone [laughter] so those berm plants are like, immortalized - that was their last few moments of life [laughter] as I was doing this painting. So that's it for section one.
[Kelsey] That one kind of looks, the one you just did, looks like a sponge painting kind of, from further away. [Matthew] Yeah, well it has that texture - I mean, those are very deliberate marks, but I was trying to get the fact that trees make these very organic textures. So on even though I was really doing it like, “there’s that mark, there's that market, there’s that mark," I was trying to avoid making it look like “there's that leaf, there's that leaf, know what I mean? I was, I didn't want to have it be the story of, “these trees have trunks and the trunks have branches and the branches have leaves; I wanted it to be story of “these are trees are creating this unified pattern of lights and darks.” And that's the subject of the painting, more than the well known fact that trees have trunks and branches and leaves.