“What did you do on election night, Martha?”

I can’t WAIT to hear and read the florabundance of BS that is about to bloom in America, rehashing the infinite election.

Last evening, on Twitter, I learned that my favorite TV art historian, Waldemar Januzsczak, has done a series for the BBC on American art. It’s called, “Big Skies, Big Dreams, Big Art.” I immediately attempted to log on to the BBC to stream it but guess what? If you’re not in Britain, you can’t stream the BBC. I guess it’s the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean that prevents that.

Wait, no, that’s not it. It’s $$. 🙂

I tweeted at Waldemar and said, “Yeah but I can’t watch it and I’m out here under the big skies, with big dreams and big paintings — my own! I was hoping to get through this strange evening watching your series!”

He hooked me up with a link to his website from which I could buy or rent the series. I bought it. I often watch his shows more than once. I tweeted back, “Thanks, you’re the best, here’s a painting.” I attached the tree painting. He (as I choose to believe) — or one of his minions (impossible; it was him) tweeted back.

I was happy.

He starts out in the American West — which fascinates Europeans, I know from having taught ESL to a variety of Europeans back in the day. I felt his connections between things were a little tenuous, but I wasn’t watching him to learn American history. I was watching to get his take on Art from my world.

He started with Thomas Moran whose huge visionary romanticized views of American scenes have been part of my life since I was a kid. My favorite Teton is named after that artist. I don’t think Waldemar has been in the American west long enough at a time to see that Moran’s fabulous skies didn’t ONLY come from J. M. W. Turner, but from, well, our skies. Here’s an example of a post-thunderstorm sky in June out at Homelake here in Monte Vista.

But, Moran’s paintings of Venice are almost copies of Turner’s so what do I know?

Waldemar’s goal in the show was to get to Jackson Pollack. His route was a little convoluted — going past Frederick Remington and Theosophy — but he got there. I often learn things from Waldemar about painters, especially painters I don’t like and don’t get, Pollack being one of them. But it was cool to learn that Pollack came from Cody, Wyoming and not in the way Kanye West comes from Wyoming. Featured image: Mural by Jackson Pollack. There are horses in it.

As for the election? The one thing I’ve taken away from all this is I have to get myself together and let the future take care of itself. Fuck it. If that’s what the people want, who am I?


Clarity vs. Atmosphere

I have a few artist friends whose opinion I pay attention to. One of them, Lilliana, told me once (though her philosophy toward a painting and mine are different) that I needed to learn how to paint something called “atmosphere.” I could NOT figure out what she meant. She tried explaining it, but…

Then I began to appreciate the work of J. M. W. Turner, work I’d always thought was just a bunch of muddy smudges. He pretty much ONLY paints atmosphere.

Venice, Moonrise 1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Venice, Moonrise 1840 Joseph Mallord William Turner (mostly atmosphere)


One view of Venice by Turner (lots of atmosphere)


Another view of Venice by Turner (must’ve been a clearer day, but atmosphere communicates distance)

I believe atmosphere = humidity.

I tried explaining to my friend that I had learned to paint in Colorado where there is little or no “atmosphere.”

I began pondering the difference between “luminosity” and “clarity” and I realized that my friend was right. A landscape painting has to fool the viewer into believing they’re looking at a scene and it has to give the viewer information about what to look at. “Atmosphere” also gives the viewer information about distance.That was a new perspective (ha ha). It also conveys time of day. There is more atmosphere in the morning and in the evening than at noon.

Rita, the other artist friend in question, paints Colorado but her paintings have “atmosphere.” She even put up a video tutorial about how to paint this. I watched it and it was great for two reasons. First, it was only a couple of minutes long. Second, she SHOWED “how” to do it.


It’s like writing a compare/contrast essay. No writer sits down with that as an intention any  more than a painter gets up and says, “Today I’m going to paint atmosphere, the middle distance, and the three values.” Those things are tools.

BUT…Where I live now there is, often, absolutely NO atmosphere. The only thing between me and the mountains fifty miles away is fifty miles. The light here — which I love — is NOT luminous. It’s CLEAR. You can see the clarity in the photo; what you can’t see is that I could see all the nooks and crannies of the distant Sangre de Cristo mountains from where I stood as I took this picture.


Wright/Shriver Recreation Area, Monte Vista CO with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance.

Clear light. I thought about it some more. That is probably the meaning of “art” vs. “nature.” A painting that imitates the absolute clarity of this scene could end up visually confusing.

In this painting, I painted atmosphere.

Ancestral Memory

Ancestral Memory by Martha Ann Kennedy

I’ve learned all this but I’ve yet to apply it to a landscape. Ultimately learning this has confused me as a painter. I don’t know if I want to have a system and to get things right. I don’t know anything at all.