The distinctively curved ridgeline of Horseshoe Mountain remained heavily capped in snow during our visit. Steep chutes line up like ribs along its steep face.
Wave after wave of cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds crowd the sky of the wide valley. We are only two days after a late-season dusting of snow in the valley — and rain is likely on the way.
The dramatic cloudscape splashes amoeba-shaped patches of light across the plateau and hayfields as it slowly passes overhead.
Doug carries an antique French easel he found at a thrift store across the southeast stretch of his property to capture his chosen subject matter. I follow a few steps behind with a handful of old watercolor tubes and a homemade easel adapted from a design by plein air artist Frank LaLumia: essentially a flat surface with a tripod mount.
Doug’s backyard abuts a large agricultural field, which Doug says his neighbor recently planted. Persistent bleating drifts from a nearby cluster of weathered sheds. It’s near the end of lambing season. Doug has his easel prepared in moments, and true to the style, he immediately begins mixing and applying paint in broad, interpretive strokes. He sights the landscape with his brush, and applies a rust-colored wash of oil paint to a section of the canvas. These first gestural strokes are important to Doug.
“Some of these marks here that aren’t exactly ‘in’ the painting and aren’t out there, are just beautiful marks by themselves. They carry their own meaning, their own significance.”
Those marks are part of the artist’s skillset and toolbox, Doug explains. They are intuitive, deliberate choices, and become combined with little surprises that occur along the way.
“This wouldn’t have happened unless you were very deliberately going about what you do. And then this other element comes in and, ‘wow,’ it made it live.”
It occurs to me that there’s a clear parallel in travel. When I go about the process of traveling, I prepare myself with the tools and mentality of a traveler, then deliberately put myself in a place. Once I’m there, comfortable being a little uncomfortable, I open my mind to possibility of surprise — to the serendipity of travel. Travel should lead to discovery, both planned and unplanned.
For Doug Fryer, art is fully intertwined in his other values, not separate.
“I make art because the world is a beautiful, meaningful place. I want to make some significant statements about those feelings, whether they’re based on aesthetics or they’re based on a story.”
In my own humble watercolor en plein air, Doug picks out a few gestural strokes of pigment nicely interacting with the water. I don’t paint as often as I’d like, but today was about deliberately getting out there, and letting serendipity lead the way in the picture-perfect landscape of Spring City.