When I worked in aerial cartography, the process of making accurate maps required a perfectly vertical view to the ground below, as the math required to calculate the elevation worked best with little to no tilt in perspective. A viewpoint like this gives very little in the way of depth, particularly in the flatlands of Illinois where most of my jobs were located. At first glance a viewer might see this as a little unexciting, but as I worked I began to notice an interesting interplay between the harsh, geometric lines of the man-made roads and fields and the intricate and sweeping curves of the natural earth. I grew to appreciate the contrasts between the darkness of the trees and rivers against the browns and ochres of the ground. I realized I enjoyed the abstract qualities of this viewpoint and began to experiment with a little more abstraction in my painting.

I do these paintings in oil mixed with cold wax, which is sort of a poor man’s encaustic painting. It doesn’t need the heat of encaustic but has similar qualities, drying to a hard beeswax-like finish. The finish lends itself to creating different textures using different techniques. The paint can be sanded with steel wool, massaged with cotton, and scratched into while wet or dry. I sometimes add additional layers of oil crayon, smudging and blending and working the surface even more. It is a very different process than usual for me. The results are abstract and vibrantly colored, hopefully capturing the unique qualities of this rather strict aerial viewpoint.

Topographic Farmscape #1

Topographic Farmscape #2

Topographic Farmscape #3

Topographic Farmscape #4

Topographic Farmscape #7

Topographic Farmscape #8