This month's Curator's Choice is a framed landscape painting by John Harris titled Big Branch River. It captures water cascading over large rocks in a  stream, beneath the bases of tree trunks above it, with incredible attention to the way light and shadow interact with organic surfaces and water. As the warmer temperatures set in, we're thinking of spending more time outside immersed in nature, and so we felt a celebration of the natural world was a must during this seasonal shift. Read on to learn all about the piece and more about why it was this month's Choice

What It's About

John Harris' paintings are often large, very lightly abstracted, detailed paintings of rocks under riverbeds or crashing ocean waves. A scene from a Vermont river, Big Branch River features the artist's signature abstracted style, but with a looser application than his larger works.

"I have been painting landscapes of New England since the mid-90s, and visiting them since childhood" the artist says. "My work is painted on location using a traditional paint box, canvas and oil paints. The limited amount of time I have outdoors challenges me to work quickly, putting down only the essentials. Composition, values, warm and cool colors are my initial concerns. 

"I enjoy hiking off the beaten path and finding my way into nooks and crannies, seldom seen by others. I carry my easel and paints with the hope of capturing something of interest. The rocks here on the Big Branch River on Mt. Tabor in Vermont towered over me as the white water rushed through. Your senses come alive with the smell of balsam, the roaring river and the sun beaten warm rocks. There is nothing better than painting from life, it captures the true spirit of the subject.

"I see abstraction in the landscape. A flat composition from a three dimensional perspective. Colors, shapes, values, and light are interwoven and constantly changing. Nature does not stand still - shadows change direction, the skies cloud over, animals appear and disappear. The painting is a time lapse image, not a snap shot from a split second."

Where It Works

Big Branch River is created with oil paint on linen over panel and is framed in a thin wood floater frame. Measuring 19" x 26" panel (20" x 27" framed), it is modestly sized and can easily fit alongside another painting, or on its own on a smaller wall. With an earth-toned palette and the soothing energy of rendered running water, we love it above a desk, on a small focal wall in an entryway, or in a cozy area of a bedroom.

Why We Love It

We obviously love every painting John Harris creates, but one thing that really stands out about Big Branch River is the artist's impactful use of light. The scene has elements of familiarity and serenity, and it is just abstracted enough that the viewer can't help but stay engaged. The staunch light source steals the show, though - as if there were a spotlight illuminating a dark corner of the forest as the sun sets, creating a glow. We love this piece for its earthy color palette, it's nostalgia, it's appreciation for the ruggedness of the natural world, and the sense of drama that the artist injects into it using something as simple (but clearly powerful) as light. 

You can shop our Curator's Choice as an original painting or a custom, open edition print. You can also see all artwork by John Harris in his Artist Collection


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