Art Is Learning to See
by Peter Murdock
written for the Jefferson Arts Gallery Newsletter
Winter 2010

As I gaze out at the breadth, length and depth of the canyon through which the middle fork of the Powder River runs, I’m taken with the rich cobalt blueness of the atmosphere. As the stretch of canyon bottom recedes and its blueness becomes paler, I can plainly see those three methods that an artist employs to convey the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface. The view was a perfect illustration, as if it were a demonstration in an art class.

The three arrows in the painter’s quiver of which I speak and which are used to portray distance are the phenomena of things becoming paler and more pastel as they recede in the distance, this being due to the atmosphere. Additionally, objects appear smaller the further away they get and they overlap, one in front of the other. Hence, completing the sleight of hand that is perspective.

I note also color. This very canyon in the morning light has its walls with friezes in bas-relief, its parapets and its buttresses limned in rich gold growing stronger and bolder as the morning progresses squeezing and concentrating the cobalt shadows into a pure ultramarine richness. Later the sun’s rising higher erodes the shadows exposing a tapestry of earth tones reminiscent of Maynard Dixon paintings–taupe, ecru, ocher, and sienna.

These musings took place in the high plains of central Wyoming as I sat on a ridge behind our campsite, savoring a cup of tea and drinking in the panorama and I thought—to learn art is to learn how to see.

We miss you, Peter.

Dedicated to Peter Murdock, Diane & Tyler – April 21, 2015

Retrospective – April 4, 2015   Jefferson Arts Gallery, Monticello, FL   Video Walkthrough