M. Shawn Cornell

A Brief Moment of Life — M. Shawn Cornell

I'm a plein air painter by the strictest terms. Simply defined-all paintings are completed 100% on location-there's absolutely no indoor touch up. I do this for the vast challenges of painting from firsthand outdoor observation and to fully honor the historical tradition of painting directly from life. Why complete the painting entirely on location? It's a personal challenge. I simply want to see if I can.

My paintings are neither cutting edge nor deep in metaphorical meaning, they're simply stories about brief moments that I experience and witness during my excursions. Hopefully these stories connect with the viewer, sparking a fond memory, a sense of familiarity or a bit of humor. Each painting is documented with its location, date, time of day, weather conditions, and brief observations about the day. Many have referred to this documentation as the painting's birth certificate.

Oil is my medium and I work with a very limited palette: Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow. There are many reasons I prefer this palette, one in particular is to simplify my life by simplifying my choices of colors to mix. My work is characterized by strong brush strokes that are freely and rapidly applied to the canvas-I want the viewer to see the use of the medium, the thicks and thins of the brush strokes, the spontaneity and the confidence. Certain passages will be left loose and undefined, providing the viewer the opportunity to interpret and finish the image.

For me, painting "en plein air" is more than just creating two dimensional representations. It's my wife's companionship as she illuminates the canvas with a flashlight so I can paint the full moon. It's my dad and me sharing a thermos of hot cheesy tomato soup while we paint a frozen, snow covered stream. It's spending time to see the extraordinary in things many would call ordinary. It's a brief moment of life, captured on canvas.

Years ago, while talking to an artist at the Salute to the Masters Art Fair, I saw among his vast display a striking mountain landscape. When I asked him where the scene was, he replied, “I don’t know. I copied it from some magazine.” Instantly, the image died. To me, the painting became just a well rendered copy of some unknown printed copy from some unremembered magazine; it possessed no connections, no experiences and no life. I think that moment established in me a core conviction that my paintings would be witnesses and tributes to real experiences as they were happening. The paintings would be stories about brief moments in my life, told visually and narratively to whomever desired to look. Over the years, the implementing of this core conviction has supplied me with many frustrations, a multitude of close friends, and countless rewards.