In his studio, I get to watch him scrape down and then sand lightly a painting he’s been waiting to finish: sitting with it for days, the way a good writer will sit with an ending, even when he or she is certain. Waiting to be sure—waiting for the delightful vapors, the adrenaline fumes, of completion to wear off—and then waiting a little longer.
The painting—maybe 6 inches by 9 inches— has taken him a month.
“No one spends a month on a small painting like this anymore,” he says. Later he’ll take it to an auction in Great Falls, like a rancher with a prize bull, but carrying it onto the plane like a magazine under his arm.
The blade is rasping, the paint is falling to the bottom of the easel, rasp, rasp, rasp. He blows on the painting as if imbuing it with life, shakes it, puffs on it again, then sands it lightly, holds it out at arm’s length, and is satisfied. And it is beautiful.
~ Rick Bass, on Russell Chatham, 74, who he describes as the greatest living landscape painter in America.
- Don’t miss the entire story in Field & Stream: Russell Chatham: A Landscape Artist with a Hunter’s Eye
- See more of his work here: 25 Russell Chatham Landscape Paintings
- Thank you Rob Firchau at The Hammock Papers for pointing me to his work and the article.
- Paintings shown above by Russell Chatham: The Seasons, April and Chatham Hayfields, 1995