David Norcross

Paint by Nature

I have been traveling a lot lately to Virginia. On our trips, there is a particular stretch of highway that I always look forward to, both for its beauty as well as a reminder of how close we are to being back home. The spot is on 29N, and while I wish I could give a mile marker for reference, my brain tends to work more in pictures and less in numbers. Anyhow, it’s where the Blue Ridge Mountains appear out of nowhere.


The organic line that divides the mountaintop from the bottom of the sky is one that I have painted so many times that it feels natural and comfortable. Searching for a new way to depict a subject that I have painted in the past, I spent my time riding shotgun dissecting what I saw. I found new inspiration in the natural dips and crater like indentions in the mountain range. Those would be the jumping off point for Almost Home.

I wanted my mountain range to encompass the viewer, like a panoramic photograph, so I used a birch panel measuring 24″x48″. My design started with two inverted semi-circles (one at the top and one at the bottom) meeting in the center of the painting. At the base of the painting is a body of water represented by three colors that symbolize changing depth. The mountain range also has three colors that, although not representational, are meant to show perspective by getting lighter in hue in relation to distance from the viewer. The sky however, is absent of any type of layering. It is one solid color, stripped of any detail.

With this painting I purposely simplified the subject. I wanted clean lines, saturated, out-of-the-jar colors, and lots of organic shapes. As I worked, I thought about potential color schemes and visions of old paint-by-numbers kept popping into my head. The colors I choose feel like the colors of the paintings you could find as a kid in your friends’ basements — the colors that were popular in the seventies. Those old paintings always stuck out to me (along with velvet paintings and nail and string designs.)

The more I paint, the more I realize what it is I am hoping to achieve with each painting. I want to showcase the essence of my subject. I remember the first time I painted from a photograph for an assignment in college. I purposely blurred my vision to erase most of the details and focus on what it was that really excited me visually. Either that or maybe I am just simple minded.

On a final note, thanks to my brother-in-law for always being a big supporter of mine. I hope you enjoy looking at this painting as much as I did painting it.

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