Artists share love of York's landscape
Sitting in the upstairs studio of their Mount Wolf home of 18 years, awash in natural light, Robert and Barbara Buchanan discussed the changes that have given them more time to do what they love — make art.
Both have pieces on display in several area galleries and on Sunday Robert collected an Award of Excellence for his oil painting "After the Rain," which was displayed at the York Art Association's annual juried show.
"My time's my own now," said Robert, who recently retired from the York Art Institute after teaching there for 25 years. "I've had the chance to discipline myself and work hard."
The painter said he splits his time between creating art and hiking. He finds a buyer for nearly every piece he makes, and has had to apply business savvy to his process. Backing away from a time-consuming, hyperrealistic style has allowed him to charge less for his paintings, he said.
Barbara, who said she is mostly self-taught, teaches classes at the York Art Association and said that, while she still doesn't have quite as much time to draw and paint as she'd like, she's backed off from teaching a little and spends a good amount of time in the studio.
Landscape love: Both Buchanans use a variety of subject matter. Charcoal portraits hang on Barbara's side of the studio and a realistic watercolor of a sheet draped over a bed in the light of a doorway sits on a table on Robert's side — "I was channeling Andrew Wyeth," the painter said.
But it's clear they both also love to paint outdoor scenes.
Robert likes to hike in the woods near his home. When he can't find a trail, he said, he makes his own, often following a deer trail.
Often, the southern York scenery makes its way into his paintings: he said he takes pictures and sketches while out hiking.
When considering a scene for a painting, he said, he thinks about the composition of the image — the placement of all the elements — and the mood. "I'm not just copying what's there," he said. "I'm applying my own ideas and thinking to the natural world."
His process is hard to describe, he said, and he likes to be alone when he paints. "It's a visceral experience. I can't put it into words easily. That's why I paint," he said.
Although painting is a solitary practice for Robert, the audience is important. "I want to share my emotional connection — my spiritual connection with what I see," he said.
As an instructor, he had to "spell out" everything for students who needed to learn the basic rules of art, design and technique. Now, he enjoys making work on a more subconscious, instinctual level, not having to think about it as much.
Textures and emotions: "I think it's mostly the way the light is hitting something that inspires me," Barbara said.
"Also the value range and a contrast of lights and darks captures my interest," she said. "And different textures."
"When we drive around, the hillsides look to me like the hide of a sleeping animal. I like the different textures of the earth, the growth," she said. "Now, when the grasses are shorter, an ochre color, and worn down in places, the hills look like a great beast sleeping."
When she looks out at a landscape, Barbara said, she sometimes gets a melancholy feeling.
"There's something of a yearning inside," she said. "I think a lot of other people feel it too."
The sense of longing might have "something to do with God," said Barbara, acknowledging her Christian faith.
One reason she paints landscapes, she said, is that people are farther from the natural world than they were in the past, and "some people might not get to see it."
Spousal support: "Barb's style is so different from mine. We complement each other," Robert said.
"I admire the atmosphere he's able to get in his landscapes. His work is very poetic; I think mine's a little more literal," said his wife.
Neither comes from an artistic family, so the couple value each other's honest criticism and praise.
"We don't like any pretense — we're real," Robert said. "We'll say, 'You dog,' if we're jealous of the other."
See an exhibit of both Buchanans' work at the Blue Moon restaurant, 361 W. Market St., York, through December. The restaurant's hours are, for lunch, Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and Tuesday – Saturday 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.
Robert currently has work at Gallery B, 11 W. Philadelphia St., York and Garth Gallery, 22 S. 2nd St., Columbia.
They are also part of an exhibit at the Governor's Mansion, and both artists have work at Dutchland Galleries, 3529 Old Philadelphia Pike, Intercourse.
— Reach Julia Scheib at email@example.com.