Finding mystery in the familiar
This story was featured in the May 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art May 2013 print issue, or get the Southwest Art May 2013 digital download now…Or better yet, just subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
JEROLYN DIRKS lives on small farm in the foothills of the Bridger Mountains near Bozeman, MT. Six years ago she was introduced to plein-air painting, and it has become a catalyst for a whole new direction in her career. After 18 years as a commercial illustrator working in watercolor, she turned to creating landscapes in oils. Today the picturesque terrain surrounding her home serves as her major source of inspiration. “God could have made the landscape barren and all one shade of green,” Dirks says. “Instead I believe he gave us the special gift of textures, shapes, and shifting hues. Being in nature, I celebrate and worship that gift, and it’s that celebration that inspires my work.”
Although she has a fine-art degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, her new direction led her to supplement her education by taking workshops with painters Robert Moore, Jill Carver, and T. Allen Lawson. Thus her “real education” came from those workshops, she says. Over the years she has been juried into shows such as Oil Painters of America’s Western Regional Exhibition and the American Impressionist Society’s National Juried Exhibition.
Recently she was inspired by something she read about 19th-century American landscape painter John Henry Twachtman. Twachtman, Dirks says, painted familiar things, recording the appearance of locations in all seasons and weather conditions while searching for mysterious moods and elements. For Dirks, several old barns on her property soon fueled her imagination. “Over the last 20 years, I’ve stacked hay and milked many a sweet-natured Guernsey cow in the barns,” she says. “Watching our barns weather and stoop with age has moved me to create a series of portraits of my old friends.”
Dirks notes that her vision changes with each new landscape because the feelings she experiences with every scene are different. “Ultimately, I hope viewers will catch the same point of inspiration that stopped me in my tracks,” she says. “It may be the last patch of snow under a pine tree or a purple shadow cast against the golden glow of old barn wood. But the inspiration always returns to a theme of nature’s elegant design.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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