Editor’s Letter | Breathtaking

The powerful beauty of nature

By Kristin Hoerth

This story was featured in the February 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art February 2013 print edition, or download the Southwest Art February 2013 issue now…Or just subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!

Gold Country by Adair Payne

Gold Country by Adair Payne (See “Portfolio | Land & Sky”)

I’ve been a runner for most of my life. I always run outdoors, and I don’t like running in the dark. So on winter afternoons, my challenge is to get out on the trail before the sun sets. Most days I’m in a rush, flying out the door of my office while still thinking about the demands of the workday and silently pleading with the sun not to sink quite so fast.

Yesterday afternoon it was especially cold and the day had been especially trying. I started down the trail with my chin tucked down into my jacket to keep warm, fretting about how much there was to do. Soon I passed another runner going the opposite direction, and as I glanced up at him, what I saw made me gasp out loud. An enormous, absolutely perfect full moon had just started to rise on the eastern horizon, its crisp whiteness turning what had been a dull sky into a beautiful shade of gray-blue. “Wow,” I said softly, to no one but myself. I took a deep breath and straightened up a bit. The moon was rising so fast that I swore I could see it moving, and I kept my gaze fixed on it until I reached my turn-around point. It grew brighter as the sky grew a deeper shade of gray-blue. I had completely forgotten about the rest of my day.

This is the power of nature: Sometimes its beauty really does almost take our breath away. And this beauty is what every artist who paints the land aims to capture. The view doesn’t always have to be dramatic; on the trail that day, I saw the moon rise over a suburban neighborhood. Sometimes it’s the smaller, quieter moments and places that move us just as much as soaring peaks or scenic coastlines. There are countless opportunities—
especially here in the West—to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. No wonder landscape painting is so popular.

This month we celebrate the genre in all its many forms. California plein-air painter Debra Huse tells us about the joys of depicting the Pacific coast from the deck of her boat. Len Chmiel talks about painting scenes that resonate deeply: “It’s an emotional response,” he says. In our portfolio, “Land and Sky,” you’ll see vistas from Washington to New Hampshire, from every season, and in styles ranging from realistic to nearly abstract. We hope you see something that takes your breath away.

~Kristin Hoerth