D. Eleinne Basa | Outdoor Communion

D. Eleinne Basa paints her sacred spaces

by Elizabeth L. Delaney

D. Eleinne Basa, One Spring Morning, oil, 24 x 36.

D. Eleinne Basa, One Spring Morning, oil, 24 x 36.

This story was featured in the October 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  October 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

The paintings of D. Eleinne Basa are characterized by a kinship with the outdoors along with a soulful endeavor to communicate the depth, complexities, and mystery inherent in the unadulterated landscape. Basa’s atmospheric oils highlight the beauty that spans the gamut of nature, from the nondescript forest line of her backyard to the monumental expanse of the Grand Tetons. Whether participating in plein-air events across the country or simply stepping out onto her porch, Basa observes and absorbs the unique magic each new day has to offer.

“I have always loved being outdoors. I love to just watch and observe,” says the artist, who rarely lets a day pass without connecting with her surroundings. “In the early morning sunrises, it is a sort of quiet moment with me and nature, like a meditation. It gives me a great feeling of peacefulness.”

From the time she was a child in the Philippines, young Eleinne (pronounced eh-LAYN) wanted to be an artist, to channel the magnificence she saw in the oceans, beaches, and skies all around her. She embarked on her formal art education at the age of 8, under the tutelage of a classically trained artist who passed down his strict, thorough methodology, ensuring that she mastered each technique before moving on to the next. Though highly rigorous, the classes kindled Basa’s tenacity. She progressed from value scales and charcoal renderings to color pastels and watercolor still lifes, and by the time she turned 9, she had started to paint in oils. It was in this class where Basa first painted outdoors and realized her passion for depicting the landscape in her work.

Basa continued taking art throughout her school years but eventually put her creative aspirations aside to study psychology in college. Her desire to paint never dwindled, however, and she continued to take elective art courses. After college, she gravitated toward art again, spending time with local artist groups and working in a gallery.

Basa and her husband moved to New Jersey in 1994, and she managed to continue painting in her spare time while raising their children. A turning point came when the family moved from an apartment into a house with space for a proper studio. She joined a plein-air group and set her mind to transforming her lifelong affinity into a career. “If you want to take your profession seriously, you have to have dedicated space,” she says. “I think it’s what changed [my artwork] from being a hobby to being a full-time thing.” She soon found success in various competitions and plein-air events around the country; then came gallery representation. She has been painting full time since 2004.

Though she is based in New Jersey, Basa paints scenes as far afield as the Rocky Mountains and Europe. Her subject matter has a broad appeal in that many of the “simple” scenes she represents are not obviously attached to one location: trees, snow, beaches, and mountains elicit warm memories in a wide range of audiences. “They could be anywhere,” she says, noting that her goal is simply to bring a sense of wonder and tranquility to the viewer. “I want to show the beauty of what I see,” she says, “to try to portray the landscape as truthfully as I can.

“As an artist, you always want to show your own take on the scene,” Basa adds. Although she often paints the familiar—coastlines, forests, and mountains—she nevertheless puts her own spin on the subject matter with a deft manipulation of light and color. She is drawn to the aesthetic charm and drama surrounding sunrises and sunsets, as well as to the intricate light play found in moonlit scenes and reflections on the water. “I like low-light situations,” she explains. In fact, Basa considers the light attributes of any new space as the primary concern when deciding whether or not to paint it.

It’s easy to see the legacy of Basa’s classical training in her approach to painting. In addition to her careful attention to color, light, and form, she also employs a decidedly cerebral practice at the outset of each new body of work. She likes to research and observe potential sites before putting brush to canvas, simply to understand how the light emanates and the objects interact as the day turns to night and back again. Yet her creative tactics do not result in formulaic construction, for each painting, in turn, dictates its own composition, color story, and narrative evolution over time.

Once she decides on a subject, Basa works en plein air, painting sketches and taking photos to capture the changing light, unique color scheme, and feel of the place. She relies largely on her power of observation as well. She often visits the same place multiple times to build a relationship with it. “You get to know your subject matter better and better the more you go back,” she explains, and she has often painted the same beach in Maine or New Jersey tree line over and over, documenting the daily progression of the living elements. “The more I watch every day, the more I love it,” she says. “It’s always different.”

Back in her studio, Basa creates several small studies from her plein-air sketches—a process that she says makes for more confident brushwork once she begins the larger, final painting. With a plan in place for the piece’s narrative and composition, Basa begins to paint. She works in oil on linen over board, which she likes for its heartiness and ability to hold up under the pressure of her palette knife. She experiments with a variety of thick and thin strokes to create alluring textures that ebb and flow throughout the picture plane, made malleable under the effects of the delicate light and subtle color exchanges that form her compositions.

“My goal is to give the illusion of reality with an abstract application of paint,” explains Basa, who purposely obscures lines and shapes to allow the viewer’s eye to fill in the details. “When I apply thick paint with a knife, I love the abstract quality of the surface that it creates and, at the same time, the way the paint sits on the layer below it. Some of the paint catches the ridges of the underlying brush strokes, and some covers the underlayer or skips above the surface, showing some of that underlayer. This creates a visual effect similar to broken color.” Such an effect instills a dynamic quality in Basa’s work, as the colors fluidly merge and shift across the canvas.

Basa not only employs her classical training while painting but also looks to history for aesthetic and technical sustenance. She frequently studies other artists in the canon; among her favorites are the painters of the American tonalist and luminist schools, especially George Inness, Thomas Moran, and Walter Palmer. These 19th-century luminaries sought to capture the feeling and intimacy of the outdoors in deep, tonal hues quietly shimmering in soft light. “I just love the poetry and sense of mystery that the tonalists had in their work,” she says. Like Basa, they considered color and light as the foundation of an effective, engaging composition.

Studying the work of the tonalists and luminists provided Basa a standard that she continually aims to meet and surpass in her own work, as she experiments with pigments and how various hues build upon and react with each other. She remains intent on artistic growth and looks to learn something new every time she paints. Not interested in having one set method of composition or typical color palette, she looks forward to the spontaneity of creating each painting in its own manner. In this vein, Basa fuses classical traditions with a personal, contemporary mindset to produce canvases that are at once technically sound and intuitively expressive.

Basa strives to communicate the emotions, and sometimes sheer awe, she experiences in her conversations with nature, from visual, intellectual, and intuitive standpoints. “I want to show how I see things and the beauty of how light can transform simple landscapes,” she says of her expansive vision.

In searching for scenic areas to paint, she has carved out sacred spaces for herself in the larger scheme of life and the land. It is in these places that she finds solace and can realize her true calling as an artist. “Being in nature gives me a chance to be with my inner thoughts and feelings and to communicate and connect spiritually with God,” Basa says. “I don’t think I could go a day without a visit with nature, taking a walk after dinner, or looking outside at what kind of sunset the day brings. This is probably why I can’t get enough of painting the landscape. I am painting what I love.”

Astoria Fine Art, Jackson, WY; Howard/Mandville Gallery, Kirkland, WA; Artful Deposit, Bordentown, NJ; Dick Idol Signature Gallery, Whitefish, MT; Germanton Art Gallery, Germanton, NC.

This story was featured in the October 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  October 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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