Linda Glover Gooch evokes the splendor of nature as well as a sense of calm introspection
By Elizabeth L. Delaney
This story was featured in the February 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art February 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
Linda Glover Gooch has always made her home in the American Southwest, first in her native Southern California, then in New Mexico, and now in Arizona. She grew up amid its topo-graphy and atmosphere, and they continue to bring her solace. More than that, they ground her, which underscores her personal and instinctive connection to the land. In the Southwest, Gooch finds a resonant sense of place, a home both geographic and spiritual. She communicates this with paint, in effervescent landscapes featuring the region’s vast canyons, intimate forests, and sparkling creeks, as well as in still lifes that convey the area’s unparalleled light and ambiance.
A lifelong student of art, Gooch began painting as a child with simple paint-by-number sets. She recalls the age of 13 as the point where she “really got into it” after visiting a friend’s house and finding a studio filled with paints, brushes, and canvases. She was “entranced” by her discovery and rushed home to tell her mother, who was so excited for Linda that she immediately provided her with a full-fledged set of art supplies. Soon after, Gooch enrolled in Saturday-morning painting lessons with a local instructor.
Gooch continued her studies throughout her formal education and beyond, enrolling in independent workshops for some 20 years after she left school. She has made fine art her one professional goal, and in all, she has studied with more than 30 art instructors in California, Santa Fe, Taos, and Arizona. Now she shares her knowledge and experience by teaching several plein-air workshops every year at the Scottsdale Artists’ School and on the rim of the Grand Canyon. She finds this constant learning and meaningful creativity gratifying on intellectual and emotional levels. “There is such freedom in being an artist,” she says. “Being able to express oneself in that way is healthy, therapeutic.”
A signature member of the Oil Painters of America and a master signature member of American Women Artists, Gooch cites such artists as John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, and the Russian Impressionists as influential on her painting style. However, she has been more significantly influenced by firsthand interactions with her teachers and peers. “Being able to study with working artists is such an awesome journey,” says Gooch, who counts former teacher Joni Falk as both colleague and friend after many years of painting instruction and professional mentoring. Other instructors who have been instrumental in her journey include landscape painters Kevin Macpherson and Ray Vinella, with whom she studied while living in New Mexico.
Gooch paints exclusively in oil and prefers working on a fairly large scale, in the 24-by-36 to 30-by-40-inch range. An artist who relishes her medium for both its concrete and visual properties, she considers the mixing and handling of the pigment an integral part of her creative process. Moreover, she regards the paint not only as a vehicle for depicting imagery atop the canvas but also as an entity in and of itself. “I like to let it be what it is: paint—wonderful, juicy paint,” says Gooch. “My love for the medium of oils started when I was young. Now I enjoy the richness of the paint quality and the ability to work thin or thick, depending on what I’m trying to convey. I like to consider the last few thick areas of paint as putting on the frosting. My final highlights are often put on with a [palette] knife at the end, so how it lays down is very important to me.”
Gooch describes her paintings as being “more about moods, color notes, and values” than about precisely re-creating nature. Compositions that reflect the innate majesty and splendor of her subjects while also evoking a sense of calm introspection are paramount to her. To that end, she often combines elements from plein-air studies with photographs she has taken of scenes that intrigue her. Recently, she has been working on an extended series of scenes from around the Grand Canyon, which were initially inspired by her participation in the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art plein-air event. She has participated in many other such events as well, including ones in Zion and Grand Teton national parks. Lately she has embraced her plein-air excursions as individual, contemplative expeditions that allow her to cultivate and maintain a centered focus on her painting.
Working outside in the elements is critical for Gooch’s visual and emotional translation of her subject matter. “Plein-air studies are invaluable,” says the artist, who utilizes her field sketches as the foundation for larger landscapes. Working on location allows her to capture a scene’s color, light, and atmospheric signature, while also giving her the unique experience of existing in the space and absorbing its true essence. And the fast-paced nature of painting outdoors keeps her skills sharp and her attention clear. “Plein-air teaches you to be diligent,” she remarks. “It promotes endurance.”
Gooch spends many hours outdoors, first scouting out sites and then working to capture the color and light she wants to feature. She has lived in Arizona for the past 15 years, and in addition to painting the beauty of the state, Gooch also travels throughout the western half of the country in search of engaging subject matter. Her canvases routinely include the distinctive natural marvels found in California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Utah.
Gooch explains her love of nature as being with her from the very beginning and as influencing many facets of her painting today. “My playground was a large orchard grove that backed up to a very deep arroyo,” she says. “I spent hours there, and I wonder if that isn’t the reason I’m so drawn to the large cliffs and sheer walls of the canyons across the West. My love for trees was surely seeded from the giant oak trees in the area where I lived. I have such a deep appreciation for the aged character of trees, and I’m mesmerized by the interior forests of aspens and cottonwoods. Studying tree scenes is like music to me.”
She remains forever drawn to the inimitable beauty found in the Southwestern landscape. She is also captivated by the drama to be found there. At the outset of her career, she enjoyed painting bright, sunny days, but today she seeks out the moodier, more dramatic hues and visual dynamics that come with cloudy or stormy weather, which infuse her compositions with energy. The tempestuous scenes also conjure perceptions of movement and expectation.
“I shoot to be painterly, then I bring the viewer in with more refined, detailed areas,” says Gooch of her aesthetic approach. Naturalistic yet expressive, her canvases exhibit a range of textures and brushwork that conspire to build dimension among the composition’s planes. Detailed areas give way to more impressionistic swaths, creating visual complexity and inviting viewers to explore the two-dimensional space. In effect, she uses the oil medium to create what she terms “the push and pull of the scene.” The artist’s attention to the tactility of her pigment parlays into the hues and light effects she then elicits from the paint. Color composition is as important to her as object placement, and after seven years of intense color-theory study, she finds coloration a wholly intuitive pursuit. “Color has always been like breathing for me,” she says.
Gooch’s love of the world of nature manifests itself in her landscapes, but it also appears in several still-life series. She first pursued the genre years ago, when she was home with her children, and became fascinated by the beauty and dynamism she could extract from the simplest forms. “Still lifes require great discipline,” she says. “They’re tough to paint and can’t be faked.” Like her landscapes, Gooch’s still lifes highlight the variety of texture, the color, and the many elemental nuances found in each collection of objects, particularly flowers. “I’m in love with flowers, and the explosion of freedom they have within the confines of the vase,” says Gooch.
Just as she experiences the physical grandeur of her surroundings while painting, Gooch also connects with the spiritual forces at play. Believing in a divine creator of the universe, she does not simply acknowledge that celestial power and presence but strives to channel it into her work. “I put faith into it,” she says of her artistic endeavors. “I love life, and I consider myself a blessed person. The life inside of me drives my creative power.”
In the end, Gooch’s art-making fulfills her in ways both tangible and intangible, and she hopes it impacts viewers in a similar manner. “I want to bring a quiet peace to people,” she remarks. “I hope that viewers will receive something more than the visual.”
MORE RESOURCES FOR ART COLLECTORS & ENTHUSIASTS
• Subscribe to Southwest Art magazine
• Learn how to paint & how to draw with downloads, books, videos & more from North Light Shop
• Sign up for your Southwest Art email newsletter & download a FREE ebook