Soundings - - Contents - OIL PAINT­ING BY LEIF NILS­SON - Steve Knauth To view this and other works by Leif Nils­son, visit the Leif Nils­son Spring Street Stu­dio and Gallery web­site at nilsson­stu­dio. com or visit the gallery at 1 Spring Street in Ch­ester, Connecticut.

Any­one who’s driven down into the town of Watch Hill, Rhode Is­land, and along the stretch of har­bor­front knows the scene. Be­yond a por­tion of grass, the bulk­head gives way to Watch Hill har­bor and its fleet, one of New Eng­land’s most pic­turesque boat­ing scenes.

That’s where Leif Nils­son set up his easel and went to work, cre­at­ing Watch Hill Har­bor from the Lawn, a 24-by-36inch oil paint­ing.

“I com­muted to Watch Hill in the sum­mer of 2012 and passed this view ev­ery day,” he says. “The ex­pe­ri­ence led to a series of paint­ings from the lawn.”

Nils­son is a plein air artist, work­ing out­doors, di­rectly from life. When he comes upon a scene that in­spires, he sets up his easel and puts the paint to the can­vas, right from the tube. Nils­son’s stu­dio might be on a wa­ter­front such as this one, or at a quiet an­chor­age or even in his open run­about, moored on the Connecticut River.

“I am re­spond­ing to the en­ergy of what I see, not copy­ing it,” the Ch­ester, Connecticut, artist says.

Nils­son’s paint­ings are dra­mat­i­cally tex­tured, the lay­ers rep­re­sent­ing the scin­til­lat­ing ef­fects of light in na­ture, he says. Some­times, he’ll paint the same scene a few times, pick­ing up the sub­tle dif­fer­ences in light and color in each ren­der­ing.

“The strokes some­times leave wakes, so to speak, that dry up as waves on the can­vas,” Nils­son says. “They can build up over many days and cre­ate tex­ture that vi­brates with color.”

Nils­son stud­ied at the Lyme Academy Col­lege of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut, be­fore tak­ing trips to Scan­di­navia, Asia Mi­nor and Europe for in­spi­ra­tion.

“I stud­ied the French 19th and early 20th cen­tury painters: Bon­nard and Monet for color; Pis­sarro and Vuil­lard for com­po­si­tion, and Van Gogh for en­ergy,” he says. “The great artists that I ad­mire from the past stud­ied from life and painted from their ex­pe­ri­ence … and never stopped ex­per­i­ment­ing with com­po­si­tion and ap­pli­ca­tion.”

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