A new day
In recent years painter Jay Moore has been stepping deeper into his work, searching for more personal connections to his landscapes as a way of offering richer storytelling elements.
“With Charlie Russell, he has three cowboys, an Indian and horses and it could tell its own story, but with landscapes or wildlife it’s a bit more challenging to draw people into the painting,” the Colorado painter says. “What I’m trying to do is make each painting more personal, and doing it by bringing in more substance from my own life, so the painting tells a deeper story and isn’t just a scene.”
For example, he says, one day last year he saw two great horned owls perched on a pine tree behind his house. Moore asked a birder friend, who offered a reasonable explanation for the pairing: one was a parent and the other was an adolescent that was being taught to hunt. “You could tell it was almost time for the birds to part ways because it had learned all it needed to. That image really struck me because we have two teen boys at home and they’re about ready to do the same thing,” Moore says. “I want people to see my work and get misty eyes, and not because of the quality of the painting, but because they can relate to it. I want the work to resonate with them deeply. And so I’ve been painting things that resonate with me, personal things that I feel strongly about.”
Jay will be showing the still-untitled owl scene, as well as nearly a dozen other works, at his new show opening May 4 at his studio in Parker, Colorado. Many of the pieces come from his own experiences, including Colorado Hay Bales, which came to be after the artist’s wife saw these subjects from the side of a road. “They’re about 3 miles from the studio, and she called me
out to this little ranch where she said I had to see these hay bales. ‘They’re going to pick them up, so hurry,’ she said,” Moore recalls. “When I got there I was surprised that the bales had a tufted and lumpy look to them because they were made by this old 1950s or 1960s hay baler. The baler had burned up and broke down right out in the field so these were the last bales it would produce. It was sort of sad because these bales had such great character to them and the farmer would go get a new baler and the bales from that day on would be tight and perfect.” Moore set up an easel and completed the plein air piece right there on the spot.
Other new works include A New Day, which has what Moore calls “that wonderful ruby lighting at the beginning of the day.” The piece has an optimistic slant, he says, in that it suggests the new day is going to be better than the one before it. “We go through different phases and chapters in our life, and I like to think this idea sustains people through anything, be it illness or the death of a loved one, or just anything,” he explains. “This was in Rocky Mountain National Park, and it was challenging because most of the painting is in shadow in a variety of grays and it all builds to this crescendo with these sunlit peaks.”
In September Light, Moore is right at home pushing his paint as far as he can with one of his most famous subjects: water. The artist sees these paintings as challenges of light and paint. “You’re constantly testing yourself with the depth of the water, the current movement, the transparency of the water, the shadows, the rocks that are submerged but also above the waterline… all of this has to work together,” he says. “I’m always trying to understand the science of light, of refraction, of what happens to edges underwater, what happens to color, the dappling of light through the water, how to create perspective and movement and reflections. It’s like getting six or seven instruments that sound differently to play the same harmony.”
And he does all this without bogging the painting down in detail: “[Frederic] Remington said he didn’t want to see the detail, but feel the detail. And that’s what I’m hoping to do. I want you to feel it, and sense it, without being shown everything.”
September Light, oil on linen, 30 x 40"
Sheep Mountain, oil on linen, 20 x 60"
A New Day, oil on linen, 40 x 40"