Kevin Macpherson

"A Good Smoke"

“A Good Smoke”

Kevin Macpherson is (dare I say?) a successful artist in the art world. He is one of the country’s leading plein air painters and has authored two books. He has had work featured in several national magazines, exhibitions in many a gallery and museum, and he was President of the Plein Air Painters of America. Macpherson leads workshops that sell out years in advance, and he is a highly sought-after lecturer and curator. Yes, ‘tis a life of which many of us can only dream.

And he deserves it all. Macpherson’s work is full of a captive energy that does not overwhelm the tranquility of his subjects.  Although the eye is immediately drawn to a focal point, he masterfully usher

s the viewer throughout the work. The simplest of scenes are never boring.

Macpherson’s works are rarely without distinct strokes of vivid color that burst from muted tones like fireworks. Although such explosions snatch my attention, my eyes cannot help but float away in the flow of color, angle, and stroke. It is this experience of movement that truly captures me.

Strong contrasts in tone build palpable edges and shapes, then the eyes slide towards bright pools of color as if they hold a pulsing visual gravity. These contrasts are not jarring, however, for the artist consistently displays a sensitivity to the full range of the term. He uses bright and dark pigments pointedly and balance muted tones with full-bodied color to build space and distance. Each painting is a skilled weave of contrasts and harmonies that guide the viewer’s focus. The eye cannot help but meander over this visual landscape, and I am never lost or stuck or bored.

Such flow cannot be maintained without balance in all areas of the work, and Macpherson’s brushstrokes carry a significant weight in that respect. Although I can spot a few background strokes that seem haphazard, most simply vary according to the role they play in the work as a whole. Often lighter strokes blend thinned paint in the sky or on flat surfaces, but those colors and strokes are still distinct and do not flatten the scene.  He uses thick “slabs” of paint on most of the work’s surface to build contrasts and object forms. These brush strokes give a physical weight to each painting, but they maintain a sense of spontaneity and organic movement. In effect, the painting’s structure seems grounded, but maintains the movement of life and growth. The scene is suspended in a kind of unflappable peacefulness.

Peaceful, yet every inch has a unique energy. Each painterly stroke carries the presence of the artist, each having been considered and cared for. Some colors seem to have been extremely saturated when abstracted from nature, giving the work an intrinsic glow. In several works, I see the extraordinary balance of a working body and the spark of life within.

And these are certainly lives worth knowing.

Check out more of his work here.


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