Gwenda Joyce

Gwenda Jay/Addington Gallery
Chicago, IL

"Anderson captures nature’s power, drama and spiritual presence in his richly painted images of the coastal landscape.  He, too, gives texture to the contrasting surfaces of the land and the ocean as they feed on each other in a battle for their own survival.  A painter of great skill, he allows the brush and the application of paint to speak volumes for the emotions we feel in interaction with the land on a daily basis".

"Spirit of Place: Contemporary Landscape Painting in the American Tradition"

John Arthur  1989  Bulfinch Press

The young West Coast painter Brooks Anderson has produced some astonishing landscapes of California and the coast of Maine. They display of virtuosity and tenderness that is reminiscent of Maxfield Parrish, but they are more specifically rooted to the mood and look of a particular place. Anderson considers his major influences to be Diebenkorn, Beckman, and Jacobshagen, and also the Italian Macchiaioli; the last is most apparent in his emphatic use of light. There is also the pull of Gauguin, van Gogh, Burchfield, and Hopper that lies like an emotional undercurrent beneath these moody, romantic works. The late afternoon light lingers in the tips of the trees and crests of the distant hills, etching the details into sharp relief, and casting the peaceful [works] with a warm glow. There is a Pre-Raphaelite, or perhaps Nazarene, attention to the specifics of the foreground plants and shrubs, but the artist insist that "it doesn't matter where the landscape is; the main point is the… emotional appeal that is consistent in the mind’s eye, which we all share… The mental impressions are the key." As in the 19th century, the landscape is employed not only to poetically signify a mood but is also to express spiritual or religious feelings. Brooks Anderson hesitantly notes, "I realize I've used the word “ ental" and number of times. Since I am a religious person, and giving God His due, you can replace “mental" with “spiritual" and still arrive at the heartbeat and essence of my work.”

Major feature article to appear in the February 2006 issue of American Art magazine

“Daring Methods, Daring Paintings”
Combining oil pastel and oil paint, Brooks Anderson creates charged landscapes of sweeping perspective.  By Christopher Willard

     The word “risk” doesn’t fully define the painting process of Brooks Anderson, but it does provide insight into what makes his work so incredibly moving. At every stage during the creation of a painting Anderson takes chances: he hangs over precipices to get the right vantage point, he mixes oil pastel and oil paint together, he works on canvases of intimidating size. And how does he perceive himself? “Less as a risk-taker and more of a conductor,” he says. “I’m an orchestrator and the brush is my baton.”  Although Anderson prefers to paint in the sanctuary of the studio—where he doesn’t have to “fight with the elements”—he frequently travels along the West Coast to photograph and sketch on-site. “A lot of my views come from places where I’m holding onto a limb and photographing over a cliff,” he says. “These are very precipitous areas and they capture the unseen and unknown; I’m always on a search for the totemic. For me it makes it more of an homage to paint a view nobody knows about. For example, one painting developed from a photograph I took while hanging on a limb 100 feet above the ocean. I snapped the picture and breathed ‘thank you.’” 

     A final drawing may arise from one photograph or from a composite of many. The artist first outlines the major forms using large sticks of Sennelier and Holbein oil pastel. Preferring an exciting beginning, as opposed to the grey of graphite, Anderson often sketches in red. “The reds shine through my finished work quite a bit, adding a shock of color that makes the paintings pop,” he says. He works on a grayish-toned canvas, a neutral base he considers a solid middle-value foundation. When he wants an “eggshell-smooth” canvas—his preference for paintings with fewer layers—he will apply a ground of one-third matte medium mixed into two-thirds gesso, which is brushed on and allowed to dry. Then the artist sprays the surface with water, sands it with wet/dry sandpaper, and then repeats the procedure three times. For Anderson, the first layers are the most important, because they form a base for everything that follows. “I block in pure colors using unmixed oil pastel,” he says. “I then layer transparent oil paint combined with a lot of medium. It starts out like a Gauguin as I lock in pure color, but it ends up as a Brooks Anderson.” To a combination of a quarter cup of linseed oil and a quarter cup of odorless turpentine, Anderson adds two tablespoons of Liquin to speed up the drying time and yield a “nice, beefy” coat of paint. If he is particularly eager to get painting the next day he will mix the paint with Liquin alone. Transparency is the key to the brilliance of color that Anderson achieves. As he explains his layering process in painting a sky—a critical component of his landscapes, “Over a yellow base of oil pastel I might paint the lightest rose color, allowing the under color to show through in pure Impressionist technique. When I have to mix oil pastels with oil paints I do it on the palette, never on the canvas, because that can make the color muddy. The sky is always completed first, both for painterly and for practical reasons. The sky dictates the rest of the luminosity and chroma of the painting. These will often be painted in one shot in order to insure a cohesive, dramatic sky. Also I can’t paint water unless I have the sky that it reflects. I work on the sky first because I don’t like to paint with my hand resting on wet colors from the lower part of the painting.” From this point onward Anderson works over the entire canvas “orchestrating the various colors.” 

     The artist employs a standard palette, although he relies upon no particular brand, and prefers to work with synthetic brushes of various brands and sizes.  Along the left-hand edge of his 12”-x-24” glass palette he lines up Indian yellow (a color he says that excites him), hansa yellow, cadmium red light, permanent rose, alizarin crimson, Indian red (instead of burnt sienna), raw sienna, burnt umber, and magenta. Along the top of the palette are phthalo yellow green, permanent green light, phthalo green, cobalt turquoise (another of his favorite colors), cerulean blue, French ultramarine, and ivory black. He supplements his palette with Schminke cold grey and bluish-grey 2. Purples and greens frequent the artist’s paintings because he finds the combination peaceful. Often he develops lush greens by adding hansa or Indian yellow to a deep phthalo green, and he varies the purples from bluish to reddish. On the final layer he will achieve a strong pop of color with burnt sienna. “It’s this sort of wham or pop of color that makes people gasp,” he says. “On ‘Terra Australias, no.1’ it’s the reddish line above the horizon that works against the yellow to create tension. This sort of zinger is what separates the work from the landscape and propels it into the realm of painting.” Anderson’s typical painting day is four to five hours long, and a single, larger painting will often require three weeks of labor. These larger paintings are his status quo. “A small painting is like looking out a window,” he observes, “while a large painting has an overwhelming presence. They allow me to stand up and be very physical with the paint.” Beyond stretching his heavy Fredrix canvas, the artist finds that working large incurs no particular challenges. And because he works with thin layers, he says that a large painting requires not much more paint than small-size paintings. 

     Reflecting upon his career—and the risks he has taken—with a level of understanding that only hindsight can provide, he says, “After all these years working in a career full of pitfalls and rejections, I kept on painting. I think my reason is similar to that of other artists who keep going. Art is something we have to give to the world. It provides a new way of seeing things. I now see art as not only serious—but crucial to humanity.” 

     Brooks Anderson works from Second Nature Studios, his own studio and gallery in Santa Rosa, California. His paintings are in the collections of the Philbrook Museum of Art, in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and The Seavest Collection of Contemporary Realism, in New York. In addition, they are part of numerous corporate collections, including those of Citibank, in New York and San Francisco; and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, in Japan. One of Anderson’s paintings was housed in a corporate collection in the World Trade Center, in New York, and was lost on September 11, 2001. The artist’s work is recognized in “Spirit of Place: Contemporary Landscape, Painting and the American Tradition”, by John Arthur (Bulfinch Press, New York, New York), and in the February 2006 issue ofAmerican Artist magazine. 


1. Article, essay, etc.Title :  Daring Methods, Daring Paintings

Author: Christopher Willard

Publication Title: American Artist

Date: February, 2006


2. Article, essay, etc.Title : Green Woods and Crystal Waters

Author: John Arthur

Publication Title: Philbrook Museum of Art

Date: 1999


3. Article, essay, etc.Title : (book)

Author: John Arthur

Publication Title: Spirit of Place: Contemporary Landscape Painting in the American Tradition

Date: 1989


4. Article, essay, etc.Title : (book)

Author : Hagerty, Donald

Publication Title: Canyon de Chelly: 100 Years of Painting and Photography

Date: 1996


“Taking Serenity Seriously” (major art critic article on my work)

Theodore F. Wolff

The Christian Science Monitor

April 25, 1985