We all reach for smart phone cameras to document the drama of sunsets and poetic landscapes, but the photographic lens tends to preserve either a single highlight or a general expanse of diluted drama.
By contrast, the fully nuanced visual and emotional impact of New England landscapes are masterfully recorded in the oil paintings of Southbury, Conn., artist Thomas Adkins.
When encountering spring brightening a Connecticut lake, Adkins notes the carefree clouds amid soft, friendly blues, pays attention to the shifting tones of the water, and ties it all together with a flourish of yellow daffodils along the shore. A Cape Cod tidal river is a symphony of colors in another painting, and yet Adkins manages to convey the absolute stillness of the morning.
These scenes and many others are included in an upcoming exhibit at the Gregory James Gallery of new paintings from some of the artist’s favorite places—the Litchfield Hills, northern Vermont, the Midcoast of Maine, Monhegan Island, and Cape Cod.
The exhibit opens Oct. 27 and continues through Dec. 31. An opening reception is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 27.
“First Fire,” depicting an isolated farm with wisps of smoke coming from the chimney as the morning light takes hold, is among the standout works in the show. When it was exhibited in the 26th annual Associate Artist Show at the Lyme Art Association, juror Kristen Bach said, “The sky is dramatic and quiet at the same time. There is life in it. Cozy but not overly romantic. Straightforward. Tells a peaceful & beautiful story. Incredibly well-executed painting.”
The comments point to Adkins’ devotion to capturing a sense of place. He does it so well that his long list of awards and honors include first place in Lyme Art Association’s 2016 New England Landscape Invitational, the People’s Choice Award in the association’s New England Landscape 2017 exhibit, and the 2015 People’s Choice Award from the prestigious New Britain Museum Of American Art, where he has a painting in the permanent collection.
“My goal is to capture that fleeting moment in time when atmospheric conditions and lighting, along with the natural design in nature, seem to bring a bit of magic to the landscape,” the artist has said. “It has an effect on me and that’s what I try to share with people.”
Adkins is a plein-air painter, meaning his oil paintings begin with small (up to 16-by-20 inch) studies done on location. He composes the larger works in his studio with sketches,
additional studies, and memory impressions all playing roles in the final compositions.
“Creating a painting is not about copying a subject, it’s more about transferring your feeling and thoughts, your first impression and something about yourself to the canvas,” Adkins
has said. “In landscape painting, you’re not painting an object like a portrait, you’re composing a color and compositional score, not unlike a musical score, and hopefully your viewers will have felt that experience.”
Painting excursions for the new works in the exhibit took Adkins all over New England. Last March, for example, he spent a week painting with a group of more than 20 artists, including artists from Europe and Russia, in the Stowe/Jeffersonville area of Vermont.
Every year, Adkins spends at least a week painting on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine. “We go out there and work seven days, morning to dusk,” he said.
A graduate of Paier College of Art of New Haven, who also completed graduate classes at the School of Visual Arts of New York, Adkins has worked as art director and creative director for some of Connecticut’s and New York’s most prestigious advertising agencies.
Adkins’ designs and illustrations have been used by Black & Decker, Kraft Foods, GE, IBM, Minolta, Nestlé Waters North America, Wendy’s and other major corporations.
His artwork has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and Adkins a member of many prestigious artist organizations, such as Salmagundi Art Club in New York, Oil Painters of America, and the Connecticut Plein Air Painters Society. He is a Signature Member of The Lyme Art Association was also recently named to the board of the Hudson Valley Art Association.
For more information on the exhibit, call the Gregory James Gallery at (860) 354-3436.