Six Million Acre Studio
19th Century English poet, painter, and printmaker, William Blake said that "great things are done when men and mountains meet." This is a fitting description of Wadhams-based painter Kevin Raines and the magic that happens when he hikes the Adirondack Mountains to begin a new painting. I had the pleasure of interviewing Raines this past week and asking him some questions about being an artist, what inspires him about our Adirondack home, and how a hike into the woods can be just as inspiring for the next painting as the final vista.
Raines, who now splits his time between Baltimore, Maryland and Wadhams, NY, says that his love of nature began during childhood in Eastern Pennsylvania, where he loved to fish, hunt and trap. This passion led him to study forestry in college. His love of art and his creativity was simmering under the surface. He says that in grade school he "spent a great deal of time standing in the hall or the cloak room" as a result of his "creative expression". His proclivity led him to enroll in a life drawing class in college; he switched his major to painting, and eventually graduated with a BFA in Painting.
Raines then earned an MFA in Painting at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada and returned to the states in 1979 as a figurative artist, commission portrait painter and liberal arts college professor. In 1982 he moved to Baltimore, Maryland in to teach at Notre Dame of Maryland University, where he is currently an Art Professor.
Raines' passion for nature remained a crucial part of his life and creative process throughout. "In 1984, I noticed I was spending far more time on the stream and in the woods than in the studio so I began painting landscapes of some of my favorite hidden natural places." He decided a couple years later to return to the Adirondacks and began working with The Adirondack Nature Conservancy. Raines has continued to work with The Adirondack Nature Conservancy for the past 25 years and has been active with other ecological organizations such as The Audubon Society, UNESCO, The Adirondack Council, The Champlain Land Trust Cooperative, Champlain Area Trails and others in the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan. His role as an artist is "to identify and paint often remote pristine wilderness scenes," – and he enjoys the fruits of their conservation efforts as both a naturalist and an artist.
I have long been a fan of Raines' stunning paintings and was intrigued to find out that he is just as inspired by artists and writers (Degas, Hopper, Homer, and Emerson) as he is by such Adirondack Conservationists (Tim Barnett, Michael Carr, Barbara Glazer, Brian Houseal, John Davis, Gary Randorf, Chris Maron and Joe Hackett). "My art is based on direct experience. I can think of no other means of passing through space and time as animate as hiking through wilderness as nature asserts itself and I am folded into its continuum," says Raines. "Hiking, one becomes part of nature's timeless cadence- absorbed into it. The quiet but profound realization of one's own insignificance becomes reassurance."
Raines says this immersion in these experiences does not mean he is unaware of the need to be prepared for the unexpected. "Whether [it is] a five day kayak/bushwhack painting trip into the Five Ponds Wilderness of The Bob Marshal Wilderness Area or a one hour jaunt up the South Boquet Mountain at minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit in January to see the sunrise over Lake Champlain, one is extremely aware of all stimulus when hiking. I attempt to offer the same sort of experience to the viewer in my paintings and field drawings."
Raines' stories about his adventures in the Adirondack wilderness would make anyone excited to plan their own Adirondack expeditions. "Last winter I skied and snowshoed into several wilderness areas to see a number of ancient White Pines with Naturalists John Davis and Peter O' Shea – also a tracker. The line between fun and my work is always blurred but they become one and the same in winter while cross country skiing and snowshoeing. These two forms of cold weather/snow transportation are simply exhilarating." Recently, Raines had the opportunity to create field studies of the landscape when he got to fly between 1,000 and 4,000 feet in a small plane with Adirondack Council staff and with LightHawk, a volunteer-based environmental aviation organization. "From the cockpit I created preliminary drawings for a new series of paintings about The Bob Marshal Wilderness Complex and also was able to see the immensity of the wilderness I will be canoeing and hiking into when I begin to paint the Five Ponds Wilderness in summer 2012," said Raines. He said that he is ultimately inspired by the "primordial land, and the tenacious park residents who attempt to create, develop and maintain a balanced coexistence of the extraordinary beauty of wild and human presence and place."
At the end of our interview I asked Raines where his favorite place to see art is and he gave me a thought provoking and unique response. "Wherever a student or child is creating it," said Raines. "I love to experience art when it is being made, at the moment of creation. It is very much the same as witnessing the unfolding of dawn. I love dawn and wake each morning around 4:30 AM to get ready for it." His advice for aspiring artists? "Listen, observe, remember, think, create; and don't dumb it down to sell it."
Be sure to check out Raines' beautiful and striking landscapes at his Wadhams studio at 825 NY RT 22 in Wadhams, NY during the Boquet Valley Studio Tour going on this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (October 7th , 8th and 9th ). To find out more about Raines and purchasing his work, check out his website at www.kevinrainesart.com. To find out about future exhibits of Raines happening here in the Adirondacks and to learn how you can plan your own Adirondack hiking adventure go to Lakeplacid.com