How to Paint a Landscape

To paint a landscape correctly you first have to immerse yourself in it. Spend years sifting the dust through your fingers. Walk each step of the trail through the Sierras where the Boy Scouts and horse packers have worn deep grooves in the landscape. Pick cholla and mesquite out of your pants cuffs. Look for horizons that are farther, larger, taller. Watch them fade into sunsets.

Painting by Glen Blankenbiller, 1996

Painting by Glen Blankenbiller, 1996

Take vacation pictures. Develop wheels of slides. Click through them at Thanksgiving, one picture after another of stones, sere pines, more stones. No people.

Get your hands dirty. Get your boots dirty. Take great strides across the landscape. Read Zane Grey and find the places he loved. Take pictures from the summits of mountains and the nadirs of valleys. Watch the way the sky changes with altitude. 

Buy some VHS tapes of quiet-voiced men and women painting flowers and mountains. Watch the tapes. Buy easels and brushes. Buy an endless supply of thin canvas boards.

Let twenty years go by.

Move into a smaller house where you have to travel to see the horizon. Buy better gear but take shorter trips. By the time you stop hiking your entire kit should weigh no more than 20 lbs, inclusive. 

Pick up your easels and brushes, your tubes of paint and buckets of solvent. Buy a small TV for your VHS tapes. Put them all in the smallest bedroom with the smallest window. Leave your slide projector on a shelf.

Paint what you see.

Painting by Glen Blankenbiller, 1982.

Painting by Glen Blankenbiller, 1982.

- Rowan Beckett Grigsby is the less-censored less-palatable alter ego of an attorney who might want to work in this town again someday. Professional editor and graphic designer by day and professional knitter by night, she has been an Unchaste Reader and contributor to the Unchaste Readers Anthology Vol. II (forthcoming), a contributor to Ask a Raging Feminist, a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee and one of BlogHer's 2017 Voices of the Year for work we consider required reading, including "How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101."

For more of Rowan's Granddad, check out Tending Crops.