Early Light - The Overfelt Christmas Tree Farm
I painted this back in 1995. I was taking some post graduate education classes that were taught by Richard Overfelt. It turned out that Richard had been a principal in the Kirkwood School District at the time my cousins were attending. At the time I took his class he was in the Parkway School District. This connection created a bond between us. He learned that I was an art teacher and after taking several classes with him, he asked if I could paint a sign for him for his farm in Northeast Missouri where he raised Christmas trees. At the time, in my artwork I was heavily influenced by the Regionalism of Thomas Hart Benton and others. I was always looking for subject matter and asked him if I could come up to the farm on a weekend when they were harvesting trees so I could experience it and take a lot of pictures to use for reference in my painting. After I finished the sign, we determined a date and I drove up to the farm. It was an amazing day. I participated in the harvesting of the trees and learned a lot about a process I knew nothing about. I also took several rolls of film with my little Kodak Instamatic camera. I returned that night to my home, tired and excited. I was eager to start developing some compositions based on my pictures. I had the pictures developed. When I eagerly opened them, my heart dropped. Almost all my images were worthless. Somehow light got to the film and overexposed the images to the point you could not make anything out. Out of all the rolls there was one image that was very washed out, but at least I could make out some forms. That image was the basis of this composition. I had to make many artistic decisions and apply my knowledge of rendering landscapes to create this scene. The final piece is far more vibrant and clearer than the image I worked from. I was especially pleased how I captured the early morning light effects as the sun was beginning to rise over the horizon creating long cast shadows and deepening the tractor furrows on the pond levy. This scene is from the pond looking down at the field of trees soon to be harvested. I have always felt this little landscape was one of the finest realistic paintings I have made.