“I’m not a plein air artist,” Anne Garton says. “I have this incredible storage capacity of images in my head, and when I paint, I think of all of the vistas and views I can draw on. Why limit myself to what’s in front of me?”
The Canadian-born Eastham resident paints in traditional luminism and tonalism styles. These two painting techniques, which emerged in the mid-to-late 1800s, emphasize the light and atmosphere of a scene, imbuing nature with almost a sense of spirituality. In other words, a painter like Garton is more concerned with capturing the essence of a scene than in depicting it realistically. She sets out to show what a landscape feels like, instead of what it looks like.
Garton studied illustration in the mid-1960s at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, where she was introduced to the Group of Seven, landscape painters who believed a distinctly Canadian art style could be made through direct contact with nature. Their influence can still be seen in Garton’s work. Because the light on the Cape is diffused by mist and fog and water on three sides, Garton says, she finds the Cape Cod setting sublime. “I never have not been inspired by the light and beauty of the Cape,” she says. “I have a reverence for beauty, and I find it in nature, which is naturally, consistently beautiful even in its more dramatic and frightening events. Nature, left to itself, without human interference or interpretation, is my lodestar.” With this passion, figures are a rarity in Garton’s paintings.
To achieve her atmospheric style, with the sky and fog and light dominating, Garton paints in multiple layers. She starts with five or six layers of gesso, then adds layer after layer of glazing that diffuses light as it bounces off an opaque layer below. For subjects, she begins with a memory, or one of the thousands of images she carries in her phone. She works every day, but not necessarily at her easel; sometimes she studies art. “I’m influenced by my own experiences, and my education, and the history of art,” she says. “I appreciate all art in the large sense, insofar as it attempts to find truth through beauty,” she says, recalling the famous line from John Keats’ poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”
Anne Garton is represented by Miller White Fine Arts, 708 Route 134, South Dennis; and Renjeau Galleries, 79 Worcester Street, Natick. For more information, visit annegarton.com.