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Volume 25, Number 4 — April 2018

Buckland works in the midst of nature

Kyle Buckland's landscapes are contemporary impressionism.
Kyle Buckland's landscapes are contemporary impressionism.
Additional photos below »

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | May 31, 2017

Landscape painter Kyle Buckland is fascinated with translating the beauty of the world around him into artwork.

He was born in Delaware and moved to Abingdon when he was 12. His family was originally from Southwest Virginia, so it was a homecoming for them.

"We would come down here and visit during the summer. It was this magical place we came to. It had this refreshing quality to it. I guess because I grew up surrounded by concrete, this was my fairy tale world. I love being immersed in the mountains."

That love of nature turned into a passion for plein air painting when he was 15.

"I started getting into my dad's art books. I fell in love with French impressionism particularly Monet. They were taking their easels out and painting on location, I thought if they could do that, I could do that too.

"I ordered the supplies I could get and started painting outside. I would come home from school and go out to paint. I made a deal with my parents that I could do my homework after sunset. That way I could paint until the sun went down," he says.

The discovery of another book in the Abingdon High School library led to an opportunity to paint with one of his inspirations.

"There's a group of American impressionists called the Cape Ann School. Emile Gruppe wrote a series of books on oil painting, and I read everything he wrote and studied his paintings. One of his teachers was John Carlson who wrote "Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting.' In 1957, AHS library purchased it. So there was this old, worn-out book in our library, and I got and read it in the 11th grade. I found out Carlson taught other artists, and I got their books," he says.

The final link in the teaching chain was David Lussier who lived in Connecticut. "I got in touch with him and said, "I love your work and I'd love to come and paint with you.' He said that he had a group going to Monhegan Island to paint, and I could come along if I could pay for my room and board. I talked to my parents, who have always been my greatest supporters, and they said they'd help pay for it.

"It was a strange journey from an old book, to following the lineage of these artists, tracking down the one who was still alive and getting to paint with him." Buckland was 19 at the time.

Another unusual step on his journey occurred when he was studying at Virginia Intermont College, Bristol, Virginia.

"I was working full time — mowing yards, cleaning gutters and doing odd jobs — and going to school, and I didn't have time to paint," he says. After a year and part of a semester, "I dropped out of art school, so I could continue painting.

"My experience at VI was great. I studied with Tedd Blevins just a couple of years before he passed away. I miss his stories."

He learned a valuable lesson in Blevins' drawing class. "There was a trash can by the door, and at the end of the class we had to throw our drawings in the trash. That was to teach us that it's about the process and the journey, and each piece is just another step on the journey. It was weird but liberating. You weren't afraid to mess up or try new things, because you didn't have to show it to anyone," he says.

For 10 years, he only painted outside. From freezing cold to sweltering hot, Buckland packed up his paints, easel and the materials on his survival check list (e.g. bug spray, sun screen, water, etc.) and ventured forth.

"It makes it more rewarding when you bring a nice painting home. I've had my share of mosquito bites. The sun moves, then the wind comes and blows your canvas off the easel. I've painted with a below zero wind chill and when it was 100 degrees. It all becomes part of the fun of the chase. But I think you need to know how colors behave, how light behaves, how it bounces off water and reflects on the underside of a branch over a creek.

"To me when you're painting, what you are doing is distilling the essence of a moment. You're looking at something and figuring out what the essentials are that make up the scene and the feeling. Unless you've been there, there's something lacking. I work in the studio too now, but there's a quality that you capture on location that you don't get in the studio. One of my main goals is to convey a mood: not just what I see, but what I hear and feel, the breeze on my face and the birds singing. That is all in my mind when I try to replicate how we as humans respond emotionally to what we're seeing."

One of his favorite places to paint is White Top Mountain. He takes his easel, canvases and supplies then camps out. Sometimes he faces the mountain and paints "gnarly pine trees" or turns around and faces the view that goes on forever.

His landscapes are contemporary impressionism.

"Rather than try to make my paint look like the landscape, I think how would the landscape look if it were paint. I use a lot of bold colors and try to blur the lines between impressionism and abstract art. So I'll take the landscape and break it up and simplify it and make a tree with just a few brushstrokes. I like to leave some things to the imagination. It engages the viewer in the work. When you see a field of flowers and a hint of blue that is a mountain, your mind starts to recreate a place you've been that's similar.

"I like to paint things that are around me. Impressionists weren't interested in panting mythological or religious subjects. They saw just as much beauty in somebody in the garden pulling weeds or a work boot. That was the philosophical part of impressionism. They were the first artists to say you don't have to paint angels coming down from heaven to have beauty. You could paint a minimum wage worker who has been ironing for 12 hours. Degas did that.

"I think of my painting as little reminders to people to stop and look around and see how beautiful things are. Painting forces you to look at things and think about what you're seeing. I think impressionism engages the viewer and shows people that everyday things around them are worthy of being pieces of art," Buckland says.

To see more of Kyle Buckland's artwork, visit or follow him on Facebook.

Topics: Art

"Early Spring at Jacobs Creek," oil on canvas by Kyle Buckland

"Spring Woods," oil on canvas by Kyle Buckland

More art by Kyle Buckland

Art by Kyle Buckland

More art by Kyle Buckland