Winter Memories

Today I’m sharing the seventh painting in my series of 3 x 5 “Index Card” landscapes. It’s part of my on-going project centering around my study of tonalism. Today’s scene was inspired by “Home at Montclair” by George Inness.

The Clark Art Institute describes the painting as a visual meditation and points out its emphasis on isolation, silence, and spiritual contemplation.

In some ways, I think I saw this painting a bit differently. Instead of feeling the bitter cold of winter, I focused on the feelings of warmth emanting from the sky and from the little cottage. Yes, I actually painted buildings… one complete with a chimney and a bit of smoke.

Here’s my little 3 x 5 oil painting on the themes I saw in Home at Montclair.

This was challenging for me. You might be able to tell that I wiped away and re-painted the upper right area, not once, but twice. I never did resolve it quite the way I wanted. As with the other paintings I’ve done in this series, I’ve simplified the scene to what I considered the most essential elements — that fence, the snowy yard, distant trees, two buildings, a single lone tree in the middle ground.

Inness included much more in his painting. HIs shows a lone figure — although it’s very indistinct — and a few birds. His painting has an old tree stump where mine shows only a darker bit of gray.

Again, though, the biggest difference lies in our thoughts about the scene and our approach to painting it. Of course, I can only presume here that Inness was indeed seeking to show isolation, silence, and spiritual contemplation, as the Clark Art Institute suggests. Perhaps as I continue my studies, I will learn more about this particular painting.

Yesterday as I put together a “tonalist” word cloud, I thought a lot about evocation and what that word means in the visual arts. “To evoke” means to draw something out — thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories — so that was where I began my exploration of Home at Montclair.

For me, the warm glow of the sky suggested warmth and comfort. The smoke from the chimney made me think of a family gathering around a cozy fire on a winter’s day. I thought of times when I’ve been “snowed in”, happy to stay inside, bake bread, and curl up with a book of poetry.

So where Inness showed loneliness and isolation, I tried to show warmth and comfort. I softened my grays with a touch of burnt umber, and tried to suggest a little light falling onto the scene. I’m still working to get lights and shadows correct in these tiny 3 x 5 paintings,

When you look at my painting, what thoughts and feelings — if any — come to mind? Does the painting bring back any memories? As I’ve learned from working with Home at Montclair, what a viewer sees may be much different from what an artist might intend. I’d love to know what my Winter Memories painting evokes for you.


  1. When I saw your painting it give me a feeling of serenity and liveliness as well. The chimney and smoke indicates life is going on. after reading your post I was curious to see ‘Home at Montclair’. Quickly google searched and found.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Tiffany. I think childhood memories of winter are part of who we are, at least for those of us who grew up in places where we had ice, and snow, and cold. Winter was a much different time than summer. Life changed a lot. We ate more “comfort foods” spent more time with our “family circle” and found ways to keep warm. All of those memories were part of what I hoped to express in my little 3 x 5 painting.


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