Artist Showcase: Stapleton Kearns

I am impressed with this robust New England landscape painter whose long career has produced thousands of works. I must confess I have never seen his work or met him in real life but through the magic of the internet I have enjoyed his work and his writings. He has an excellent blog that is well worth a read. I have read much of it.…/welcome-to-my-new. His website is: Here is an excerpt from a teaching workshop. If I wasn’t such an old dog I might subscribe but I have my own bag of tricks that I can pull from…

Stapleton Kearns was born in 1952 and has been painting full time for thirty years since the mid 1970s.  Kearns attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and the University of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He enrolled in the atelier of R.H. Ives Gammell and Robert Douglas Hunter in Boston. He also studied at the Harvard Extension School. Kearns early classical training with R.H. Ives Gammell is evident in his consummate drawing abilities. Kearns advice to the student: “The classical training from Gammell has been a great aid to me, and I would recommend a student to spend a year or two drawing from life, but also from the cast. Drawing from the cast under the watchful eye of a qualified teacher is the surest way to obtain the ability to see proportions , shapes, and values accurately. The first essential skill is to draw exactly what is before you, it ain’t art, but you need to be able to do it.”

The painter Aldro T. Hibbard, known mainly for his snow paintings, made a huge impression on Kearns . “Hibbard spent his winters painting in Vermont. he is mostly known as a painter of snow. I think he was the best snow painter who ever lived. He would take his Gloucester easel out no matter how cold it was and paint alone in the hills of Vermont.” I see some similarities in the work of both artist, especially the snow scenes. Kearns moves to Rockport and began learning the “Cape Ann style” of painting. “I stayed on exactly that course for my entire career. I am trying to make the same kind of pictures still, although I hope I have become a little better at it”. Another hero for Kearns is Willard Metcalf, an American Impressionist noted for his New England landscapes and his association with the Old Lyme Art Colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Stapleton Kearns, “Waiting for Spring, Vermont ” oil (24×30)

We both agree on the importance of knowledge about the history of art. I was very lucky to get this at the Maryland Institute College of Art and I continue to be a student of art history to this day. It is a wealth of knowledge that you can have at your fingertips and a source of inspiration. You really can not do much of anything that is completely new but you can restate in a different unique way. Your own way. Your own voice. We all stand on the shoulders of other artist from other times.

Working Method: Stapleton specializes in landscapes that are painted on location, but are often finished in the studio. When asked about his working method his reply is: “Everything I do is begun outside, everything I do is worked on in the studio. I would guess about a quarter of my painting time is on location outdoors. I throw away about half of my outdoor “starts” and work in the studio to finish the rest. I do a lot to my paintings in the studio often reworking them extensively. Outside I seek information, inside I seek to add art.”

Palette and Color Sense: “I like a darker and quieter palette than more sensible artists, so I mix a lot of greys and lean heavily on my earth colors. Still, when I go into the museum I often feel my pictures are garish by comparison. I like restrained color. My paintings are deliberately quiet, I don’t want them shouting at you.” His colors consist of lead and or titanium white, cadmiums yellow , yellow medium and lemon. I have cadmium red light, burnt sienna, cobalt violet, cobalt blue, yellow ocher, ultramarine, viridian, chromium oxide, quinacridone rose, and ivory black. “My color is as much invented as observed. I try to keep my mixtures simple and I am fond of the earth colors. If I had to choose to lose either my earth colors or my cadmiums, I would keep the earth colors, they are my workhorses.”

The Work:

See more work here:

Love these Stapleton Kearns quotes:

“Learning to paint landscapes in the studio is like learning to swim at home on the sofa.”

“Painting should get harder for you rather than easier; the better you get at it, the harder it will be.”

“Nothing good gets into a picture by accident.”

“No one would mistake a Corot or an Inness for a window. They are created illusions based on nature but arranged and presented in a manner unique to their particular creator. Landscape painting is best when it approaches poetry and weakest when it is an accountant’s laundry list of the objects that happened to be in front of the artist.”

To read more about Stapleton Kearns you may enjoy this interview

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