At Water’s Edge
A former U.S. Navy line officer who served at sea in the 1970s, P.A. Nisbet continues to be inspired by water. His newest paintings are based on scenes from his travels during the past year along the Pacific Coast, including locales as far away as Maui and Chile, with emphasis on the coastlines of Oregon and California.
With most of his focus on the American coast, his new paintings represent a stylistic departure. Rather than tight renderings with realistic and intricate details, most of the latest pieces include a more tonal and emotional interpretation with emphasis on subdued lighting situations.
“Every painting has a larger or deeper story that speaks to the strong bond I have for nature and all of its complexity and beauty,” Nisbet says. “In my paintings I try to give the viewer a different kind of visual poem that describes an experience or a number of experiences that I had at a particular place and time. Not just what happened there but also how I felt about the place.”
Having spent a lot of time offshore, Nisbet has experienced all types of sea conditions from violent to serene.
“I have walked the coasts and admired the interface between land and sea, particularly the nature of waves and the play of light on water,” he says. “All of these experiences are starting points for compositions that reflect my intense love of the ocean.”
Two of Nisbet’s new paintings – Breaker and Cape Kiwanda – portray strong surf scenes that pay homage to the power of water. These images capture the shapes of the waves and the way in which light manifests itself.
“Both paintings are evocative of emotions I felt standing in pretty exposed locations as big waves rolled in,” he recalls. “I took a lot of risks to get lose because I wanted to feel the awesome power of the ocean and I wanted to convey that strength in the paintings. If you don’t feel it you can’t express it in paint.”
Nisbet, who is strongly influenced by romantic landscape painters of centuries past, credits J.M.W. Turner as his most powerful inspiration. Based in Santa Fe, Nisbet works directly on site painting 9-by-12-inch plein air sketches. Back in the studio he reworks these ideas with multiple layers of paint and glaze, incorporating his original inspiration into the finished piece.
Expansive vistas and towering clouds, as well as the subtle qualities of depth and light, mark Nisbet’s paintings. In an effort to capture the ethereal spirit and deep space of a specific landscape, he slightly curves the horizon so it appears to be viewed from above.
“My paintings are not exclusively about nature,” says Nisbet. “They are about my relationship with nature, which suggests an interaction – not a description of something external to self. I believe the purpose of art is to illuminate a spiritual source.”
Nisbet’s paintings appeal to lovers of nature and to those who have respect for the values of the ages, where mastery in the arts was of the highest attainment.
“Most of my collectors like my work because they have had experiences in nature that they can relate to in my work,” he says. “I learned a long time ago that quality takes a considerable amount of time to bring forth. No masterpiece was ever just dashed off in a bravura display of painting prowess. My work comes forth through considerable patience and deliberation, and the quality in each painting is there because I want these paintings to hold value after I am gone.”
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