Charlie Hunter is Painting En Plein Air

West Branch Gallery
Jul 15, 2015 7:54PM

Charlie Hunter is not your typical Vermont landscape artist. You won’t find any bright red barns, bucolic black and white cows, rolling green hills or fluffy white clouds in his work. He takes a more journalistic approach, painting abandoned railroad stations, old tractors, long lonesome roads, coal mining machinery, a farm in the fog – all in his inimitable style. Raw umber is his color of choice, which works beautifully in his drippy portraits of rotting American infrastructure in the New England landscape.

Harlow Farm Fog
West Branch Gallery

For the last ten years Hunter has been describing the postindustrial landscape as disturbed by the hand of man. The work is distinctive, minimal and powerful, always telling a story. His father was a printer and he was home-schooled by his mother. Both were supportive of his desire to draw at a young age. Today his studio is an old paper mill in Bellows Falls. And he lives in the house that was built by his great-great-great-grandfather. “It’s an original,” Hunter said. “I like living here. Vermont is a place where you can devote yourself to a practice and develop a distinctive vision.”

He also teaches plein air painting in Bellows Falls, Putney, Virginia and Arizona. “I like being in the service of others,” he said. “It helps me to get out of my own head.” Sometimes he teaches a class outdoors during mud season in Vermont, deep in the muck and freezing. “It makes you work hard!” he laughed. With Cobra water-mixable oil paint, Hunter employs a tonalist technique, using the middle values of color that are understated and muted, emphasizing atmosphere and shadow. “My painting is equal amounts removal and adding of paint.” A squeegee is used for straightness of line and he wipes and pulls at the paint with paper towels and Q-tips.

The Road to Riverview Farm
West Branch Gallery

“My career staggers upward,” Hunter says, but that’s a gross understatement. In the past few years his work has gained widespread recognition. He had a feature story in Plein Air Magazine in 2012, won first place in the Pennsylvania Plein Air Festival in 2013, was mainstage faculty at the Plein Air Convention in Monterey, California in 2014, is one of 13 artists selected for a traveling exhibition in collaboration with Vermont Land Trust titled, Eyes on the Land, and will be featured in Vermont Life Magazine coming out this fall. He is a member of the Putney Painters, an invitational group founded by nationally recognized artists Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Hunter has won many awards and has been exhibiting with West Branch since 2007.

“I’m not interested in hosannas if I’m not deserving. I just want to make excellent work,” he says. “Absolutely everyone has the voice telling you how brilliant you are one minute or what a jerk you are the next. This voice is absolutely not to be trusted.”

Massey Ferguson II
West Branch Gallery

Along with the raw umber, Hunter emphasizes the colors oxide red, deep green, ultramarine blue, titanium buff and raw sienna. “I’m trying to make sense of the industrialization of Northern New England. What happens to a place when its reason for being is gone.” Charlie Hunter aspires to make dynamic marks on a surface. And rightfully succeeds, regardless of those voices in his head.

See More from Charlie Hunter at West Branch Gallery

West Branch Gallery