Edward Duff, "Cloud Lake," 36 x 48 in., oil on canvas, 2024
Edward Duff, "Cloud Lake," 36 x 48 in., oil on canvas, 2024

Edward Duff’s new landscape paintings are “a visual love letter” to the beautiful and varied lands of Michigan. Here, he shares his inspiration and process as an oil painter.

Northern Views: New Landscape Paintings

by Edward Duff

As a painter I consider myself a documentarian, and landscapes have become my primary vehicle of expression as an artist. No other subject moves me the same way. Landscape paintings have a unique ability to transport the viewer to another place, to conjure emotions and memories of days gone by, and to offer a moment of pause and reflection in this beautiful yet chaotic world we live in.

As a painter, I am drawn to imagery that is not only beautiful and scenic, but at times haunting, ominous, and awe-inspiring. Vast open vistas, towering cloud formations, large expanses of water, and the fleeting effects of light are common themes throughout my paintings. While my work would be categorized as representational, my focus is not predominantly on chasing the illusion of realism, but on capturing a sense of atmosphere and evoking an emotional response.

landscape paintings - Edward Duff, "Moon Rise," 36 x 36 in., oil on canvas, 2024
Edward Duff, “Moon Rise,” 36 x 36 in., oil on canvas, 2024

My process as an artist begins with a combination of drawings, plein air sketches, and photographic references. I will then work on thumbnail sketches in order to explore potential compositions before transitioning to paint. This allows me to consider my options regarding size and format, and to work out the value relationships. At times, I will paint small monochromatic studies on paper along with limited palette color sketches. Once I have these elements worked out, I will begin the painting.

My methods as an oil painter are straightforward and start with a monochromatic underpainting thinned down with odorless mineral spirits to establish the drawing, values, and overall design. After that initial layer, I begin to lay in color focusing on the largest areas of the painting first and staying true to the adage of working from the “general to the specific.”

For the last ten years, I’ve worked with a split primary palette, comprised of two yellows, two reds, two blues, and white, with a focus on a warm and cool variation of each. This palette has enabled me to better understand the complexities of color mixing and to create instant harmony in my color relationships. Occasionally, I add a few extra specialty colors, if I’m looking for something more nuanced. This could be a transparent color for glazing or a brighter, more saturated color for a specific scene.

As the painting progresses, I begin refining the large areas and eventually work on the smaller details. The final stages of the painting include glazing to achieve various light effects and to give an overall sense of uniformity.

Edward Duff, "Great Lakes Surf," 12 x 36 in., oil on canvas, 2024
Edward Duff, “Great Lakes Surf,” 12 x 36 in., oil on canvas, 2024

I was born in London, England, and moved to Michigan when I was a child. My family are New York City natives, and a great deal of my childhood was spent traveling back and forth to the East Coast. The grandness of the Hudson River Valley, the vastness of the Vermont mountains, and the rugged coastline of the Atlantic Ocean captivated me and were instrumental in forming my lifelong love and appreciation for the beauty of nature.

Considering I spent so many years of my life traveling east, I only truly began to explore the state after graduating from college. Michigan, which had been somewhat of a mystery to me, was a revelation as I began exploring small towns, hiking through forests, trekking across dunes, and swimming and kayaking in the rivers and lakes.

Edward Duff, "Fire on the Horizon," 36 x 18 in., oil on canvas, 2024
Edward Duff, “Fire on the Horizon,” 36 x 18 in., oil on canvas, 2024

My newest body of work for my upcoming solo show, “Northern Views,” is my visual love letter to the beautiful and varied landscapes of Michigan. I’m hopeful this series of paintings will offer the viewer a glimpse into the majestic beauty of the Great Lakes State, highlighting not only the epic views that its landscape provides, but the quiet and alluring moments as well.

landscape paintings - Edward Duff, "Sturgeon Bay," 24 x 48 in., oil on canvas, 2024
Edward Duff, “Sturgeon Bay,” 24 x 48 in., oil on canvas, 2024

“Northern Views” is on view from July 4 through August 3, 2024, at Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City, MI. There is an Opening Reception on July 20. For more information, please visit www.higherartgallery.com.


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