Max Moran is a widely published, critically acclaimed painter whose work has been exhibited on The East End and in Manhattan. While his work has carried him to many beautiful parts of the world, for more than the last decade his primary source of inspiration has been the lush landscapes throughout New York State, from the Adirondack and Catskill mountains to the streets of Manhattan. Most of his current work focuses on the fields of the North Fork of Long Island, which is one reason why Hamptons Monthly was honored to speak with him recently…
Your work has brought you to parts of Europe and South America yet for the past 15 years your inspiration has been the landscapes of New York State, most recently the East End of Long Island. What is it about this place that strikes something within you to create?
It is instinctual, although it would take more than a few chapters to explain how I arrived and found the East End, or I should say, it captured me? The landscape and area holds a natural beauty that has influence over my work.
You’re known to paint on location, what’s your scouting process like?
Most plein air painters are always looking at possibilities…there is a process. Having your materials ready to run out the door when conditions are right is the starting point. You must be conscious of time of day, angles of the sun, wind conditions and so when it all comes together you have a painting that records a place and time. I paint with large canvases when I can. I keep mental notes of places, an inventory of locations that vary with the seasons acquired over the last two decades of painting on the East End.
During the summer months on The North Fork what elements become your greatest source for inspiration?
Summer is about those longer days of sunlight and working outside. Projects and possibilities litter my desk and floor but seeing those Connecticut clouds drifting over the LI Sound or farmlands still gives me a rush. I want to capture them. There are still plenty of places that are quiet and hidden away that are a delight to paint and discover for the first time.
Listening to some of the old timers stories, Ollie Ahlers, George Tuthill, Bill & Eva Guyton, and Old Nick while painting their portraits has brought the areas history to life for me. Their lives give a texture and background and I try to convey their spirit and character on the canvas. It’s a priceless kind of knowledge you will not find on Google.
Bailey’s Beach days, fishing, listening to baseball on my transistor, celebrating a new scene that I get to share and others will enjoy. Always like hearing peoples comments and stories, their interpretations of scenes I paint…. “I know where that is”, that triggers a memory and resurrects a mood. It becomes a shared experience that they can’t help but acknowledge.
In your series of oil paintings of Manhattan in the rain there’s more emphasis on people. Why don’t we see that represented as much in your work of The Hamptons?
In my NYC Rain series I use the city as a backdrop, like a Woody Allen film, with a subtle suggestion of atmosphere and mood. There is no avoiding people in your daily routine in the city. Out here, if desired, you can be more private and reclusive, your interactions are much more selective. The City and Hamptons people are one in the same. They play hard, and sure there is a bling factor, but it is eventually the return to nature they desire. Therefore, the composition and subject matter of the paintings reflect these different environments. They all tell a little story.
Your style has been noted as loose and flowing because, as you said, “It tells much more than infinite detail”. Can you explain what you mean by that?
There is brushwork that imitates and brushwork that celebrates the subject and as a mature artist I have chosen the latter.
In addition to focusing on your own work you also offer workshops. What could people expect from attending a session?
I enjoy teaching. The student’s start with a blank canvas in the morning and by the afternoon they have realized a struggle, wrestled with the subject and the elements, which results in a painting. Many still find a painting the highest form of human expression. I like to help my students develop their sensitivities to their highest potential. Skill is acquired with time and practice which will result in confidence.
What’s ahead for you?
Looking forward to a great season. Will be finishing a book this Fall, start shooting a documentary about the North Fork in June with filmmaker Scott Goldberg and will be having an opening of new paintings at Lieb Cellars Cutchogue on June 13 and my annual solo exhibition at Jedediah Hawkins Inn Jamesport, NY August 22 – September 20.