Exploring Between Earth and Sky

Blog Post by Chris Graebner


It’s funny how things turn out when you set out to explore. I’ve long enjoyed abstract art, so last summer I decided to explore methods and techniques for painting abstractly. I was trying to move farther away from my tightly detailed botanical illustration roots. I spent the summer doing small paintings using watercolor, ink and acrylics. It was pretty much a bust. It’s just not the way I approach the canvas. So, in the fall I started painting the way I usually do – looking through photos I’ve taken over the last few years and waiting for something to leap out at me. My photos are not great – many of them are truly dreadful – taken as they are from moving vehicles. But they take me back to the time and place where they were shot and help me call up the feeling that moved me to take them in the first place. Many of the better ones were taken by my husband, often as I’m driving and yelling “Quick – take a picture of that!”

So I paged through my photos and images leapt out and I started to paint again. Then, in January, I discovered that I had indeed been exploring – this time more fruitfully. What I had been exploring was the meaning of sky in a painting. When is sky just background? When does it become the most important element? What happens when you remove sky as an element in a composition? I took four small pieces and did just that. Using an orange or yellow background I painted a  cupola from a barn in Massachusetts, the top of a dovecote in New Bern, the angel at the top of a monument and the spire of a now demolished church in Montreal . I like them. I like the way that removing the sky as background helps to focus the attention on the foreground and make the viewer look at detail more carefully. It’s the same principle that’s used in classic botanical illustration where the plant is painted on a plain white background.

I went exploring and rediscovered my roots!

ImageYou can see  Chris Grabaener featured along with metalsmith Arianna Bara and artist Jude Lobe  at

The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts

Owned and operated by local artists

121 North Churton St

Hillsborough, NC

April 23-May 26 2013

One thought on “Exploring Between Earth and Sky

  1. Chris this is a wonderful explanation of your new work and really helps me to see each painting more clearly… I love the clear, crisp detail and the stillness that provokes deep thoughts. Thank you!

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