A Family holiday to North America in the autumn of 2017 became much more than just a chance to catch up with extended family and friends, and became the inspiration for a series of paintings of New Jersey, and Vermont.
Autum in New York
The trip was planned so we could start by visiting friends in NYC, moving on to family in south New Jersey, see the foliage colour of Vermont New England, and back to NY, via Connecticut. October is a fantastic time of year to see these places, the crisp air, unbelievable colour as the trees turn vivid reds, oranges and yellows, and of course the excitement of impending Halloween celebrations! . Having previously visited NYC on a couple of occasions, once during the worst terrorist attack the world has seen in September 2001, we were looking forward to seeing it in ‘the fall’.
It didn’t disappoint! Staying in a brownstone apartment near Central Park gave us the opportunity to take walks around the neighbourhood, soak up the atmosphere and just marvel at the size of this green space within a city.
New Jersey Coast life
Moving on to see family in New Jersey , we made our way to Ocean Heights, a small town between Cape May and Atlantic City, reminiscent of Amity Island in the film Jaws. The town community dated back to 1827, with colonial style houses, one of which we were staying in, a stunningly restored Camp Meeting house dating back to 1883, a painting waiting to happen! . We were very reluctant to leave, and recommend staying here!
I wanted to make the transition of painting these unfamiliar scenes as natural as possible. For this reason we stayed in air B & B properties in neighbourhoods which were not on the tourist trail as such. As a tourist visiting a new place it is tempting to focus on the obvious places of interest, but I prefer to capture what appears to be the mundane or the overlooked. One of the main themes running through my work is the idea of familiarity. I personally don’t attempt to paint something unless I have a connection to it, or have experienced it first hand - Chris
Suburban America is a theme which fascinates me , and as the sun set, and the lights came on in the houses, the town took on a slightly eerie feel, influenced by classic films such as Halloween, Amityville horror, and other 70’s and 80’s horror films. The town lent itself to atmospheric paintings of typical American architecture, white wood houses with wrap around porch, at this time of year heavily adorned with Halloween decorations.
Check out this article about the recent auction of Edward Hoppers iconic painting of Weehawken, New Jersey for inspiration!
Leaving behind family and beautiful Cape May, New Jersey, we headed off in a hire car to Vermont, New England, to witness the fall colours in all their glory.
South of the Canadian border, Burlington is hometown of politician Bernie Sanders, with a large student population, thanks to the University of Vermont at the heart of this compact lakeside city. The neighbourhood we stayed in was within walking distance of the main street of art galleries, shops and restaurants. https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/
An Artistic Community
Houses in Burlington were typical American style, many painted in brightly coloured hues, purples, yellows, and oranges.
A very artistic and inclusive place, every street corner was adorned with art. I went off to explore the area, with my camera and felt as thought this was the kind of place I could live. It had everything going for it, an artistic community, amazing leisure facilities, a great university campus, bike trails, skiing in winter, watersports on the lake in summer, amazing bars and restaurants, and art galleries of course.
Burlington Vermont Oil on canvas 24cmx30cm
© Chris Cyprus
The Hills are alive - with colour
Vermont state as a whole has many similar characteristics to places I have visited in Austria. In the early 1940s, the Von Trapp family toured the United States as the Trapp Family Singers before eventually settling in Stowe, Vermont on an enchanted farm with sweeping mountain vistas reminiscent of their beloved Austria. The Von Trapps fell in love with Stowe, and its sense of space and fresh air, which they didn’t have in Philadelphia, their previous home. You can read more about the Von Trapps here http://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/von-trapps-vermont/index.html
Stowe, VT. Oil on Canvas 30cmx30cm
© Chris Cyprus
The trip certainly helped me to realise what truly inspires me as an artist, and how I can use this inspiration to develop my future painting style, learning new skills as i go. Since returning from the trip i have experimented with techniques such as underpainting, to build up colour gradually and create deeper shadows and depth within the painting. I didn’t set out to produce a body of work from this visit, but I naturally gravitated towards this subject matter on my return to the UK possibly because of the sharp light and vivid colour possibilities of painting these scenes. Although Pennine weather is certainly dramatic with unique vistas, its lack of shadow and light does not always inspire!.
I thoroughly enjoyed producing my series of paintings of Northeast America, and I am looking forward to visiting this region again at a different time of year so I can capture the area from a different perspective.