Painting the land around me

Harry Croghan Contributing Columnist

June 27, 2014

The sacred ground I live on is mostly farm land. There is some topography but not a lot. Mostly it is fields planted with corn and beans with trees along the fence lines and streams. Where I live, most of the small streams are tributaries into Deer Creek. Deer Creek itself meanders back and forth across the fields and through some wooded areas.

Most people wouldn’t find this type of land very interesting. We don’t have mountains or a rocky seashore but we have beautiful skyscapes and sun and ever-changing clouds of color flowing against a beautiful blue sky. I look and find many interesting tree shapes and textured bark and we have lots of those on our fence lines and along the streams. Cattle stroll through the fields eating the lush green vegetation and are the subject of many local painters.

I also love to paint old barns that are being reclaimed by nature. The textures and shapes against the land and sky I find very interesting. With all this farm land one would think that traditional farm landscapes were the only subject offered but that simply isn’t true. There are many opportunities to capture many abstract designs, looking between the trees at sunlight and patterns not only in the trees but also on the ground in front of them. The old barns falling apart create patterns against a bright sky. Along the roadsides and fence lines I see simple and complex abstract shapes everywhere.

If you like to paint wildflowers, the roadsides are full of them and they change almost every week during the spring, summer and fall. There are also the lakes, towns and villages that are very close to my home. They have provided me with a wealth of painting subjects.

What we don’t have is a lot of traffic and congestion but that’s okay with me. I painted all that stuff in my youth when I was living just north of Pittsburgh where the three rivers are at The Point. Just a note of history, a Croghan had a trading post right there even before Fort Pitt where he traded with the Native Americans.

Anyway, back to the present, now for about 35 years, I have lived between London, Mount Sterling and West Jefferson and have taught art in all these places. I have picnicked and canoed at Madison Lake with my children and their children. Yes, I have many roots and memories of this sacred area. Why do I call it sacred? Because the Native Americans called it sacred — the area between Deer Creek and Darby Creek — long before the white man appeared on the scene.

I paint it because I think it’s beautiful.

Harry Croghan is an artist, photographer, writer and teacher. He can be reached at (740) 852-4906 or by e-mail at