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FALMOUTH — Using luminous colors, Portland-based painter John Knight depicts the ever-changing nature of the plants and wildflowers he views in his own backyard or on frequent nature walks at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm in Falmouth.
This month Knight’s work will be featured in a special exhibit at Maine Audubon called “Growing at Your Feet: Paintings by John Knight.” The show runs from Jan. 8-Feb. 12, with an artist’s reception scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26.
“‘Growing at your Feet’ features bright acrylic paintings of local plants and wildflowers, some found right (here) at the sanctuary in Falmouth, where he has been known to set up an easel,” Audubon said in a press release.
Knight said he began painting plants as “a way to connect to my surroundings. Gilsland Farm is a close place to walk that has a variety of plant and bird life. The same fields and trails change color and texture as the seasons change, so there are always new views to record.”
What he also appreciates is that “wild plants have uses as food and medicine that we are constantly relearning.” Knight also said that focusing on a plant or flower is a way to focus the eye in a bigger landscape.
In addition to the wild beauty he finds at Gilsland Farm, Knight said the property also has special meaning to him because it’s where he and his wife were married in 2001.
Lately, he said, “I’ve been identifying small, low-growing plant species that hide amongst grasses. I’m also drawn to quiet, undeveloped fields and lots with less of a human footprint. I encounter many weeds and wildflowers in those spaces.”
Knight said he wanted to exhibit at Maine Audubon because its mission of studying and preserving the natural world “seemed an obvious fit with (the kind of work) I do.”
“I hope people visiting this show will get a little warmth and enjoyment from paintings of a warmer season,” he said.
“For me, it’s (always) a race to identify plants before they go to seed and are replaced by new growth. There’s an urgency to depicting the life force and explosive growth that occurs in the warmer months.”
One of his own favorite pieces in “Growing at Your Feet” is of scarlet pimpernel.”(It) was a struggle to finish, but I’m happy with how the red blooms stand out against the more muted, cool colors of the sky and rocky coast.”
In addition, he said, “the painting magnifies the surprise of finding a bright wildflower growing in scant soil between rocks near the ocean.”
What he finds challenging about painting plants is “being accurate about describing a plant’s features while retaining the energy contained in it. I don’t want to lose the sense that the plant is alive, rooted in the ground, and growing outward and upward.”
Knight has been part of the art scene in Maine for the past 20 years, and for the past 10 he’s been represented by the Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Falmouth. In describing his painting style, he said, “I enjoy pulling from the history of landscape painting and botanical art without being limited by those genres.”
This story has been updated to add Knight’s gallery representation.
Portland artist John Knight enjoys painting the plants and wildflowers found at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm property in Falmouth. This month he has a new exhibit there called “Growing at Your Feet.”