It’s usually the light that first captures Thomas Adkins’ attention. Whether it’s the way the setting sun reflects off the waters of Lake Waramaug in Washington, or how the shadows of leafless trees fall across a partially frozen stream in a New England forest, there are moments of natural beauty that seem to tell a story and draw Adkins’ gaze, moving him to preserve the scene on canvas.
“What I’m looking for, really, when I’m out painting is something that kind of strikes me,” says Adkins, who splits his time between Southbury and Maine. “It’s the atmosphere. It’s the feeling, the mood that I get from that particular location. I can drive around for a half-hour, an hour and not see anything, and then at that special moment, something strikes me. It’s usually the lighting and how it strikes the form of buildings and trees and mountains that I want to kind of capture.”
These moments, preserved by Adkins’ brushstrokes, are featured through Dec. 31 at his solo show at the Gregory James Gallery in New Milford. Called From the Mountains to the Shore: The Transcendence of New England Moments, the 32-piece show is filled with natural images from the state’s Northwest Corner as well as scenes from Maine, Vermont and other parts of New England. There are several familiar waterways depicted, including Candlewood Lake, and images of farm buildings and surroundings, what Adkins calls his “farmscapes.”
A dedicated en plein air (outdoor and natural light) painter, Adkins works in all seasons and nearly all weather, protecting his work with an umbrella mounted on his easel. When he comes across a moment and scene he wants to paint, he gets to work immediately. “I usually paint smaller, very quick because the lighting is so fleeting that you want to capture that moment in time,” he says.
He then uses these smaller paintings as the guideposts for his larger works. “It’s like a conduit between me and the landscape and I’m trying to share that with others,” he says. “I think everybody has those kinds of experiences whether you’re a painter or not.”
A Waterbury native, Adkins graduated from the Paier College of Art in Hamden and completed graduate classes at the School of Visual Arts of New York. In addition to his fine art painting, he has worked with advertising agencies to create designs and illustrations for General Electric, IBM, Wendy’s and many other well-known corporations. He is a member of the Connecticut Plein Air Painters Society and the Lyme Art Association, as well as a winner of many art awards. His work is part of the collection of the New Britain Museum of American Art.
The paintings in the New Milford show are for sale and range from $950 to $8,000. Adkins also works on commission to paint landscape scenes of people’s properties.
Beyond the aesthetic quality of his work, Adkins says there is a preservation angle. “The farmland in New England is vanishing, so it’s also trying to keep a record of what’s disappearing out there,” he says.
Adkins’ show is on view through Dec. 31 at Gregory James Gallery, 93 Park Lane Road (Route 202), New Milford (860-354-3436, gregoryjamesgallery.com).