Rod Titus header

Although we are accustomed to separate nature
And human perception into two realms,
They are in fact indivisible.
Landscape is the work of the mind.
Its scenery is built as much from the strata of memory
As from layers of rock.
Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory
I began to paint landscapes in earnest in the late ’60s. In the preceding years I had come to painting by way of the San Francisco Art Institute where I would learn my craft through abstract expressionism and the prevailing trends in figurative painting. During those years, I shared a South of Market studio/loft with my colleagues Jim Edwards, Hal Parker and Ken Hoffman. On particularly slow mornings we would take the bus out to the Palace of the Legion of Honor with the hope that something from the old masters might rub off on us. It rarely did. However, we did have the repeated experience of taking in the majestic vista of the Marin headlands as we left the Legion. Eventually I initiated a series of wash drawings, followed by a series of oil paintings I called the Lands End Trilogy.

Until the mid ’70s I had maintained a studio in San Francisco. With the exception of a year and a half stay in Japan, I have lived and worked for the last 30 years on the San Francisco Peninsula, specifically in Millbrae and Burlingame.

Writers are often advised to write what they know. I have chosen to paint those places where I have lived and worked. Sometimes though, it seems the place chooses me as exemplified in the Four Seasons, a view looking west from the fourth floor of the AT&T building in Burlingame where I had been working for 15 years. Similarly, the Playground series was derived from the surrounding view off my apartmentís balcony, not far from where I worked. This urban format was off set in the early ’90s by the generosity of my close friend, Alan Hanley, whose home in the Sierra foothills provided the pastoral location for a series of plein aire works entitled Alanís Meadow.

Any poet, painter or writer who has spent time reflecting on a landscape knows all too well how a given view takes on a personality all its own, and how the viewer will soon be forced to reckon with the transient qualities that define its moods and demeanor.

Landscape, cityscape, suburbanscape, theyíre all the same to me. Even my still life paintings and drawings, although less emotionally charged than my other works, are their own type of landscapes, as they too are subject to an ever-shifting light.

Prior to my moving to San Francisco to study art, my family and I had always lived in rural or semi-rural areas of California. Our home always included an expansive view. Even as a 16-year-old I had made a small attempt to paint the view from our terrace. Twenty years later I would paint the same scene, entitled Lafayette.

When asked why he painted, the late Clifford Still replied, “Because I know more when I go to bed at night than I did when I got up that morning.” If I were asked the same question, I would say itís the exquisite rendering of those factories and smoke stacks that grace the middle ground of Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres (see below). Time and experience have taught me that landscapes and still lifes have a voice. I would not presume to present myself as one who gives a voice to that which is essentially quiescent, but a painting can evoke a quietude that manifests itself through nuances of tone and color. Painting has allowed me to embrace this poetry.

Rod Titus, October 2007

Bathers at Asnieres, by Seurat – A Poem by Rod Titus