By Haven Ashley
Six o’clock a.m., south of Lincoln Center. It’s January in New York and painter Ray Goodrow is on foot, eager to scout the city during the quiet, chilly hours of early morning. Winter Light, his best-in-show award-winning watercolor featured in The Art League’s June Landscape Exhibit, captures the spirit of possibility that accompanies a crisp New York City daybreak. “When people look at this painting, I hope they feel like an explorer,” the artist remarked.
What began as a study for a larger painting caught the eye of juror Eric March. Goodrow’s painting is an image of urban landscape, a habitat built for humankind. His lively brushes of watercolor are well suited to portray a city known for its non-stop movement. When viewing Winter Light one can imagine the gleam of the sun as it slices through city blocks, hear the refrain of budding traffic, and feel the bite of winter’s teeth.
The artist commented that his interpretation of landscape has changed over time. He enjoys painting agricultural images (admitting a fondness for cows) as much as cityscapes. Better yet, are the instances where nature and man-made features blend. “I love painting scenes in the countryside where there is an old boxcar or barn—the patina of age is so interesting. There are so many types of landscape, both rural and urban, but what I’m really interested in capturing is light. Light is what makes a painting sing.”
Goodrow has rendered this famous urban landscape in a cool, restrained color palette, revealing the sparse contours of the city in a wash of slate, cobalt, and cream. Traffic lights and brake lights flash, offering contrast in tiny pinpricks of red. Buildings made from great slabs of stone and glass stretch to dizzying heights, obscuring the sun, and making the streets feel like “canyons,” he says. The city’s famed skyscraper skyline “can make New York seem very dark. But in the winter you get these incredible beams of glaring light. You can sense that [in my painting], the bright white light that just obliterates everything else.”