Learn the rules and then break them.
To get where he is today, Jeremiah Burkhart had to spend hours leaning over his sketch pad with a pencil and eraser -- drawing and erasing and drawing again -- until he was able to reproduce what he saw as perfectly as a black and white photograph.
The exercise was frustrating, but drawing the lines as they were was all he knew.
It took a teacher named Gabrielle Adentin to get him to loosen his grip on the pencil or the paintbrush.
And once he had relaxed his hand, she taught him to relax his the way he brought the world onto his canvas. He began to blur, abstract and twist the shapes. His colors reflected what he saw less and less in an almost Cubist way.
Years later, that freedom helps Burkhart's brush moves quickly leaving behind thick Van Gogh influenced strokes of paint.
Burkhart paints from his studio in Hayden, painting when he has time off from his job as a bellman at the Christie Club.
He paints from nature -- mostly trees -- but not as plein air or traditional landscape painter.
"Something will strike me while I'm hiking and I'll go home and paint it," Burkhart said. "I'm interested in color -- vivid colors -- and the way a landscape moves."
He paints trees for their texture and curves. He breaks the bark into shapes and when he puts them back together on the canvas, they may only vaguely resemble a tree.
In Burkhart's painting, "October," his tree is bare and bending and around it the grasses gather like people. Underneath the visible layer of "October" are three or four other paintings, Burkhart did but covered. Pieces of those pictures show through the branches and make the viewer wonder what is not there.
"My goal as an artist is to be constantly changing and finding new forms and new ways of painting," he said. "I'm not worried about perfecting a certain technique anymore. You can do anything with a canvas you want.
"I used to draw with pen and pencil until it looked exactly right. I'm much happier with this."
Burkhart's pastels and oil paintings are on display for the month of April at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and are scheduled for a show in January at Sleeping Giant Gallery.