The art of being alone

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Joel Johnson paints more than landscapes. He paints moments.

As a viewer of any piece, you are more than a voyeur. You are the subject of the painting because you are transported to that place.

¤ Opening reception for watercolors by Joel Johnson

¤ 6 to 8 p.m. today

¤ Mad Creek Gallery, 811 Lincoln Ave.

¤ 875-1301

In his piece "Alpine Glow," the sun is rising and lighting up the mountain. There is a light frost on a fence and all the surrounding grasses.

The first thing that strikes you about "Alpine Glow" and Johnson's other landscape paintings is the overwhelming feeling of being alone. It's as if you have risen before anyone else and are witnessing one of those beautiful moments that disappears as soon as someone joins you.

There is a certain privacy within his canvas.

"I try to get the viewer to be at one with the sense of place as I was -- alone for that moment -- when I painted it," Johnson said.

Part of the feeling comes from the time of day that Johnson paints. Because of the quality of light, he paints in the early morning or at dusk.

Johnson will show his watercolor landscapes this weekend at Mad Creek Gallery along with work he completed during a trip to Italy. He painted on location for three weeks, exploring side alleys and empty piers. Then he returned to the studio with photographs and sketches of the area.

Much of his work from Italy is large scale. "Bay of Capri" is 28-by-40 inches and took him more than a month to complete.

His interest in Italy was the way light played on surfaces, especially water.

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