At first glance, John McClanahan’s 67 landscapes in the latest exhibit at Baylor University’s Martin Museum of Art look vaguely similar.
Most of the watercolor and guache paintings feature sky and land separated by horizon. Most have similar palettes, with skies washed by blues and grays and terrain of browns, yellows and greens.
A closer look reveals differences. The ratio of sky and ground differs. Some landscapes are impressionist while others are close to abstract. Storm clouds, tornadoes and lightning appear in some.
Paper is torn on a few, adding jagged lines and texture. Charcoal lines in some are subtle shadings, others bold, dynamic lines. The artist’s signature appears in different locations. And every painting has a touch, large or tiny, of the color Cadmium Red Light — what’s up with that?
“It’s my favorite color,” explained the painter, the longtime chairman of Baylor’s art department, who retired to Dallas seven years ago after 34 years with Baylor.
For those who remember “McClanahan’s McClanahans,” his last Martin Museum show of small, almost miniature paintings, “The Velasco Paintings” surprise with their larger scale.
McClanahan thanks retirement for that: more time to paint means larger canvases to work with. It’s also a chance to explore what he’s always taught his students: to pay attention to details, to tell stories with a beginning, middle and end in their work.
The landscapes captured in “The Velasco Paintings” come from trips McClanahan made throughout his career to Kansas, Colorado and other sites in the Midwest. Most of the exhibits’ works, painted within the last three years, were done from memories, notes and photographs.
McClanahan doesn’t travel as much — he and his wife retired to the Dallas area to be close to their son — and the most familiar landscape he sees in retirement is captured in the exhibition title: Velasco Drive is the street where his studio is located.
“John McClanahan: The Velasco Paintings” will run through Sept. 24 at the museum. The artist will talk about his work — and renew his art department friendships — in an opening reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday.