October Fields


© Durga Yael Bernhard

October Fields was painted in 1998, when I was living on the old Rokeby estate in Dutchess County.  Just beyond these fields lays the Hudson River, and beyond to the west, the Catskill Mountains, where I now make my home.

Like many of my landscape paintings, this one explores the relationship between near and far, using close-up objects in the foreground as a frame for what lies beyond.  In this case, there was nothing in the foreground except some wild grass, but it was sufficient to create the polarity I was looking for.  The blades of grass, delicate as Japanese brushstrokes, were enough to punctuate the solid mountains in the distance.

The painting is created from the point of view of a deer.  I was an active bowhunter at the time, and had actually hunted at dawn on the same day, and had seen deer bedded down on the edge of this field.  My hunt was unsuccessful, so instead of tracking that morning, I returned to the field with acrylic paints and paper.  Sitting with the tall grass at eye level, I tried to imagine the deer’s point of view as an animal of prey, living in serenity in its home of patchy woods and fields – but constantly keeping the wind at its back to smell predators behind it, and scanning the open space in front of it for any sign of movement.  Coyotes were common in the area, and the DEC issued plentiful hunting tags to keep down the local overpopulation of deer.

I spent two hours imagining a single deer’s perspective as I painted.  The contour of the land was already familiar to me; committing it to paper would render it indelible in my mind’s eye.  Bushes, trees, and other features would be like living room furniture to the wildlife that navigate this swath of land; I looked at these objects and tried to render them in paint.  My time here would only be temporary, but stopping to paint the deer’s view increased my sense of connection to the place, and my respect for the animals that live and die there.

D Yael Bernhard
Author / Illustrator of
THE JEWISH EYE 2018 / 5778 Calendar of ArtNew!!
LOVE IS – a unique crossover book for all ages
THE LIFE OF AN OLIVEExplore the life of a 2000-year-old olive tree
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
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