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"I paint these places because they're too damn beautiful not to paint..."

A few years ago while working on an article for the Surfer's Journal, I asked Michael Drury why he chose to paint what he paints. We were in his studio where he was busy tidying up a painting of Pt. Reyes. He kept his brushes busy as he spoke of the honorable tradition plein air painters held as champions of the land and of the weighty responsibility he had to uphold that tradition. It was good oratory, cast in a foundation of scholarly logic and burnished with Michael's eloquent semantics, and I was madly scribbling it into my note book when he suddenly paused, took a step back from the Pt. Reyes painting and said, "but mostly I paint these places because they're too damn beautiful not to paint."

Too often, I think, we feel obliged to wrest from an artist's work hidden messages and deeper meanings. Pundits and critics hanker to divulge neuroses and hang-ups, to read what perhaps isn't actually written. Mercifully, Michale's work warrants no such deciphering. As a man who ascends to his convictions by way of concerted thought and pragmatic deduction, his work intuitively shuns ambiguity and conjecture in favor of bold clarity. He's moved by the honest beauty of the land, seduced by the ephemeral dance of light and shadow across it, and compelled to somehow articulate the flood of emotion these "giant, sunlit vistas" inspire.

This is why he willingly chooses to plant his easel in the frigid pre-dawn frost that blankets the northern Nevada desert floor. It's why he chooses to hunker down season after season in the relentless winds howling around Pt. Conception. It's why he chooses pilgrimages to Ireland each winter to steal some of the north Atlantic light that mints the cairns and headlands.

Of course, to designate his work as merely pretty pictures would be an egregious disservice to his committment and talent. Michael's devotion to and love of the places he paints and tirelessly strives to preserve are immutable. That Drury's country is simply "too beautiful to resist" lends his work a purity of the highest order. After all, what greater force is there than talent fueled by honesty and conviction? --Michael Hamer

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