"It was not until I came up here and became enamored of nature on its own terms that I found something else other than the sardonic to draw," said Vanderbeck, who discovered the Adirondacks in the early 1990s. "When I realized how profound - how beautiful and profound, to use overused words - the mountains were, I went off on a completely different line of drawing: the truth of the earth, the truth of nature."
A former student and a retired janitor from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, Vanderbeck splits his time between Providence and the Adirondacks. When he's here, which in recent years has been from spring until fall, Vanderbeck mostly lives in the forests of the High Peaks, sleeping in lean-tos and tents, only coming out to resupply and get refreshed at the Keene Valley Hostel.
When he heads into the woods, Vanderbeck carries a heavy pack that is weighed down by his art supplies and two weeks' worth of food and gear. He now has the weight down to about 70 pounds and hopes to drop it even more, possibly to 60 pounds, with addition of some ultralight camping gear. Because of the heavy pack, the farthest he's ever camped from the trailhead is 6 miles. From there, he goes on day trips.
Vanderbeck's preferred tools for creating his art are now colored pencils and a grayish paper. Once he finds a place that he wants to draw, he sits down and gets to work. This often means he's in the same spot for hours at a time. He thinks it's important to capture the essence of a place in one sitting and not have to rely on his imagination or returning to the landscape, which may have changed between drawing sessions.
"When I'm doing these drawings, I'm figuring out what I know about the history of the landscape, how the trees are growing, how everything is interacting as a complex. I'm drawing not only the separate objects, but their interrelationship, so I take into account the juxtapositions between them."