Greg Mason Burns

Behind the Art: Stained-Glass Paintings

Public Art Commission Kennebec Valley Community College

The above image of one of my stained-glass paintings is a zoom-in photo of a larger mural that I did for the Kennebec Valley Community College Whitney Wing in 2023. This was the first big break I got from developing this style of painting. Well, actually, it was the second break, but it was the first big one where I actually made some money off my time and materials.

The Beginning

I wanted to create abstract landscape paintings, and I was already pretty good at abstract overall. My work ebbed and flowed between representative, landscape, and abstract, but I leaned abstract and felt more comfortable with it. The biggest problem I had was to mix the real with the conceptual in ways that made sense, so I started playing with different techniques. The first attempt was actually a split-screen of photos, as if the film in the camera was off-center.

The image to the right is my first attempt at abstract landscape in this manner. You can see the “edge of the film” that I tried to create. However, I saw something different in this that I wasn’t expecting, and that was the bold, black lines that outline all of the color. This seemed to work well, so I tried it again using some other objects.

Fields With Sky is an abstract oil landscape painting using blues, greys, oranges, yellows, reds, and whites for colors.
Fields with Sky – Oil on Canvas (2021) – 21″ x 28″

Stained-Glass Paintings Without the Abstract

Portland Head Light is an acrylic painting of the lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Portland Head Light – Acrylic on Canvas (2021) 10″ x 10″

The next series of paintings were less abstract, but used the same “color-contained” method that I had used in the past and in the previous painting. The results were quite different, however, from past paintings, and the new works started to gain traction.

I did a series of these, which you can see in my Portfolio under the word “acrylic” (not all acrylic paintings are of this style, but you’ll get the point). My first public art commission came from these paintings, which had more identifiable subjects than the first painting I did.

Public Art

The next thing that I did was apply for a public art commission with the Town of Brunswick in Maine, and they’re the ones who actually coined the “stained-glass paintings” expression. They gave this description because the murals I’d be painting would go up in boarded-up windows, and the painting style seemed to fit.

Public Murals Brunswick ME
The two murals together in Brunswick, ME

Then that led to another commission via the Maine Arts Commission at KVCC (noted in the first paragraph, but seen below in total). And most recently I was awarded a commission with the Town of Brookline to reproduce the same style on a utility box on Harvard Ave.

Public Art Commission Kennebec Valley Community College
Murals at Kennebec Valley Community College – Acrylic on Aluminum Composite (2023) -4′ x 12′ each

Before The First Stained-Glass Paintings

I mentioned above this “color-contained” idea. It’s the first concept of this “stained-glass” idea that began many years ago under a different form. The images had the same approach, but the look was more broad and less like a puzzle. I’ve returned to this approach many times over the course of my career. It’s funny because the look is very different even though the approach is the same.

Liberdade Contida is an abstract oil still life painting using the color-contained technique of boxing in colors with blue, red, orange, and purple.
Liberdade Contida – Oil on Canvas
Simple Still Life
Simple Still Life – Acrylic on Canvas
Small Town Main Street – Acrylic on Canvas

The Rejected Commission

One of the earliest motivators of this style was actually a rejected commission. I had a collector who wanted something specific, and I presented him with the below work. He never actually rejected it out-right. Instead, he was never available to come and buy it. But I saw something in this, too, that drove me to create more works of a similar style. I like it, and it’s grey feel is a reminder to me that failure can, and often does, lead to success in unexpected ways.

Middle Bay Cove is an acrylic abstract painting of the Pennellville area in Brunswick, Maine.
Middle Cove Bay – Acrylic on Canvas (2021) – 10″ x 10″