When I came to the Roaring Fork Valley, I packed up the old Subaru and drove out here with my girlfriend. For two years, we lived above El Jebel in Missouri Heights.
My drawings and pastels are done outside, and just about every mountain scene I make is specific to the Roaring Fork Valley. Every single peak and view your intuition identifies is probably right.
The evening sun in the West is so unfiltered that you get these bright white skies and the white balance is never accurate. I have painted enough to know what kind of palette to use. I use photos as reference, but a lot of photos are referenced from a combination of images that I take to my studio.
For people who don’t paint, my work looks real to them, but among artists and critics and everyone else, there are differences. When I was younger, realism was an essential quality, but there seems to be a magic that takes place when you are a few feet away from a painting and it looks real. I like to be able to walk up and see how it was painted. I try to bring that out in my work.
Coming from the East, I am used to humid summers where you walk outside and everything is milky with atmospheric glow, which never happens in Colorado. I painted “Midsummer Mirage” during my first summer in the Roaring Fork Valley. There were a lot of fires that summer, and Glenwood was burning. Smoke from the fires created this eastern glow, and the mountains to the east looked really flat, and took on a glowing pastel color scheme. It felt as though I was living in two places at once, but faced with the challenge of capturing the sense of scale and optical illusion that takes place in the mountains.
In painting the scene, I kept thinking about westward expansion and how families used to come on horse and wagons. Imagine coming out of these flat states and seeing the Rockies rise out of the west like a mirage– the amount of tilt you have to make in your head is impressive, and everyone should get a chance to see it.
“Bolts and Rumbles” was a mid-summer storm over Capital Peak. If you extended the painting out to the right, it would be the bottom of Mount Sopris, and the prominent peak is Capital. I love the late summer storms of Colorado. You feel the wind pickup, and you can see so far in the mountains until they get cloaked by the clouds.
Oil paint is really good at describing soft forms and eerie light, so I look for a way to paint the West that way. A lot of the master oil painters developed oil as a medium to perfect soft edges. Da Vinci, for example, used oil to describe lineless figures emerging from the smoke. I think that’s a wonderful quality of oil, and I like to drag the history of oil paint to the West. It’s challenging to paint because the details out there are endless.
A group of ravens is known as an “unkindness.” There was a story that always stuck with me—of a girl who had been feeding ravens in her backyard. The ravens seemed to understand the gift, and “paid back” the girl by collecting silver—rings, old coins, trinkets—and put them in a pot in her yard. They were able to recognize and correct the imbalance.
Ravens are one of my favorites birds. There are some ravens in the East, but they are more common in the West. They appear at odd times, with a strange bark sound. I love the contrast they offer with the sky or a white farmhouse. I don’t usually work with graphite, but every once in awhile I like to pick it up again. The stark contrast of the raven with a white house called for it.
Quite a few people in the Roaring Fork Valley come from western N.Y., myself included, and I wanted to give them a piece of home. The old stand-alone farmhouse is quiet and nostalgic; it is one you are likely to find in the Midwest or East. In a way, this pays homage to the migrant, an archetype of a family past. It’s like you’re trying to taste a piece of being a kid at home again—I think people never stop missing that.
[btn text=”View more by Brett Scheifflee” link=”https://korologosgallery.com/artist-brett-scheifflee/” tcolor=”#ffffff” bcolor=”#b22025″ thovercolor=”#ffffff” bhovercolor=”#020202″]