Tell us about this collection of new works that just arrived for Western Appreciations at Ann Korologos Gallery?
This show seems to be little snippets of my life: my daughter’s preschool, my neighbor’s house, the drive to Ann’s house, and a family trip to Thanksgiving Point, a beautiful botanical garden a few hours south of me. These paintings serve as a record of things in my daily life that I hold most dearly. Most of the work that’s closest to my heart goes to you guys. The subjects I love painting: the old barns, gardens, mountains, lakes, I send to your gallery.
How did you find the path to become an artist?
When I was 8 I got my first outdoor kit and set of oil paints. I painted here and there. In high school I won all the high school art awards, but that was just for fun. I didn’t seek to learn until I was out of college—21, 22. I asked my dad, [renowned impressionist painter, Kent Wallis] to teach me what he knows, and the first thing he did was hand me a book, and then we went out to paint. We did this every Saturday for 5 years.
If you don’t understand the technical side of painting but are trying to get a message across, it’s like trying to speak a language you don’t understand. If you don’t speak the language, the person on the other end won’t understand the message you are trying to share. It’s the same with art: the viewers who connect are the ones who speak the same language. My journey has been about learning that language, and finding unique ways to express myself.
If you could give advice to a young artist, what would it be?
If only you knew the miles of canvas I’ve put behind me to get me there. I don’t think painting is a God-given talent—being an artist is— but anyone can learn to paint well. What of yourself do you put in a painting that makes it yours? That’s what makes you an artist. If I were to define an artist, I would describe someone who is unafraid of failing, of putting something on a canvas that is ultimately wrong, and then trying again.
People get so down on themselves if they can’t do something perfect the first time. So, to those learning to convey a message through paint and canvas, the first thing I do when showing the process is to put a big blob on the canvas and say, “Does that make it look like that house? How can we make it look like that house?” Then we go about making it look like a house. There’s a technical and emotional side of things, and you have to learn how to combine the two and create both.
Below Mount Sopriswas painted from a photo I took on my way to dinner at Ann’s house last Summer. I took out a few unnecessary buildings and added some wildflowers. I love to paint from life, and when I can get into a local area where my gallery is and find something that inspires me– I am definitely going to paint it. It was a beautiful scene! I can’t believe it isn’t painted more often.
Porch Adornedis my neighbor’s house! If you have never been up to Cache Valley in Utah, it’s quite beautiful. It’s tucked away into the mountains, away from the city, and people really take care of their homes. I’ve been here my whole life, with the exception of two years in Australia, and a year in Arizona. Once you’ve been in a town this long, life gets easier with a strong community. We always go for walks around the neighborhood, and our neighbors always do such a great job. One day I just set up my easel and painted their porch.
My son loves dinosaurs, so we take family trips to Thanksgiving Point– a really big botanical garden in central Utah. It has everything: huge gardens, a dinosaur museum, the only PGA tour course in Utah. Reflecting Elegance and Spring Wildflowersare both paintings inspired from our last family vacation.
Your water scenes have a wonderful, ethereal quality to them ~ what’s your trick?
I like to put air between elements of my paintings. To put atmosphere in there, soften, add enchanted type glow. This painting is about the contrast—thick chunky paint in the bushes and trees, and then the calm of the water amid that chaos. The space and contrast organize the scene, and gives your mind and eye a place to rest. The scene becomes a place you can enter, whereas if everything is up front you don’t have that access. It gives the feeling that you could walk right in, or that it’s a place you want to be.
Painting water reflections is about that subtlety rather than painting every ripple of water. The goal is to paint the impression; put the color and shape together, pull them into each other, let your brush strokes come down, offer ripples and highlights of color. It really becomes less about the water and more about the atmosphere
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It really is such a pleasure to work with your gallery! Thank you for having me. I would love to come back for a visit and to paint Colorado in the Fall.
Thank you, Sean! We look forward to showing your work, and having you back this Fall.
Western Appreciations featuring Sean Wallis is on view at Ann Korologos Gallery March 21 through April 11, 2019.