I am a senior at Whitworth majoring in art and also taking prerequisites for different jobs in the medical field. I am originally from Wyoming and get much of my inspiration for my art from there. I enjoy hiking, hunting, fishing and being in the outdoors. My primary subject to paint is wildlife. I enjoy getting out in nature, observing animals and taking photo references, and later turning those observations and references into works of art. I will be graduating in May with a Bachelor of Art and am currently taking an EMT course as well. My plans are to be a practicing EMT this coming year while making as much art as I can.
This piece marks the first painting that I was really proud of. I saw these elk while hiking with a couple buddies in northern Yellowstone in January. We were snowshoeing when we spied this group of six bull elk. We stopped and quietly observed them for a while. It was the morning after a big storm and the elk were digging into the snow with there snouts to eat grass. Yellowstone is brutal in the winter and many animals don’t make it through those months depending on the severity. Elk in Yellowstone are presented with many challenges in the winter including finding food and conserving energy that they need to expend staying warm and running from predators. These elk were out before first light after a brutal storm that night. Digging in the snow with their snouts for grass, the elk carried on with survival. We watched them for a time, and first light hit them as they looked back at us. In this piece, I experimented with color, using lively colors and hues in the elk and the warm light shining on them. I juxtaposed these lively colors and warm light on the elk with the cold and snowy landscape around them. I was able to pay closer attention to form, color, and light in this piece than I had in previous paintings. This piece pushed me to keep playing with color, expression, and composition.
This is another one of my early wildlife paintings. In this piece, I used a photoreference from a photographer I know. It depicts a pair of wild horses in Wyoming. Wild horses are not common anymore but it is always special to get to see them. During the first few months of a foal’s life, the mare is the foal’s source of life and protection. As with all my pieces, I wanted this piece to evoke an emotional response from the viewer, and I attempted to do this in the way I paid attention to the gestures of the horses and utilized color in the horses and their surroundings. I wanted to show the warmth and tenderness that exists between a mare and her foal. The gestures of the animals tell a lot in themselves with the foal curled up in the grass and the mare standing nearby watching over. I paid close attention to the gestures of these animals and utilized color and light to better establish this relationship. I related the figures to each other by using colors reminiscent of nurturing and warmth. I also used light and warmth in the surroundings of the foal and mare showing the safe and protected environment the foal is in with his mother standing over him. Depicting and learning about light was a primary focus for this piece. I was also able to keep exploring and learning about form, color, and composition.
In addition to wildlife, I also enjoy painting the human figure. It is exciting to capture someone’s expression with paint. In a series I did last year, I used my nieces as models and attempted to express what it is like to be childlike. Children have many qualities that often get left behind as people age. In these two paintings from the series, I used the setting of a playground and my color choices to illustrate some of these qualities.
In Joy, I captured a moment of a young girl getting ready to go down the slide. The setting of the playground accentuates the childlike feeling that is already found in her expression. I also chose colors that would suggest playfulness and childlike joy.
In Curiosity, I attempted to depict the childlike curiosity that many possess in learning about and discovering the world. In this painting,we see a young girl in the act of climbing on top of the monkey bars, an action that adds to the idea of wanting to learn and see things new. The girl’s expression is a very important part of the painting, and she looks off into the distance as she appears to be pondering something. I wanted to contrast the thoughtfulness of this expression with vibrant and playful colors.
Last year I began experimenting more with limited color palettes and schemes. By using colors that arerelated, I can achieve color harmonies that evoke certain emotions or project a certain mood. By limiting the colors in the piece, different colors can interact without interference from too many varying hues. This can help create a mood, be aesthetically pleasing, and appear natural as the same type of light is hitting everything.
In this painting, I went to a bar in Spokane and asked if I could take some photos. I took numerous photos of the scene and the people, noting the atmosphere, the lighting, and soaking in the feeling of being there. The painting I composed is reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks in which people gather at a café but do not interact with each other. In this piece, I decided to show a place that people would normally go for social interaction. Yet in the painting, no interaction is being had and everyone is keeping to themselves. The room seems empty with no one sitting at the tables, and the three figures at the bar are not looking at each other. I used the arrangement of the figures sitting at the bar and the warm color scheme to create a somber but intense mood. The color scheme is mostly analogous with the only complimentary colors being in the clothing of the closest man sitting at the bar and in the American flag, making both a point of emphasis. Another connection between the American flag and this figure is the stripes used in each. This hints at the way the piece is commenting on society and the desire we have as humans to connect with each other yet often do not for a variety of reasons.
This painting was inspired by a cowboy’s ride in the 2019 Cody Stampede Rodeo. I composed the piece using references I had taken at the event. In the piece, the bull is the point of emphasis. I used warm neutral colors and a very limited palette to paint this piece. I placed the cowboy’s legs at the right of the composition, showing the cowboy flying out of the painting. This adds both humor and mystery to this cowboy’s wild ride. In the way I composed the piece and painted the dust around the bull, I wanted to suggest movement. The painting captures the bull’s moment of triumph over a cowboy.
These paintings were inspired by different animals that I observed in nature over the last couple years. I chose to focus on composition and color schemes when I made these. While painting, I try to give the animal a sense of life so the image will evoke an emotional response. As I have painted more, I have striven less for photographic realism and opted more for painting in a way that expresses the figure I am depicting.
Each individual creature has a certain character that I hope to express. The different gestures that animals make and the harmonies and relationships that can be found with color excite me. In these works, I explore these while beginning to focus less on fine detail and allowing the paint to say more. As I continue my artistic journey, I plan to continue to learn more about color and composition and to begin using more interesting paint application and textural techniques to add even more life to these animals. I’m excited to see what paint and color can teach me in the years ahead.
Find me on Instagram @zachrossart or online at https://www.zachrossart.com