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Landscape painter’s work on display at Steamboat Art Museum

Artist Scott Christensen puts energy into his paintings

Nicole Inglis
Landscape artist Scott Christensen stands in front of one of the large oil paintings depicting the scenic Wind River Range in Wyoming, which are on exhibit at the Steamboat Art Museum in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell

— Winston Churchill once compared painting to fighting a battle, and that’s just how landscape artist Scott Christensen sees his process.

“You have to have a great crew, you have to have a great plan, and you run into hundreds of little inspired decisions that can make or break a piece,” said Christensen on Thursday afternoon as he sat among dozens of paintings hung on the wall of the Steamboat Art Museum.

His vast and sometimes mystical landscapes depicting scenes from the California coast to the English countryside comprise the museum’s summer exhibit, which will be on display through Oct. 15.

An opening reception is from 5 to 8 p.m. today during First Friday Artwalk.

Curator Shirley Stocks said the landscapes will resonate with a Steamboat Springs audience.

“Scott is one of the best landscape painters around,” Stocks said. “His work is very direct; you can see his brushstrokes and direction.”

Christensen has been an oil painter for 25 years after turning to art for an energetic outlet after his college football career ended. Once a dedicated player with the intention of becoming a coach, Christensen found himself sidelined with a crushed vertebra and unable to even watch football on television.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” he said. “I was just so used to being outside.”

So he put all of that energy into painting — something he could do while being outside in nature. He threw himself into art studies and thinks he learns the most from teaching others the craft.

He travels across the world to various scenes, where he paints small, crude studies in plein air. Later, in his studio in Victor, Idaho, Christensen transfers them to larger canvases.

And lately, those canvases have gotten even bigger.

One of his newer pieces is a wall-sized painting of a Georgia swamp on a hot, humid and cloudy day. The colors are muted, and he uses his palette of primary colors and grays to reference a veil hanging over the scene. The result is mysterious, dark and more conceptual than his vivid coastlines and aspen trees.

In his studies of the old masters, Christensen learned that the closer he can keep his color values while still maintaining shadow and light distinctions, the better a painter he is.

“I try to impress myself,” he said. “It still hasn’t happened.

“I always feel like I can do better. I never feel like you get what you want out of it. It’s always just out of reach.”

He said he hopes those who look at his work don’t feel the need to ask him what he thinks about it. Hopefully, the work can speak for itself.

“It’s a communicative process,” Christensen said. “From one set of eyes to another.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com


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