Renowned artist Linda Israel reveals the story behind her famous, colorful bears and wildlife paintings
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Look into the eyes of Linda Israel’s “Knowing Bear.” There’s something that resonates beyond the pigment, beyond the animal association.
When Linda Laughlin was visiting Grand Lake more than 10 years ago, that something in Israel’s paintings caught her eye in a quaint retail store.
“When you see it, it’s soulful,” said Laughlin, board president and founder of the Steamboat Springs Center for Visual Arts. “It comes through in the eyes of the animal. You can feel the soul of these animals she creates on canvas.”
Up close, soul is the driving force behind Israel’s paintings of wildlife animals including bears, moose, bison, cows, bulls, llamas, alpacas, birds, foxes and more. Perhaps it’s the affirmations or messages of gratitude she writes in magic marker onto the blank canvas before any of the vibrant, textured layers are added. Maybe it’s a striking moment, memory or connection to one of these characters in her paintings.
What started 10 years ago with a few initial paintings in the Center for Visual Arts gallery has expanded to its own space that will be featured during the First Friday Artwalk from 5 to 8 p.m., sharing the space of the Center for Visual Arts gallery.
“There’s this moment in nature when you see an animal and its in a magical place, and you feel this moment of magic — it’s hard to put to words, but it’s like this ‘Aha’ moment when you feel your expanded self looking at it. Time stops and you take a breath taking in that moment.
“When you feel yourself in that expanded way, that’s the place that I paint from,” Israel said.
Inspired to bring animal’s souls alive on canvas, the New York native — who also grew up in Colorado — has a passion and love for animals, bold brushstrokes and a wild sense of colors.
“Art, to me, is not a photo of life, but a feeling of life,” Israel said.
Although she studied fine art at CU-Boulder before her work as an interior designer in New York, Seattle and Denver, her art was self-taught, inspired to bring a soul alive on canvas. Israel’s work is collected internationally and featured in various galleries and upscale boutiques in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Isreal lives at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park in Grand Lake.
“When I first started painting, I would draw the first draft with affirmations, blessings or hearts in the animal’s eyes or coat,” Israel said.
Her process, inspired by the animals themselves, involves mixing as many paint colors as she can — usually up to 50 different hues, never straight from the acrylic paint tube.
The goal, she said, is to take up the entire space of the canvas that range anywhere from 30 by 30 inches to 70 by 60 inches while keeping the form of the animal.
“Kids are always in this magical wonder,” she said. “I try to remember that everyday because there’s so much color and beauty out there. I think what resonates with people who look at these paintings is they take a breath in and they feel that moment where they connect to the animal in some way they feel that soulfulness.”
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