“I am a different sort of landscape painter,” says Jackson painter Sharon Thomas. “I notice what’s going on, what’s alive, around my feet—these days I observe what’s happening from eye-to-ground level. There is so much life happening there. Our tiny creatures are foraging, preparing for changes of seasons, reproducing, just as larger species do. We have these huge vistas, but we also have an infinity of tiny landscapes to observe.”
The Grand Teton Association’s “Artists in the Environment” series presents this summer’s final program artist, Sharon Thomas. Thomas will be on location Saturday, September 8, 2012, at historic Menor’s Ferry in Grand Teton National Park, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. As always, this plein air painting demonstration is free and open to the public, and a wonderful way to celebrate our own art history during Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival week! Menor’s Ferry, built in the early 1900’s, was the site of the first mechanized river crossing and had a general store. The store is in operation today, and visitors may browse vingtage-style Western goods, similar to what would have been sold in the original store. The white washed log buildings sit just next to the Snake River, close to the Chapel of the Transfiguration.
Born and raised in California, Thomas gained her art degree at California State University at Long Beach. For many years she has painted the wildlife, Snake River scenes and national forest just outside her door in the Hoback area, south of Jackson, Wyoming. Wyoming’s nature, its life cycles and the region’s vivid light and colors influence the artist.
For Thomas, keen observation is the key to making satisfying art. She loves talking about and teaching art. She admits to a particular passion for figure drawing and painting; it’s the most personal work she does. Thomas is considering including human figures in the work she creates for “Artists in the Environment.”
“Opening people’s eyes, encouraging them to really see what’s around them, expanding their knowledge, all that is very rewarding for me as an artist,” says Thomas. “In the days when I used to hike more frequently, I’d always bring along a journal and draw the wild flowers from direct observation. It’s difficult not to paint flowers in a clichéd manner.”
Thomas often de-trivializes her intimate paintings of flowers by isolating them against a gold background, a style common to Renaissance portraits of important historical figures.
“I guess I feel wild flowers are worthy of sainthood,” Thomas says with a smile.
Trees are another point of fascination. Trees reach up to the sky, Thomas says—they keep standing, no matter the weather, and remain upright, like people. Their branches reach out to us. There aren’t many things in nature that do that, she says.
For Thomas, the act of creating art offers a chance to reflect, takes the artist to new places, calms the spirit. Landscapes, she says, are often a metaphor for the universe. German Expressionism’s “mark making” has been a great influence–she describes the practice as a framework for color, allowing color to reach out from a canvas surface and enter a viewer’s soul.
Grand Teton Association Board member and artist Kathryn Mapes Turner has had her painting of a swan, “As With Breath,” accepted to the Yawkey Museum’s “Birds in Art” exhibition. Congrats, Kathryn! www.turnerfineart.com