Dan Young is a plein air painter and Colorado native. A long time resident of Silt, he’s the featured artist in the 25th annual Coors Western Art Exhibit in Denver. Arts and Culture reporter Claire Woodcock takes us to his home studio, where he shares his passion for nature and art.
Antlers and landscapes of western Colorado cover the walls. A mound of paint brushes, each varying in size are spread across a counter top. Behind the large easel with monitors on each side are windows of views into what Dan Young sees each day. Photo albums fill the shelves. Above them are stacks on stacks of paintings. Young estimated there are between 3 and 4 thousand paintings in here.
“I’d love to tell you they were all great paintings, but there’s some failures in the stacks too," Young said. "But the neat thing about having the inventory like this is I can flip back through paintings and there will be something in that painting that I go, “Oh, that’s interesting.’”
Before deciding to commit to his craft full time, he worked as a commercial illustrator for a department store in Texas, designing dishes and bedspreads.
“When I was illustrating I would get basically a product and I would do a representation of that product as accurately as I could," said Young. "When I started painting, I started going outside and basically painting every leaf on the tree. Every detail work and I figured out pretty quick that this wasn't going to work.”
Now it’s all about divvying up time between the outdoors, where his source material awaits and putting the pieces together in his studio. Young grew up in Glenwood Springs and spent a lot of time outdoors. He said there isn’t a road within 100 miles he hasn’t worked from.
“When I’m outside painting, I’m observing and I’m trying to translate it," he said." "I’m trying to see a color, mix a color, see a value, mix a color and make it into a painting. All this information that’s out in front of me I’m trying to sift it down to the essentials and then put it on a panel. I come home and you think I’d just been to the Olympics.”
In the winter, plein air painting becomes a race against the clock.
“The lighting is better because the sun's a lot lower so you get dramatic light all day long which is wonderful but I've learned in the winter I paint a lot faster," he explained. "When it’s cold and your fingers hurt you learn to do that a lot quicker. Some of the best paintings I do are those that I did in an hour because I didn't have enough time to put too much information in so I grabbed the essence of it.”
Young’s work will also be exhibited at the Ann Korologos Gallery’s upcoming exhibition “Winter In The West” January 10 at 5 p.m.