Evoking a sense of place
This story was featured in the September 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
From the snow-covered streets of downtown Minneapolis to the azure skies and sandy beaches of Southern California, viewers can expect Carl Bretzke’s scenes to capture a strong sense of place. A master of mood, the Minnesota-based artist has chalked up a number of honors recently for his loose, impressionistic landscapes, including two Artists’ Choice awards—one at this year’s Carmel Art Festival and the other at last year’s Aspen Plein Air.
Bretzke comes to landscape painting via a nontraditional route. Although he minored in art at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, he eventually followed an academic path that led to a career as a physician. But about 11 years ago, Bretzke’s wife Kristie, who knew he wanted to return to painting, signed him up for studio classes with artist Joe Paquet. These classes paved the way for his second career as a fine artist. Bretzke calls Paquet “a mentor who taught me how to paint and see as an artist.”
These days Bretzke splits his work days equally between medicine and art. Having less time to create than other artists, he is choosy with what he paints and conducts personal litmus tests to determine his subjects. “I ask myself if I would want the subject matter in my own home,” Bretzke says. “Images that excite me usually have some obvious focal point or dramatic light effect. I am drawn to images that are slightly out of step with traditional subject matter, sometimes bordering on odd.”
Some have noted that Bretzke’s works are reminiscent of paintings by Edward Hopper and express a sense of loneliness. Indeed, his Minnesota winter scenes capture the bitter cold and the deserted streets with a razor-sharp eye for the atmosphere. The artist is the first to admit that some of his works may not be described as “warm and fuzzy.” But for anyone who knows the mood of Minneapolis in January, Bretzke gets it right. “I am often thinking about a way to make the commonplace scene somehow stir an emotion through a certain light effect or juxtaposition of subjects,” Bretzke says. “I like it when people say, ‘I wouldn’t have thought of painting that.’” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the September 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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