Capturing mood and expression
This story was featured in the November 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
A sly smile, a provocative gaze, a furrowed brow—for painter Dean Buhler, it’s all about capturing the unique look or the expressiveness he finds in a face. In the painting INTROSPECTION, Buhler says he was drawn to the model’s eyes, which were round and large relative to the rest of her face as well as sadly dreamlike. “Once I select a subject, it is almost always the shadow shapes that drive me to select a particular pose, whether or not chiaroscuro is the dominant element,” he says. “Shadows’ mysteries almost always win me over.”
Buhler considers figurative work the ultimate artistic achievement, explaining that humans are connected to one another and to other species around them. Thus, giving artistic expression to the human form speaks to everyone, instantly.
Buhler prefers to start a portrait with a model to accurately observe values and colors. Because he favors interesting poses that a model couldn’t reasonably hold for the three to five weeks he spends on a painting, he also uses photographs. “I like to zoom in on a photograph so I get pore-size detail to render form as realistically as possible,” he says. “You can’t get that from life without terrorizing your model.”
In his former career Buhler worked as a corporate marketing executive, but about a decade ago, he began to sketch daily for 15 or 20 minutes before heading to the office. In 2011 he decided to eschew the corporate world for a full-time career in fine art. He chose to study with top figurative artists including Casey Baugh, David Kassan, Ron Hicks, and Daniel Sprick—all of whom influence him today.
When it comes to imbuing his works with heavy meanings and messages, Buhler says he’s not interested; he isn’t drawn to symbolism or visual allegories. “Being titillated by brushwork, mesmerized by color, or lost in the interplay of soft and hard edges is enough for me,” he says. “Beyond that, I strive tirelessly to find that special something in the expression of my subject with which everyone can identify and hence be connected to the artwork.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Blue River Fine Art, Breckenridge, CO.
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