Capturing light and motion
This story was featured in the July 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Ask Michelle Condrat what attracts her to painting a particular scene, and the artist has a ready answer: “dramatic light.” Beautiful illumination on a landscape, Condrat says, can just about make her crash her car while she’s driving. “It’s because I’m turning to see how pretty the sun is, hitting a mountain range or the clouds,” she says. “Lighting is what brings out colors, makes a scene dramatic, and draws you into it.”
Growing up in Utah, Condrat says, she was fortunate to be surrounded by the state’s many magnificent natural wonders, from golden-leafed aspen trees to the red rocks of Zion National Park. With a longstanding love for the outdoors and an interest in art from an early age, it comes as no surprise that, after receiving her bachelor’s degree in fine art from the University of Utah in 2007, Condrat eventually chose to focus her creative talents on the landscape.
Today Condrat—always fond of hiking and fishing—is known to carry a camera in her gear so she can snap reference photos of her surroundings. Although she regularly participates in plein-air events, enjoying the challenge, she is primarily a studio painter because, she says, it is easier to spread out her painting materials, control the lighting, and work on larger pieces.
A self-described contemporary impressionist, Condrat says her paintings also incorporate cubist elements, reflecting her penchant for geometric depictions of natural forms. A signature Condrat work also features forms that seem to shimmer with light. Leaves and trees appear to move in an unseen wind or breeze. “The way I paint, with broken edges and dramatic lighting, gives my paintings a kind of motion to them, which is what I want my viewers to feel,” Condrat says. “When you are outdoors, things like trees and water are not just standing still; they are always moving. So, I want to try and capture that in some way with my painting strokes and technique. I want people to feel as if the paintings are alive.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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