When Arizona painter Josh Watson was growing up, he was surrounded by two things that are still important elements in his life today: art and nature. His uncle owned one of the original galleries in Scottsdale—a place where young Josh grew to love and appreciate works by Earl Carpenter and Olaf Wieghorst. He also spent a lot of time outdoors hunting and fishing with his father and two older brothers. “I feel most natural outdoors,” Watson says.
By the time he was 13, he knew he wanted to be an artist. An art teacher and his parents encouraged him to pursue his dreams. “I had so much fun and felt so natural making art that it was just a natural click for me,” Watson recalls. In 2000, he graduated from the Art Institute of Phoenix.
Today, at 32, he is pursuing dual artistic careers. He works in video game development, where he is an environmental artist modeling texture and lighting for virtual universes, and in his spare time he is on location pursuing his first love: plein-air painting. “One thing that is similar in each is lighting. There is a lot of correlation between scenes I study outdoors and lighting a three-dimensional environment on the computer,” Watson says.
He is particularly attracted to landscape painting because of the endless inspiration and subject matter found in nature, he says. The solitude and escape from normal life also offers an allure. Watson relishes packing up his painting gear and heading for a patch of desert north of Phoenix or traveling to Bulldog Canyon, a favorite locale among plein-air painters, who enjoy depicting the area’s magnificent cliffs.
“I simply want to share my experiences with viewers. I have had a lot of neat moments outdoors, whether it is experiencing the light or unique subject matter,” Watson says. “I really feel like God has given me a passion for painting outdoors, and in turn I want to record his creation.”
For additional inspiration, Watson looks to painters Edgar Payne and Carl Rungius. He appreciates Payne for the subtle variety and bold brushwork of his paintings: “I don’t want to overwork my paintings. I want to keep them bold with an almost deliberate disciplined spontaneity that I see in Payne’s works.”
When it comes to Rungius, Watson says he identifies with the artist because he was also a sportsman, hunter, fisherman, and artist like him.
The past four years have been busy ones for Watson, juggling a full-time job with his fine art career, a task he is able to accomplish in part, he says, because his wife, Sara, helps him with framing, show submissions, and newsletters.
Meanwhile, Watson’s hard work has paid off. Last fall at the Scottsdale Artists’ School’s Best and Brightest show, his painting EVENING THUNDERHEAD won the Best of Show award and the annual purchase prize.
Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson, WY; www.joshwatsonart.com.
Paint America Top 100, Westboro Fine Arts, Topeka, KS, July 3-September 1.
Featured in June 2009