Meet 5 painters who capture the urban landscape
This story was featured in the September 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
On a visit to New York City five years ago, western painter Todd Connor felt compelled to try something new. Visiting for the first time in nearly 20 years, he saw his friend, also an artist, running around the city taking pictures for urban paintings. Connor has spent most of his artistic career in the western world, but the thought of capturing the unique beauty of the city was intriguing. “I decided I would give it a try, and I just fell in love with it. I really like the energy of the city,” Connor says.
Growing up in Tulsa, OK, Connor was a child of the outdoors, enjoying camping, hunting, and fishing. He took art classes in school and on the weekends. Then after high school, he joined the Navy and traveled the country while art took a backseat. Later he picked up his brushes again, eventually receiving his bachelor of fine arts in illustration from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. In 1999, he moved to Montana to pursue a full-time art career. His forte is western scenes, but his more recent venture into cityscapes and urban scenes—capturing both New York City and San Francisco—gives him a break from the more precise western-art world. “You can get away with a lot more in cityscapes,” he says. “You can be looser and freer, and you can play with the shapes more. What’s really appealing about cityscapes is you can exaggerate and be more expressive.” Connor is represented by Creighton Block Gallery, Big Sky, MT, and Lovetts Gallery, Tulsa, OK. —Joe Kovack
Timothy Horn likes to refer to himself as a “structures guy.” He occasionally enjoys painting a pure landscape, but his real passion lies in portraying the places where buildings, streets, sidewalks, and billboards converge to form large abstract shapes and patterns of light, color, and shadow. The Northern California painter also prefers slices of the city that have an industrial flavor over the atmosphere at the heart of a bustling business district. “I like settings that are more on the edge of a city, in the less-developed areas, with more random elements, more open space, and more imperfections,” Horn says.
In San Francisco he favors the Dogpatch neighborhood on the city’s east side, adja cent to the waterfront. Although the area is rapidly changing, for many years it was a gritty, working-class neighborhood. Today it remains sprinkled with remnants of that era. Horn is always on the lookout for such neglected areas of the urban scene—whether in the big city or in small-town America. For example, not far from his front door in Fairfax, about 20 miles north of San Francisco, he enjoys venturing to the small downtown area where an old building that houses a hair salon and a laundromat recently has attracted his artistic eye. The side and rear of the structure serve as the perfect backdrop for paintings, Horn says, and he relishes capturing its unadorned, off-white walls and odd Art Deco elements. The artist is represented by Greenberg Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM; Knowlton Gallery, Lodi, CA; and Gardner Colby Galleries, Naples, FL. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
For most of her life, Southern California native Julie Hill was entrenched in the field of academic science. “I had no real exposure to the arts, and I didn’t feel much of a creative inclination,” she says. But in 2004, personal experiences changed her outlook on life. “I had a spiritual moment when I felt like God was coming into my life, blessing me with a gift, and saying, ‘What are you waiting for?’” From that moment on, Hill decided to start living a more spiritually fulfilling life— which soon manifested itself in the form of painting.
Today Hill is a full-time painter who has found her niche in watercolor. Her subject matter of choice runs the gamut from landscapes to cityscapes and from still life to wildlife. “I don’t specialize in anything in particular because my interests lie all over,” she says, adding, “I think I would get bored if I only painted one subject.” Although Hill is far from a “city girl,” she says she is often drawn to painting urban scenes and structures. “Maybe it’s my way of bringing some peace to a crazy, hectic, and loud environment,” she muses. No matter what she paints, Hill’s ultimate goal is to portray the essence of her subject. She says, “The greatest compliment is when somebody recognizes not just the actual subject but also the feeling or energy that the subject evokes.” Hill’s work can be found at Chemers Gallery, Tustin, CA. —Lindsay Mitchell
Springtime in Paris is legendary, known by many as a magnificent time of year to visit The City of Light. For artist Philippe Gandiol it’s also the perfect season to set up an easel and paint amid the city streets. If it rains, it’s all the better, because Gandiol relishes capturing wet, atmospheric urban scenes. His love for the sights and sounds of this particular European city began early. Gandiol was born in Paris, and during summer vacations, his grandfather—an art lover—transported him from his daily life to the world of grand museums and equally intriguing artists’ studios.
Today, although Gandiol paints in all genres, the places he captures most often are Paris and San Francisco, a city not far from Davis, his adopted American home town. The Northern Californian says he is attracted to the ebb and flow of life in these places—the architecture, energy, culture, cafés, and people. “Mood is always the key,” he says. “The way the light hits an old man sitting in a bus station causes me to think, ‘Oh, my gosh. That scene is so beautiful, and I have to paint it.’ When I look at a subject, I have to feel something in my heart. It has to touch me somewhere. It’s like the romantic notion of falling in love.”
Gandiol is represented by Anne Neilson Fine Art, Charlotte, NC; Elliott Fouts Gallery, Sacramento, CA; John Natsoulas Gallery, Davis, CA; New Masters Gallery, Carmel, CA; and Pence Gallery, Davis, CA. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Rodgers Naylor is drawn to interesting arrangements of light and dark shapes in scenes that convey a narrative. His paintings are studies in the lines and forms of architecture as well as the shapes that humans create as they act out their everyday dramas. “I like urban landscapes. I like the challenge of the perspective, the figure, and the interaction of figures,” he says.
Naylor says he’s also drawn to painting urbanscapes because he enjoys hanging out in sidewalk cafés and wandering city streets, particularly the twisting roads and alleyways of Old World cities that serve up intrigue with every turn.
Naylor wants his paintings to be rendered in a way that’s believable and convincing. He typically begins with a sketch to plan out his design, then washes the entire canvas with an orange to cool-red base and wipes out the lighter areas with a rag. “Without waiting for it to dry, I start laying out all the shapes and elements,” he says. Once the forms are blocked in, he begins to apply the final colors, changing them to best tell the story he wants to tell and allowing the layers beneath to show through. “I try to get the pieces done in one go, alla prima,” he says, though he admits that doesn’t always work.
Naylor is represented by 2 Smith Art Gallery, Duluth, GA; Button-Petter Gallery, Douglas, MI; Evergreen Fine Art, Evergreen, CO; Susan Calloway Fine Arts, Washington, DC; The Framesmith, Dallas, TX; and The Rice Gallery of Fine Art, Overland Park, KS. —Laura Rintala
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