Artist of the West - An Experience of History
Todd Connor paints the grit and emotion of the American West
Todd Connor paints from field studies, sketches and photographs from his log cabin studio near Ennis, Mont.
Guardian Angel - Oil on Canvas - 24" x 36"
Free Trapper's Camp - Oil on Canvas - 48" x 36"
The Wager - Oil on Canvas - 35" x 42"
Wagon Train - Oil on Canvas - 20" x 30"
Helping Ma - Oil on Canvas - 36" x 30"
|RATE THIS ARTICLE:||(RANK: +10)|
IN A CLOISTERED LOG CABIN STUDIO NEAR ENNIS, MONTANA, OIL PAINTER TODD CONNOR CASTS A DISCERNING EYE ON HIS WORK IN PROGRESS: A GROUP OF HORSEMEN COMING INTO A WIDE VALLEY, A GLINTING SUN SETTING BEHIND THEM. The waning light reflects on a gentle, silky stream snaking through a spring-green basin. But for some reason, it’s not the acrid odor of turpentine or the greasy smell of paint that lingers around his easel — it’s the earthen scent of mud and hard-rode animals dusting up a trail that seems to faintly stay behind.
“I don’t want my paintings to be technically perfect,” Connor says, standing back from the 22 by 28-inch painting, “but I want them to feel gritty.”
Standing at his easel, overlooking the Madison range, Connor holds his brush by the end and mixes gold with white, without over thinking he mixes in another modicum of white. The tiny mounds of paint on his palette, like meringue, peak from his quick dips into them. With a paper towel in his other hand he wipes his brush and dabs at his colors, making subtle changes to the sky.
“The sunlight reflecting in the stream balances the composition,” he says, stepping away from the painting once more, to get perspective. “The sky is the hard part. It can easily turn muddy… I could probably sign it the way it is, but I’m not totally happy with it yet. If I can make you think you hear the water running then it’s a successful painting.”
Clipped to a board near his easel are several photographs.
“I use those for reference and I do the field studies so I stay fresh,” Connor says, wiping his brush clean. “But my sketchbook is probably the most important tool I take with me on trips.”
He opens a well-worn, bound book, turning to page upon page of pencil sketches. One page shows only heads, maybe 50 tiny faces turned this way and that, some with hats, some without. Another page is a rough layout of a ridgeline; another has the outline of a trapper holding a rifle up to his squinted eye.
“When it’s flowing, the composition just comes and I’ll scribble it out like notes.” He turns another page. “I’ll look for a nice abstract pattern that also fits with the reality.”
The subjects of his paintings primarily depict the mountain man and pioneer era of the American West. Connor likes to go to Mountain Man Rendezvous get-togethers and sketch the people walking around in costume.
“It’s a great way to envision what people looked like back then,” Connor says, turning another page filled with thumbnail drawings of ideas — some have been realized into paint and others haven’t yet. “When I don’t have time to do a field study I’ll just do these.”
|RATE THIS ARTICLE:||(RANK: +10)|
Right there !
Posted By Dora on Nov 29, 2011
The best thing about Connor's work is: when you look at the painting you are not on the outside looking in,but you ARE in. Wonderful work.
Connor captures it...
Posted By Cliffe on Oct 23, 2010
As Connor captures the daily conflicts, chores and asspirations of western pioneers, so does Michele Corriel bring forth the vulnerable individualism of the painter.
In her interviw she quotes Connor, "If I can make you think you hear the water running then it’s a successful painting.” I hear it in his paintings; I hear it in this article.