Six Artists, Six Perspectives from Aspen Magazine – Brian Colley

Six Artists, Six Perspectives

Six emerging artists from Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, exploring various disciplines, are defining what it means to be an artist today.

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Unexpected Realities: For Colley, whimsy, humor and the absurd take center stage.

BRIAN COLLEY
It wasn’t until he moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2010 that Brian Colley “figured out what to do with his art”: realistic watercolor and acrylic paintings with unexpected elements, like animals walking the hallway of a mountain mansion. He credits the supportive, artistic community for answering questions and encouraging his artistic pursuits, and his day job as the gallery manager for the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities for some good connections. He has exhibited his work in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen.

Colley creates the chalkboard murals at the Carbondale library as well as commissioned paintings and drawings. You can even see his watercolor of Mount Sopris on light-pole banners in downtown Carbondale. But his illustrative paintings are most recognizable. A recent series is Creature Comforts, watercolor replicas of houses on the market, featuring wildlife wandering the halls or lounging on the bed. It’s a series that asks the viewer to re-examine what’s really important and what creature comforts we actually need.

Growing up in Dallas, Colley was encouraged to make art. His dad was always drawing, and paper, crayons and pencils were always available. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Principia College in Illinois, and, after six years back in Dallas, he decided to travel, coming to Colorado to visit his sister. He stayed.

His favorite tool for artmaking is a 2B pencil because “it’s got a good point,” he says. “You can get it sharp, and it stays sharp for a while.” He begins a work of art using that pencil and his sketchbook to explore ideas for paintings that will make a series or hang together in an exhibition. He writes down words and creates thumbnail sketches. After each painting is planned, he finds images and puts them together in Photoshop and then begins with paper and that 2B pencil or watercolor or acrylic. A single painting can take 12 to 15 hours to complete and tells a story that often alludes to bigger cultural and hyperlocal concepts or ideas, or just finds the irony in life (like his dinosaur rodeo works). His goal is “to get people to think outside, not just the box, but outside that kind of thinking. To think beyond the box.”

“I try and look at the big picture and poke fun at it,” Colley says. “I like creating fun things that are unexpected, like a dinosaur at the local grocery store.”

Colley is more than an artist or illustrator; he is a jokester social critic. His next show will be in October at the Aspen Chapel Gallery: Face toFace, a group mixed media show. –LG

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