CULTURE KLASH: Watson’s World

By on October 4, 2017

“Big Boy”

Artist David Watson creates sensational color on canvas in the family kitchen.

JACKSON HOLE, WY — At times, the western Wyoming winters just got too dark for David Watson. The scenery was magical, of course, but Watson needed something bright.

A solution came about three winters ago when Watson took an online tutorial on painting trees, and realized it was something he could do to pass the time in the winter. Watson always loved art. He used to journal and watercolor paint as a hobby. He even had a few shows in the early 2000s. Then he had three kids. He got involved in boy scouts and the community, and suddenly, almost 20 years had passed.

After almost two decades, Watson is once again sharing his art. He recently showed at Pearl Street Bagels and his new show, “Color,” opened at Snake River Brewery Oct. 3 and hangs through November. The show will feature about 20 paintings, almost of all of them new work. Like the show’s title suggests, Watson’s paintings are defined by a bold palette.

“I like contrast and loud colors,” he said. “I like things to look a little different and just pop off the page.”

He works with acrylic paints and often trades the traditional painting tool—a brush—for a palette knife. He likes the way he can layer with the palette knife and also the sense it gives of physically creating something.

Watson grew up in Michigan. When he graduated high school, instead of a graduation party or gift, he asked his parents to take him to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks to camp for a week. The animals, thermal features and the Tetons enamored him. He knew he wanted to someday come back to live.

He earned a degree in fisheries and wildlife management from Michigan State University. He planned to become a biologist, but fell into fundraising. After moving to Jackson 17 years ago to work for the Teton Science Schools, he’s now the Development Director at the Teton Raptor Center.

Watson has never taken a formal art class, just that online tutorial. In the summer he takes pictures from camping trips and hikes. In the winter he commandeers the family kitchen to paint, looking at his photos for inspiration.

“The ones where the colors start to pop, that’s what makes me really want to paint,” he said.

He’ll sketch out a scene, often weaving together multiple photos for his paintings. Then he’ll pick the bold colors he loves to combat the whites and tonal hues of winter.

Painting is a hobby for Watson, but in the last few years he’s seen his work evolve. He started with the basics and has built upon that, his work becoming more detailed the more he paints.

“I really like what’s coming off the page right now,” he said.

The brew pub is the perfect place to showcase his work, he said. He’s always loved seeing the paintings and photographs of other local artists when in grabbing dinner or a beer. It’s a way to share his secret hobby with his friends and community.

When people learn of his show, the first thing they say is “I didn’t know you could paint,” and then ask why he doesn’t paint more raptors.

He does have two bird paintings in the show—one of a great gray owl and another of a bald eagle—and Watson says he plans on doing more. The show also features landscape paintings, close-up renderings of flowers and his current favorite subjects, charismatic megafauna like bears, buffalo and moose.

He describes his style as “gregarious” and hopes his paintings have a little of his personality and offer a little levity to the viewer’s own life.

“There’s a lot of crazy things going on this world and it’s just nice to do something and look at something fun,” he said.

The paintings range in size and cost between $75 and $395. PJH

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