Bradshaw, Posselli and Blagorenko works inspired by the West
July 26, 2016
Throughout the centuries, the American West's abundant nature scenes have captured the imagination and provided a muse for many visual artists from the painters of the American Barbizon School to the Hudson River School.
The region's trees, plains, mountains and canyons have also fascinated three Utah painters –Dean Bradshaw, Bonnie Posselli and Ivan Blagorenko.
Montgomery Lee Fine Art, 608 Main St., will celebrate these artists with a new exhibit "Through the Trees — A Western Vision," that will open with a reception on Friday, July 29, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
The Park Record caught up with the artists in separate interviews to talk about their works and their modus operandi.
Dean Bradshaw's 'lazy man mentality'
Dean Bradshaw, who will show at least seven new works at the show, always knew he could paint and draw, but studied dentistry and became a furniture maker in Paris.
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"During the recession, I hopped into painting full time and, to my surprise, they sold," Bradshaw said with a laugh. "I paint with oils and it's because I never tried anything else. And it's a little more forgiving than watercolor."
Randall Lake, a prominent Utah artist, was influential in getting Bradshaw interested in art back in the 1970s.
"I told him I wanted to learn how to paint and he took me landscape painting a couple of times," Bradshaw said. "We used oils and I guess you stick with the medium you learn with for the most part."
The artist was drawn to paint landscapes because they interest him.
"I had done a lot of portraits, but have done it to the point that I'm not interested in them anymore because I had to worry about getting the eyes right," he said with another laugh. "I think I like landscapes because you can turn loose and not rely on photographs. You can get an image in your head and use any color you want.
"It's a lazy man mentality," Bradshaw said. "You can create any monstrosity you want."
Painting the scenes that come to his mind does pose certain challenges — mostly to himself.
"The thing is, if you get bored with a color, you move on to different palette, different textures or different ways of applying the paint," he said. " I'm always exploring for new things."
That's another reason why Bradshaw prefers oils.
"It's quite versatile," he said. "You can use a brush, or your fingers or a paper towel to
smash things around.
"You can start with bright colors or tone them down or you can start with tonal colors and brighten them up," Bradshaw said. "I find it a lot more engaging than trying to paint within the lines or have those type of constraints."
Bonnie Posselli's endless possibilities
While Bonnie Posselli is known for her landscape work, she has a headful of ideas that she would like to capture on canvas.
"There are endless ideas and subjects that I want to paint, but I know I don't have enough time to do so," she said. "However, that means I don't ever get tired of painting and I'm lucky that way."
Posselli said she will show at least 12 new pieces that were painted in the past year.
"The sizes range from 8 inches by 10 inches to 35 inches by 40 inches, and for this show, they will all be scenes from Utah," she said.
Some of the paintings were painted at the scene, while a majority were painted in her Salt Lake City studio.
"The scenes, however, are all inspired by experiences of my life and they are things that I really love," she said. "I think that's the key."
Like Bradshaw, Posselli is exclusively an oil painter.
"I started with oils very early on with my mother and developed an expertise with it," she said. "I love the flexibility of this elastic medium. You can pull it in different ways and have a variety of texture."
Posselli's mother was her earliest influence in art.
"She was an amateur painter and we had her paintings in our home," Posselli said. "When we started painting together, we had joined a plein air group who went out and painted on location," she said. "It was a pretty serious group of painters and we painted everywhere throughout the year, even in the winter."
Although Posselli enjoyed painting, she never thought of doing it professionally at that time.
"Over the years, I realized that I needed to find a way to make a living, and painting seemed like the best option for me and I took the leap," she said. "I was raising three children at the time, too, so it was pretty risky, but it turned out to be a great growing experience."
Aside from balancing motherhood and her career, Posselli's biggest challenge is keeping the art fresh, which she still works on today.
"I explore different approaches so I'm not repeating the same thing," she said. "However, I need to keep the level of expertise."
The rewards of being an artist are many, but sharing her art with her admirers is at the top of the list.
"I enjoy sharing my art with people who love and appreciate the works," she said. "They like to learn about the experiences I have when painting the works that are in their homes or offices."
Ivan Blagorenko's method of operation
Like Bradshaw and Posselli, Ivan Blagorenko will show some of his oil paintings, but he has also created three watercolor works for the exhibit.
"I do a little bit of watercolor to diversify my work, and we'll see what the reactions will be," he said.
Working with watercolor has challenged the artist.
"You have to use a different part of your brain when you do watercolor because it's a different technique," he said.
Still, Blagorenko has tried to stay true to his realistic style.
"So, from further away, some people may not know it's watercolor because it's still fairly detailed," he said.
Like most artists, Blagorenko struggles with his muse when deciding on what to paint.
"At least for me, you have to be in a certain mood to paint a certain painting," he said. "It's just a matter of finding that emotion that will make you put the canvas on the easel.
"There are a couple of paintings in the show that I have wanted to paint for a long time, but I just wasn't in the right mood," Blagorenko said. "I had to wait until it just felt right."
Sometimes in the middle of painting, he sets it aside because the mood has left him.
"There are some paintings in my studio that have been sitting for months before I start them again," he said.
Then there's the challenge of finishing a work.
"I think painting is a lot like cooking," Blagorenko said. "In cooking you start with raw ingredients. You slice them. You add them together in different proportions. You toss in some spices. You stir them or boil them or fry them or steam them — and after a while you taste them.
"I too start with raw ingredients, I add them to my canvas, move them around, toss in some brush strokes, inspiration, and after a while I "taste" it. If it tastes" just the way I envisioned it, I frame it and call it a painting.."
Montgomery Lee Fine Art, 608 Main St., will host an artist opening for the exhibit "Through the Trees — A Western Vision" on Friday, July 29, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.montgomeryleefineart.com.
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