Glenn Dean tends to let his paintings do the talking. Even then, the silence is audible. Steeped in the solitude of nature, his canvases invite meditation — on color, light, mesas, mountains, sagebrush, clouds. A horse, a cowboy, the moon, the frontier.

The secret to a great photograph might be equal parts composition and capturing the decisive moment. Dean composes decisive moments in paint, evoking in brushstrokes an ambience that transports the viewer into not just the moment but into the romance of the West.

Painting solitary landscapes and quiet moments, Dean lives on the Central Coast of his native California. He also lived in New Mexico for nearly four years. And his paintings seek to share the beauty of those places and the larger West.

Along the Overlook, 12″ x 16″ Oil

“I paint because for me, it’s the most effective way to celebrate or honor the things in the world that I find to be beautiful,” he says. Desert, mountains, mesas, coasts — he’s hard-pressed to choose a favorite landscape in the West. “They are clearly all so different and beautiful. I am from the coast and my life now is on the coast. There’s something about being on the edge of a continent with the vast surface of a hidden world to look out on. It keeps the imagination alive. Witnessing nature’s moods on the water is pretty amazing, too. And it’s always a treat to travel and paint in the Southwest, to Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, or anywhere in the Four Corners region.”

Painting outdoors, being outdoors, completing a painting successfully, exploring museums and galleries, and traveling with friends count among the things that make him happy.

Dean discovered a joy in art as a young teen and remains largely self-taught. “I would draw when I was very young,” he says. “I was probably 12 or 13 when I first recognized that I liked the feeling I would get when I was painting or drawing. When I was in high school I would draw Martians and weird characters from my imagination. This was all I knew.”

Afternoon Ride, 24″ x 24″ Oil

His inclination toward art became more of a calling when, around the age of 20, he did his first outdoor painting, in Arizona while visiting his parents in Tucson. “This changed my life,” he says. “I think it was a painting of a mesquite tree. It was an awful painting and was eventually discarded. I don’t recall many details about the day other than bright Arizona sunlight and that it was an overall enjoyable experience to work outdoors in the sun. It was very challenging and stimulating, which I saw as such a worthy pursuit: to try to paint the landscape and sunlight happening right in front of me. This led to the discovery of new artists that I had not heard of before, who were masters at painting outdoor light. And it all led to me spending as much time as I could painting outdoors and learning as much as I could to improve my abilities.”

Those considerable abilities have garnered awards and secured places for his work in collections and museums. Dean chalks up his career success to discipline and innumerable hours at the easel, and to the inherent appeal of his subject matter. He can’t imagine another life. “I think that the way things unfolded for me have fortunately led me to painting the West. The West is profoundly beautiful and unique and calls out to be experienced. I like to think that even if I were born somewhere else, I would have still been called just as strongly to the West.”

We talked with Dean recently as he was preparing for a solo show at the Legacy Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming, this September.

Cowboys & Indians: What’s on your easel right now?

Glenn Dean: I am working on a large painting of a lone rider silhouetted by a dramatic clouded sky. It was inspired by travels to southern Utah and northern Arizona.

C&I: Painting outdoors is one of your great joys. Describe that experience.

Dean: Each painting experience outdoors is unique. My experiences working in nature are my own. If I were to describe any one of them to you, physically, on the surface it might seem like I’m simply standing outside painting while looking at what’s in front of me, and it would not give you much of the sense of what I’m experiencing personally. Working outdoors is equally challenging and rewarding. I work more reactively to the chosen subject and paint quick and impulsively. Working from life to see true color and to hopefully absorb some of the feelings, sounds, and smells of nature while working, which may just end up somehow making my painting more lifelike.

When a painting is done, I often don’t know how it happened, as I wasn’t thinking too much about anything other than split-second decisions of paint application and adjusting shapes or color mixtures. There are challenges from nature beyond trying to do her justice with paint on canvas. I’ve had the wind knock my easel over on numerous occasions. I’ve experienced a dust devil that swirled around me and my easel and covered me and my painting in sand and dust. Biting bugs, lightning, rain, run-ins with bigger critters. Or sometimes it’s as calm and as quiet as you could ever imagine, and the only sounds are coming from my brushes on the palette and canvas. It’s all possible when working outdoors. The beautiful things I’ve seen in nature are not justified well with my own words, so I will not try to describe any one experience to you. The experience of painting outdoors is unpredictable and is never the same twice, which is perhaps why it’s so enjoyable.

This article was originally published in Cowboys & Indians, August 1, 2019. Read Full Article Here.