Portraying the Wild

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Nightmare in an elm tree, Horned Owl

New Artists Share Love for Wildlife and Landscapes

The trio of artists chosen as first-time participants in the annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition all share a love for portraying the wild in landscape and animals. This is an integral theme that characterizes their paintings, which will be on view June 12-13 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

The new artists are C. Michael Dudash, Charles Timothy Prutzer and Scott Tallman Powers. All of these artists are professionally trained, all have had their work exhibited in the United States and abroad, and all find painting the West a compelling subject for their canvases. Yet, each artist brings a different viewpoint to his work.

While the three are seasoned artists, they are newcomers to the Prix de West venue. It is not an invitation they take lightly. Selection for the participating artists is rigorous. Many try for several years before finally receiving the coveted “Yes” to show their art at the Prix de West.

Although there is a stable of artists invited back annually, new artists hoping for a Prix de West berth face stiff competition. A panel of art authorities considers if each work of art truly illustrates the western genre. They also consider how their art will complement or contrast with the work of existing Prix de West artists. Receiving an invitation to participate in this show is a significant milestone for any artist.

C. Michael Dudash of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, applied for the Prix de West show several times six or seven years ago.

“I knew how difficult it was to get in. I got several “Nice but not this year” letters,” he said.

He has participated in the museum’s annual “Small Works, Great Wonders” show for the past three years and was “surprised but flattered” to receive a “Yes” for the 2015 Prix de West exhibition.

“I’m very grateful to be in this prestigious show,” he said.

Dudash, 63, was trained as a fine artist but made a decision in 1977 to pursue a career in classic illustration, which earned him a national reputation. Eventually, he could foresee the golden age of illustration waning as digital imaging began impacting this field of art.

At about age 50, he made a critical decision to return to his fine arts roots. He began painting from life and his art took a fresh, new direction. Always interested in history, he also began creating Old West scenes that vividly recall the American frontier.

One of his paintings in the Prix de West show, Tintype, reflects his fascination with history and mirrors his talent at portraying historical times. An early-day photographer is trying valiantly to capture on film four Native Americans in a rather isolated western setting.

Dudash has studied with noted artist Richard Schmid in Vermont and in 2001, he became affiliated with the Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz. This eventually led to his focus on frontier scenes from the 19th Century.

While story-telling themes, so prevalent in illustration, were a large part of his early art portfolio, he says, “Upon leaving illustration, I spent several years painting non-narrative landscapes, figurative portraits and still life paintings. Now that I have found my way back into creating paintings that tell a story, having experience in painting all different kinds of subject matter has been a great help.”

He also does a variety of faith-based paintings for Christian publishing firms, in addition to helping build mission schools in Kenya. One of his favorite paintings was popular at the Eiteljorg Museum’s western art show two years ago.

“It featured a bunch of old cowpunchers saying grace over a tin plate supper. This is part of who I am and what my life is all about,” Dudash said.

Charles Timothy Prutzer began his career as the youngest background artist on staff at the Denver Museum of Natural History. He was only 17 and thought he would spend his entire art career at this venue.

He considers it “providential” that two Prix de West Purchase Award winners, Dr. George Carlson and Bob Kuhn, changed the direction of his life. Carlson is one of only a few artists to win the Purchase Award twice.

“I met George Carlson in 1973,” Prutzer recalled. “He challenged me to start painting plein air, to study birds, animals and landscapes from life. His critique of my work was very polite but so honest.”

By 1976, Prutzer had the courage “to give up the best job I knew I would ever have” and leave his museum post and its benefits for full time painting.

The late Bob Kuhn also challenged Prutzer to spend more time sketching animals and making adjustments to his art techniques, a directive he honored from 1973 to 1996.

“In 1996, at a workshop at the Loveland Academy of Art, Bob Kuhn told me, ‘No man needs to be able to draw better than this in order to have a fine art career.’ ”
Kuhn’s comment remains priceless in Prutzer’s memory.

During his career, Prutzer has developed and taught drawing-from-life college courses at Colorado zoos and other venues. He also studied with renowned bird artist Donald Malick and museum artist William Traher.
Prutzer now works exclusively from living subjects, sketching and painting plein air, not from photographs.
“Distant snapshots don’t contain the spirit or honesty captured in plein air,” Prutzer contends.

Art critics have praised his remarkable range in oils, acrylics and watercolors that capture animals in the wild. One of his paintings in the Prix de West show, Nightmare in an Elm Tree ~ Horned Owl, reveals his attention to detail and wildlife habitat accuracy.

“I was attracted to the light and shadow on this Western Great Horned Owl’s plumage and markings,” he said, noting how this bird led to much research on this species’ predatory habits.

Now 60, Prutzer has completed more than 30 large-scale wildlife murals for natural history museums, zoos and nature preserves in the U.S. and abroad. He is among only a few Americans invited to participate in field expeditions with the Artists for Nature Foundation, an international organization promoting nature conservation through art. He resides near Colorado Springs, Colo.

He considers his invitation to show at the Prix de West a significant highlight of his career.

“I’ve been invited to the best western art show in North America,” he said. “It means everything to my career.”

Scott Tallman Powers’ fascination with art was piqued in childhood as he watched his father draw. He was a medical illustrator, photographer and fine artist so it seems natural Scott would follow his father’s path, study art in high school and attend the American Academy of Art in Chicago.

His academy teachers were influential in his approach to watercolor, drawing, anatomy and sculpture. He spent many years as an illustrator in a Chicago advertising agency before pursuing his dream to become a full-time professional artist.

Powers’ art is inspired by different cultures around the world.

“The human element is at the core of my journeys,” he said. “These experiences have given me a better understanding of the world we live in. I hope to express these experiences with honesty, sensitivity and integrity. This is a passion which grows day by day, mile by mile.”

One of his Prix de West paintings, Winter’s Preparation, depicts a grizzled rancher, set against a backdrop of timber logs, stacked and ready to ward off winter’s chill. The painting reveals Powers’ skill at portraying light, shadows and the emotions of the painting’s central figure.

A native of Alabama, Powers, 43, now resides in Tetonia, Idaho. He is a signature member of the Oil Painters of America and founder of the Plein Air Painters of Chicago. His art is in many private collections in the U.S. and around the world, including three fine art museums in China.

Among his honors are the Collector’s Choice Award at the Coeur D’Alene Art Auction, 2012, and the Henry Farny Painting Award at the Eiteljorg Museum in 2011. He has participated in many invitational exhibitions in the United States, China, Israel and Europe.

Of his selection to participate in the upcoming show, Powers said, “I have been following the Prix de West show for years now. I have admired and been deeply inspired by the quality of art and artists this show represents. I dreamed of participating in it at some point in the future. It gave me something to reach for and I will always be grateful for my inclusion.”

Prix de West details
The Prix de West show actually began in 1973 and was named the National Academy of Western Art Exhibition. The name of the show was changed in 1995 to the Prix de West, a French term meaning “prize of the West.”

The French connection may have been inspired by the museum’s participation in a 1989 show at the Salon d’Automne in Paris, France, featuring western art from the National Cowboy Museum.

The opening weekend activities begin 9 a.m., Friday with a series of art-related seminars, panel discussions and artist demonstrations. Friday evening, guests mingle with the artists at a preview cocktail party, setting the stage for Saturday night’s lively bid auction and an awards banquet honoring the artists and guests.

The 2015 winner of the coveted Prix de West Purchase Award will be announced Saturday at a noon luncheon. This award honors the artist whose painting or sculpture the museum has chosen to add to its permanent Prix de West Collection, which now includes more than 40 works of art by artists from around the country.

The Prix de West show runs through August 2 and features paintings and sculptures by approximately 100 of the nation’s leading Western artists. Additional information about the opening weekend events or bidding information is available by calling 405-478-2250, extension 219.

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