Shining a Light at Claggett/Rey Gallery |

Shining a Light at Claggett/Rey Gallery

Shauna Farnell
"Mountain Kingdom," by Josh Elliott, oil on canvas, 27"x32", Claggett/Rey Gallery.
Courtesy image

More than once over the years, Josh Elliott has been standing at his easel in a desolate sprawl of land in rural Montana on a gray day, when a rancher has approached and asked what he could possibly be painting.

“It’s the job of the artist to point out the things that are beautiful,” says Elliott, whose incredibly realistic oil landscapes have been fixtures at the Claggett/Rey Gallery in Edwards since 2003. “There are parts of a scene that people who aren’t artists wouldn’t see, like how blue or purple mountains look in the distance or how water moves under certain light.”

The challenge of capturing and conveying the beauty that most people would overlook — a hillside partially submerged by a low-hanging fog, a cluster of rocks catching light beside an empty creek bed — is Elliott’s calling.

“Spring Renewal,” by Josh Elliott, oil on canvas, Claggett/Rey Gallery.
Courtesy image

“Hopefully seeing it in my work will add to their joy the next time they’re out,” he says. “It’s something I love discussing when I’m out with another artist, the light bouncing off of the rocks, how colors and shadows are settling.”

“It’s the job of the artist to point out the things that are beautiful.” — Josh Elliott

The first person who trained Elliott’s eyes to notice such things was his father. Elliott and his two brothers were introduced to all the necessary tools for creative expression at a young age.

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“Growing up, my brothers and I always had a full range of art supplies. My dad was interested in art, passed on from his dad. My dad was an emergency room doctor. He retired at 45 to paint full-time. He had such a sense of wonder about his surroundings. Painting was always part of our lives,” Elliott says.

Raised in Montana and Idaho, Elliott took his first crack at painting with oil as a teenager on a boat trip he took with his dad, his subject a spectacular waterfall on Alaska’s Aleutian Peninsula. He went on to study art at Colorado State University and the University of Idaho. No instruction measured up to what his dad could offer.

“Eventually I quit school to go learn from my dad,” he says. “He was living in Loveland, Colorado. We’d go up to Rocky Mountain National Park, set up our easels and paint all day.”

Although he acknowledges that his paintings are so realistic they’re sometimes mistaken for photographs, Elliott is not necessarily aiming for that effect.

“I like to think of them as representational, where you can see the brush strokes. What makes them look realistic are the accurate values, the shadows and depth that make a scene recede,” he says.

“Hiker’s Reward,” by Josh Elliott, oil on canvas, 8″x16″, Claggett/Rey Gallery.
Courtesy image

Last summer, the Claggett/Rey Gallery highlighted a series of Elliott’s freshly crafted original pieces for a show aptly entitled “Grandeur.” Grand as the landscapes become in Elliott’s compositions, gallery co-owner Bill Rey agrees that it is the artist’s unique brush work that makes each piece so alluring.

“His textures and layers are as exciting and interesting as his subjects and compositions,” Rey says. “His time in the field as an observer and deep thinker shows through his creative truth, no matter the scale of each painting. They are just different.”

It’s his paintings’ capacity to spark recall and nostalgia that Elliott finds especially gratifying.

“I like it when people tell me my work triggers a memory of childhood,” he says. “It’s what I get a lot from the ranch scenes. People say, I know exactly where that is. We can go into our time visiting that place. What I like about representational art is the instant connection you find with people you meet. Most people have an interest in landscapes and the sense of freedom they bring, getting out to enjoy nature.”

Claggett/Rey Gallery

216 Main Street, Suite C-100
The Riverwalk, Edwards, Colorado 81632

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