Vail Daily: Artist John Taft answers 7 |

Vail Daily: Artist John Taft answers 7

Caramie Schnell
Vail CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL – During a painting outing in Vail, landscape artist John Taft learned firsthand about the generosity of strangers, specifically a stranger he met while painting in Eagle County.

“His home had a great view of the Gore Range,” Taft said. “We met one day while he was walking his dogs and I was painting off the country road on which he lived. I was not painting the mountains, but the opposite view, which was just a hillside. It was the hillside that appealed to me that day.”

While the man had always been enamored with the peaks, he’d never given much thought to the opposite hillside.

“After seeing the final painting, he said it changed the way he viewed life,” Taft said. “He asked himself what else he was missing.” The man invited Taft to stay in his guest home on a future painting trip that led to the piece titled “Almost Home.”

Vail International Gallery is exhibiting 15 paintings by Taft, including “Almost Home,” through Aug. 7. A reception is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Friday. The gallery has carried Taft’s work for about a year now.

“Very few lanscape artists can do justice to the Rockies,” said Marc LeVarn of Vail International Gallery. “John is one of the few. Stylistically, John is a realist. But his art is more about emotion and visual poetry than creating a photographic likeness of the mountains.”

1. Vail Daily: When/where did you first start painting?

John Taft: I think I have always been “an artist” – doing stuff when I was a kid and eventually choosing to study design and art in college. I received the fundamentals of drawing and painting in college, but chose to make a living as a designer and art director before beginning to paint in my early 40s. Years of drawing, studying art, and visiting museums while working in design eventually began to cause me to consider and work toward a change in my vocation.

2. VD: You worked as an art director for 18 years before you moved your family

west, to Colorado. What made you decide to take the leap?

JT: I began to see the desire to paint as a calling. I knew that my primary subject would be the landscape. My wife and I felt drawn to the west, and though we had a young family of four children, she was the one that said, “Let’s go for it!”

3. VD: What does Colorado offer you that New York City did not?

JT: NYC was/is great, but a landscape artist needs to be in the landscape. In my college years, I explored a lot of the country on coast-to-coast drives, and the variety and beauty of the west, with its grand mountains, had strong appeal in both subject and spirit.

4. VD: Your work has been described as alive, and without nostalgia. How do you describe your style?

JT: It is contemporary realism, influenced by impressionism. My strokes, whether more tight or gestural, are grounded in what I see and experience in nature.

5. VD: Your upcoming show in Vail is your first one-man show. What does that feel like?

JT: It is very satisfying to be far enough down this path to successfully put together such a show. We are especially pleased to have it at Vail International Gallery. There are many people who have encouraged me and have helped me get to this milestone.

6. VD: Do you paint in plein air or from pictures? Tell us about your process.

JT: It all begins on location with small studies in oil, photographs and pencil designs. This is where the initial inspiration originates for me. The works in this show are all studio works. In the studio I use all my reference to bring together a more considered, larger work.

7. VD: How do you know when you’ve found a vista you want to paint?

JT: I think it is when I have an idea of how I would make a scene a painting. You might call it inspiration, but it is when I am moved to create or capture something as an artist. Sometimes that happens spontaneously when just driving somewhere and I see something wonderful. Usually however, it happens in the course of just working as an artist and painting on location. Many times I will be in an area that interests me, but it is while actually drawing or painting that my eyes open up to the possibilities.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

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