The Art of Stephen C. Datz

About the Artist

A Colorado native, I grew up in Loveland, a small town on the northern Front Range. Drawing has been second nature to me my entire life, and while I was encouraged by my primary and secondary school art teachers to develop my talent, I also happened to be passing good at math and science, aptitudes that my elders felt would lead to a more lucrative career in engineering or computer science.

Though it did not seem like a gift at the time, my first semester at Carnegie-Mellon university, spent desperately trying to excel at applied mathematics and failing spectacularly, put me at the first major crossroads of my young life. I had been earning pocket money designing and illustrating flyers, posters, and the like for some of the student organizations on campus, and since I was both succeeding at and enjoying that vastly more than applied math I decided that the only sensible course forward for me was to follow my talent and see where it led. Had I not endured that crucible I might never have had the courage to make that decision.

I returned to Colorado, enrolling as an art student at Colorado State University. And, though both the campus and academic environments at CSU were much more to my liking, I again found myself at odds with a curriculum and a faculty that actively discouraged traditional, representational art forms. Having resolved to build my life on my own terms, I stuck to my guns, and focused my coursework on graphic design and illustration, areas where traditional skills were not just taught but emphasized and valued. I also attended regular figure drawing sessions.

During this time at CSU I met the woman who would become my wife, and she introduced me to the wilderness. An avid hiker and backpacker, she made frequent trips into the Colorado Mountains and the desert country of southeastern Utah. I soon grew to love the landscapes of these wild and beautiful places, and my affection for them deepened into a driving passion to paint them.

I earned my BFA in Graphic Design from CSU in 1992, and though I was now officially qualified to be a designer I had no real interest in a career as one. I wanted to paint the landscape. I moved to the small mountain town of Carbondale, Colorado with my fiance, got married, and began the work of establishing myself as a serious career artist. My first epiphany was this: my BFA did not tell me how to earn a living as one.

A few difficult and frustrating years later, I had a fortuitous opportunity to take a workshop with noted artist Skip Whitcomb. The subject of this workshop was painting "en plein-aire" in oils, and it opened my eyes to invaluable tools and techniques for painting the landscape from life, and to a world that I had never glimpsed in college - a world of artists both in America and abroad who had continued in the traditional ways of open air painting pioneered by the French Impressionists long after the "isms" of the early 20th century had taken root and pushed them out of fashion.

With help from Skip and a few other colleagues of his, most notably Dan Young, Michael Lynch, and Ned Jacob, I continued to develop my painting skills and was introduced to the business side of being an artist, which is as critical as skilled workmanship to earning a living in the field. Finally equipped with the basic skills, tools, and knowledge that I needed to really become a professional artist in every sense of the word, I spent the next three years painting on location nearly every day, reaching out to galleries, and entering some local and regional art shows.

That hard work eventually led to my first gallery representation, shortly followed by my first solo exhibition. It had taken me eight years, a couple of thousand field studies, and a lot of pavement-pounding, but I could finally and truthfully say that I had arrived. I was earning my living off my paintbrushes.

My path has unfolded slowly since that time, allowing me to continue building my skills and to produce paintings which, although highly personal, seem nevertheless to connect with people. Over the years I have endeavored to grow beyond my early influences and allow my own voice, my individual way of looking at and interpreting the landscape, to develop organically and to flow into my work with clarity and conviction. As Edward Hopper once remarked, "Methods are transient, but personality endures". My aim with each effort is to paint the best painting I can, blending glimpses of the essential character of both artist and subject into something distinctive and evocative that is more than the sum of its parts. Sometimes I succeed, and often I don't. But it is the process that counts. As another friend and respected colleague used to say, "Every day in front of an easel is a school day. You are always learning." Fewer things in life can be as fulfilling, or as frustrating, as that simple truth.

Which brings us through the how and why to the here and now. I am hesitant to try to write more about the work itself because in my view those sorts of things always end up using a lot of words to say very little of any depth or significance. What I will say is that my paintings are views of what I think of as my world. Though always based on direct experience, they may reflect the "facts on the ground" to greater or lesser degrees, with proportionate infusions of memory and imagination. They reflect what I find interesting, beautiful, and noteworthy in my travels, filtered through my rather angular sensibilities, and painted with care and deliberation. Beyond that, I am content to let them speak for themselves, and to invite viewers to explore them at leisure and draw their own conclusions.

I count myself fortunate to have had over twenty solo exhibitions of my work over the course of my career to date, and to have had work appear in dozens of group exhibitions around the country, including shows at such august venues as the Gilcrease Museum, Albuquerque Museum, Laguna Art Museum, National Museum of Wildlife Art, and Salmagundi Club in NYC. I have also been privileged to have one of my paintings in the U.S. State Department's "Art in the Embassies" program. The piece spent two years in the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan, and the Ambassador tells me it has actually been a conversation starter, as many of the Turkmen who visit the Embassy initially think it is a painting of their country and are surprised to learn it is a painting of eastern Utah. Art in the service of diplomacy - who'd have thought it?

If at this point you are still not tired of reading about me, I have included links below to some articles written about me in a few national art periodicals. They are all at least a year old, and some much older. Ah, how time flies.

Last but not least, if you have been sufficiently moved by one of the available works that you would like to inquire about purchasing it, please accept my thanks and visit the REPRESENTATION page to contact the gallery where the work is consigned. They will be delighted to speak with you and arrange to get your selection to you expeditiously.

Thanks for visiting.

Articles From Art Periodicals

Meditations On Winter, Western Art And Architecture, December 2016

Read it HERE.

The Significance Of Silence, Southwest Art, June 2011

Read it HERE.

Resonant Solitudes, Plein Air Magazine, June 2005

Read it HERE.