Howard Post: On the Road

Courtesy Western Art Collector, February 2018

Art is more than just standing at an easel mixing paint and dabbing at a canvas with a brush. There are business aspects, financial elements, museum deadlines, gallery considerations and a whole host of minor issues that can take an inordinate amount of time, like what frames to hang the paintings in. It can all be draining, especially when it comes time to, you know, make art.

For Arizona painter Howard Post, he's cuts through the clutter by focusing on one goal: “Make painting the priority. That's the fun part, and why we got into this in the first place,” he says. “Not that I dislike any of the other stuff, but the real buzz for me is laying the paint down, making new work. If you can do that and focus on that, it keeps you where you need to be.” This advice is apropos, and maybe a touch ironic, coming from Post since his 2018 calendar is likely to be historic: not only does he have several solo shows at galleries around the country, he also four separate museum exhibitions and retrospectives at museums such as the Booth Western Art Museum in Georgia; the Tucson Museum of Art and Desert Caballeros Western Museum, both in Arizona; and the Eiteljorg Museum in Indiana.

His next gallery show will be opening February 23 at Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery in Tucson, Arizona, the painter’s hometown. Many of the new works will be landscapes, with some that were inspired by places Post grew up in Tucson.

“Landscapes have made their way into my work the last few years. Cowboy images have got been of interest to me as much the last few years. I tend to start out with a real place, but then take it from there and paint it however I want,” he says, adding that the painting Three Cottonwoods Back Home is based on his family's old property. “It’s where I grew up, a little 30-acre place facing the Catalina Mountains. We sold it years ago, and the current owners have changed it up a bit. Of course, I changed it. Today it's a park, with half of it being soccer fields and a riding arena. The mountains are the same, though the mountains stay eternal. As an artist you have to take some liberties, because you can get stuck being too literal. Take your artistic license where you can.”

In the work Saguaro, Post paints a single cactus that is framed deep within a box of hazy blue sky, while in Riverbend he turns a view of a valley into an almost abstract arrangement of shadowed shapes and sunlit ridges with a small curve of a river winking from the mid-ground at center. ’’I just loved the squirrely lines of the river,” he says. 

In other works Post turns his attention to lush desert canyons that vibrate with life and color, and, in Yarddog, a white cattle dog that is positioned in the foreground to give him a larger-than-life appearance against the distant mountains. The artist grew up with, and still today, has a yard dog that accompanies him on rides and during chores around yard. “They are very utilitarian dogs. They are around for a little bit of everything,” he says. “In the West a lot of cattle people have these black-and-white border collies or sheepdogs. They’re bred to work and work hard.”

If the dogs are hard workers, than Post is painting an attribute he knows all too well.