Josh Elliott American Artist Magazine December 2006
Josh Elliott: Tapestries in Oil
By Bob Bahr
Reprinted courtesy of American Artist Magazine, December 17, 2006
Josh Elliott, Passing Clouds, Radersburg, Oil on Panel, 18" x 54"
Josh Elliott is 33 years old, but in the best tradition of good artists—or anyone whose job requires continual growth—he remains an avid student of his craft. Many of his plein air outings involve experiments with design, color, or invention. Elliott already has enormous facility—one friend of his, an established artist who sells paintings for tens of thousands of dollars, saw a recent Elliott piece and jokingly muttered, “Somebody needs to break his hands.” Elliott is done with simply capturing picturesque scenes—“I’m not driven by subject matter anymore,” the painter states. Now he hopes his pieces have the allure of a rug. Yes, a rug.
“All the colors come together so well in a beautiful Persian rug,” says Elliott. “I want to paint a painting that’s like one of those rugs, or like a tapestry. I’ve been more carefully designing my compositions for colors and values, going not for a focal point but rather for an overall feeling. These paintings are very thought out and planned.” He’s using his brain as much as, or more than, many painters, but one senses that Elliott is suspicious of the highbrow. “I don’t see art as an elevated thing,” he says. “It should not exclude. When people around here say they feel they don’t understand a piece, really what they’re saying is they don’t like it. I respect that—you like what you like.” He considers his process a “blue-collar approach,” and although the oil painter’s depictions of the mountain meadows, river canyons, and working farms of his native Montana are decidedly no-nonsense, they are also thoughtful and pretty. Like a tapestry or an artful rug.
Appropriately, Elliott not only references Edgar Payne’s classic treatise Composition of Outdoor Painting (De Ru’s Fine Arts, Bellflower, California) but he also quotes the passage that in a sense advocates throwing out all the rules but still creating a successful painting. “I like organizing the rocks in a scene into a pattern, one that allows me to move the viewer’s eye around in the painting,” he says. “If you make the pattern as random as the rocks really are distributed in the landscape, it’s going to be a random painting. Payne talks about purely random paintings—I think that would be interesting to try.”