They are paintings of jays and cranes, foxes and wolves, bobcats and mountain lions. Edward Aldrich calls these wildlife paintings portraits, as they are designed to not just show an animal in its natural state and environment, but to draw out its individuality, its essence.
Aldrich, who lives in Golden, has exhibited at prestigious art institutions such as the National Wildlife Art Museum, The Rockwell Museum, and The Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. His show “Wildlife in Wild Places opens April 7 at Sorrel Sky, with a reception with Aldrich from 5 to 7 p.m. The show runs through April.
The Herald spoke with Aldrich about his connection with the wildlife he paints and the impact he hope his work has.
How did you start painting wildlife?I’ve been doing specifically wildlife painting, oddly enough, since I was in grade school. I started, like many artists, kind of drawing and tracing things out of books but they were mostly animal-oriented because I’ve always had a love of animals. I was born in New York City, which is completely the opposite to anything animal oriented but I always had an affinity [laughs].
How would you describe your style and your approach to these paintings?It’s realism, of course. It’s a realistic style. I try to imbue the animals with something more than just what a photograph can capture. It’s so hard to describe but I try to get that essence of the animal, try to get that sense that the animal’s an individual, that it’s living and breathing, that it is a unique character on this planet.
I’ve done a lot of portraits – that’s what this [Sorrel Sky] show focuses a little bit on – is the up close and personal. Instead of people portraits, it’s animal portraits. It just really focuses on the personality, the character, the texture of the animals. I also do a lot of animals in their habitat, landscapes and that sort of thing. That allows me to support other things - I really love landscape painting as well. It really is about the animals and always has been. And after 30 years of doing it, I’m still intrigued with the different looks and characters and personalities of the different animals and I can’t seem to stop portraying them.
Are there any specific pieces of yours that stand out where you thought you really got the essence of the animal just right?There’s a painting in this show of a cougar ... that’s looking right out at you from in a cave. To me that’s one of the funnest types of imagery that I could use. Whereas it’s an animal in its environment, of course, and it just has this sense about it that shows its intensity, beauty, all the textures and all the uniqueness of that animal. I thought that was a successful painting because it really stated what I wanted to say about that animal. That’s one of my more successful but I’ve had a lot of different ones that hit that personality just right, and then I’ve had a lot of ones where I thought, “No, that doesn’t quite do it.”
What do you hope to communicate in your work that viewers will walk away with?My intention is to have that impact, that the viewer experiences that animal in a way that is either new or unique, or to them they come away with a sense of that wonderful quality of that animal so that they’re left having that sense of “Wow, I experienced that animal in a new way that I haven’t experienced before” and maybe go home and think about it. Or go home and see that particular animal in a way they never saw it before. That would be wonderful if they did that.