Salida painters Joshua Been and Carl Ortman at first glance could be considered competitors, vying for those precious dollars spent on art created in the Arkansas Valley. Instead, they are easy friends who share a love of anything art, generate energy together and transcend competition.
“It’s a momentum you couldn’t create by yourself,” Ortman said.
Their work is deeply personal, depicting more than a moment in an exquisite canyon or a river reflecting a changing sky or a woman whose beauty rivals the surrounding landscape. After a day spent snowboarding or hiking, the artists retreat to their respective studios with some inspiration from the day to immortalize on canvas. Paintings become snapshots from their own lives.
“We get to live this extraordinary lifestyle,” Been said. “Our paintings feel like life as we know it in Salida – a broad, pure range. People relate to this subject matter from a distance or up close. There’s a poetic quality, as our style of life exudes.”
Ortman said, “We love to get out there and paint this beautiful valley. We paint what we like to go do.”
Stunning scenery in the valley nurtures the painters, keeping them prolific and inspired. Together, Been and Ortman are partnering for a show benefiting the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas on Sat., Dec. 14, 6 to 9 p.m., at the Palace Hotel in Salida. One hundred miniature paintings from every season will be offered for $100, with 30 percent of proceeds going to the Land Trust. Larger paintings can be purchased through a silent auction. Been said, “We’re bringing in potential collectors, seeing the valley through our vision.”
In turn the Land Trust supports Been and Ortman’s work by keeping the valley paintable by conserving open space. Viewscapes contribute to “being still enough to have a thought,” Ortman said.
Ortman sees a strength in pairing with Been and the Land Trust. “Art gains power and so does the cause,” he said. “How much energy can we generate? We bring the energy to the cause. Collectively, people have more compassion and we can make a bigger difference.”
Ortman and Been are partners in a frame business, in part, to support artists with affordably priced frames. Few artists can truly make a living doing art. They try to make it easier for other artists to enjoy sustainable, healthy, extraordinary lifestyles.
Sales, accolades and awards mount every year, yet Been and Ortman resist falling into the trap of success. The painters’ worst nightmare would be to grind out paintings in a self-made sweatshop at the expense of a happy, outdoorsy lifestyle. Their approach to the work brings an enchantment to paintings, enhancing values.
“There’s this appreciation of what we’re looking for, what we value, what we emphasize, what we’re trying to show,” Ortman said. “We’re free. Before I was trying to get a result and now I’m looking for a way to live that reflects a freshness in the work. It’s an experience and result related to living well.”
Been said he’s cut back his schedule of plein-air events to live less chaotically. He’s exploring the mountains more and building the momentum with Ortman. “I continue to go deeper into the exploration of design, working value patterns and shapes,” Been said. “I love to see things on an abstract foundation become lifelike on the canvas.”
Been and Ortman deeply respect the great Impressionist masters, studying their brushwork and impact. They will tell you, Been’s paintings are more structured, Ortman more detailed. Nature remains the master and weather a moody muse. A glint of light, a sky that’s both splendid and fleeting are captured from the painters’ perspective. Strokes of paint fuse figures and their surroundings. Soft colors can communicate a sensual juncture.
“No matter how much we know about art, light has an unpredictable way that can’t be made up,” Ortman said.
This momentum fueled by Been and Ortman is working for them, netting abundance, allowing them to live and work the way they choose. Relationships with other gallery owners are forged and the two have created more leverage in negotiations. “It’s starting to be our time,” Ortman said.
The Land Trust event on Saturday will have a playful, French theme with fitting hors d’oeuvres. Here’s a hint: Imagine the painters Monet and Manet.
Afterward, Been and Ortman will continue to live the experiences rendered in their paintings.