Curtis Van Charles  // "Untitled" (Whooping Cranes #2)


Curtis Van Charles is the wildlife artist you don’t want to take a road trip with.

The Alberta-based artist will have you pulling over every 5 minutes so he can absorb the beauty of a mountain slope, or snap a couple shots of a winding river - inspiration for his digital meets paint artworks. Then 60 miles up the road, he’ll find another inspiring scene and ask to do it all over again.

Then later, in the basement studio of his Calgary home, he’ll bring it all to life. Using a mix of old and new techniques, digital and paint, he’ll give the scenery a facelift until it’s the same but different.

You’ve seen it a hundred times, and yet you’re seeing it for the first time.

“My biggest fear was always becoming a landscape artist,” Charles said in an interview with Among Us.

Van Charles avoided the landscape tradition partly by utilizing digital tools. His work starts off as photos, which he then collages together, before using them to guide his painting.

That’s what allows for the kaleidoscope-esque look of his mountains, vast rock faces lifted and then slid back into place like shards of oddly placed glass. It’s the same mountain scenery, but something’s off about it, and it’s beautiful.

Sometimes Curtis doesn’t even use the paint brush, and just lets his digital work speak for itself, flavouring the scenery with reflective shapes and surprising colors.

Even when he’s not lifting mountains, Charles’ scenery pieces have something alluringly skewed about them - real but not quite, like a puzzle where the pieces are foreground and background.

“Everything I make is inspired by experiences in the outdoors,” Charles said.

His latest piece, still untitled but featuring a whole lot of crane, is a mix of digital and paint. Charles took images of cranes and rearranged them until it felt right, then created the painting based off that.

A friend at Fiasco Gelato once told Charles to “build something that matters.” Charles response was to make his art a voice for at risk wildlife, which is where the cranes come in. He’s using his work to join the conversation about endangered North American wildlife, hoping they inspire someone else as well.

You can catch his interview with Among Us in the video here.

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