Southwest Art Profiles Tim Solliday

Tim Solliday’s paintings present a poetic vision of an earlier time

By Gussie Fauntleroy

This story was featured in the July 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. 

The first time Tim Solliday walked into the Los Angeles home and studio of the artist who would become his most important teacher, it felt like stepping into a movie from the 1920s. The ramshackle Spanish-style house was filled with antique furniture and décor: Oriental carpets covered the floors, while paintings, sculptures, stacks of prints, and other art objects were scattered about.

Looking back, Solliday finds it appropriate that Theodore Lukits (1897-1992) seemed to belong to an earlier era. Through the Lukits Academy of Fine Arts, the Romanian-American painter was offering something that—in the mid-1970s, when Solliday studied with him—had long gone out of style in American art education: academic instruction in the atelier manner, taking students slowly through the foundations of drawing and painting, beginning with only black and white.

At a time when representational painting was overshadowed by abstract and conceptual art, Lukits and his school filled a void. “Almost nobody knew who John Singer Sargent was when I was a kid,” Solliday laments. The atelier approach was a perfect fit for someone who left a Long Beach-area college because the art instructors had nothing but ridicule for Norman Rockwell and the other illustrators he admired; someone who since childhood had been mesmerized by great painting but was told it would not be possible to make a living that way. “I thought traditional art was dead on the vine, but I still believed I would do it,” Solliday says. “I always thought there was room for everything in art.”

In fact, he was right. Not only did collectors open their arms again to landscape, still-life, and figurative art, but Solliday—who paid for his art instruction by working as an apprentice billboard painter in Southern California—was right about his own ability to forge a successful career in representational fine art. His widely collected work is now in the permanent collections of the Briscoe Western Art Museum and the National Museum of Wildlife Art and has been exhibited at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Autry Museum, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, as well as other museums and galleries.

Solliday’s early conception of his artistic future leaned toward the illustration field. His father was a technical illustrator for Douglas Aircraft Company, a job that took the family from Solliday’s birth state of Iowa to the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Southern California, where as a young teen he had a horse. Although he had no interest in technical illustration, he was inspired by his father’s artistic ability and obsessed with drawing. Meanwhile, western movies of the 1950s and early ’60s left a lasting impression, offering a glimpse of how effectively visual qualities could stir the emotions and convey particular moods.

When Solliday’s college foray into art turned into disappointment, billboards became his training ground. In those days the work was often done in hangar-sized studios where mechanical scaffolding positioned a painter where he needed to be on the 14-by-48-foot image. Solliday learned to handle paint. He adopted disciplined work habits. He became adept at depicting texture—everything from a beer can to a horse to a girl on the beach. And it was through his fellow billboard painters that he learned of Lukits. In the 1940s and ’50s the billboard company routinely sent painters to Lukits to refine their skills. That was no longer happening by Solliday’s time, but individual billboard painters would go to Lukits on their own after work, often inviting fellow painters in whom they noticed an unusually high level of interest and talent.

So it was that Solliday found himself at Lukits’ home and studio, feeling as if he had stumbled onto a Hollywood movie set. That first night he was the last of the students to leave. Finally glimpsing the possibility of art instruction that matched his goals, he felt a kindred spirit in the older artist, then in his 80s, and the two talked until well after midnight. “I thought, okay, he’s a source of knowledge for me,” Solliday recalls. For five years he went to Lukits’ studio two or three nights a week after work. The intensive instruction began with learning to draw not from live models but from plaster casts or marble sculptures of the human form. From this came an essential understanding of using values of light and dark to produce a sense of three-dimensional form. For Solliday it was a revolutionary way of seeing and of rendering what he saw. “I thought, wow, what a difference from trying to draw from out of your head.”

Eventually, color came into the mix. Lukits would set up still-life arrangements for the students, presenting increasingly complex color problems to work out in paint. He used special lighting to simulate various conditions of outdoor light: intense yellow overhead for midday, blue for moonlight, a slanted angle of warm light for sunset, or a veil to mimic fog. “He was very honest,” Solliday says of his teacher. “He told us we’d never learn true color until we got outdoors, but he also knew it’s very difficult to paint outdoors, so we had a head start.” Soon the young artist could look again at the work of artists he admired and see what made them great. “It was thrilling,” he says.

Among the earlier painters who made a lasting impression on Solliday were illustrator Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) and Cornwell’s mentor, Anglo-Welsh artist Sir Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956). By studying Brangwyn’s paintings and drawings, Solliday began to understand that an arresting composition starts with massive shapes and the juxtaposition of forms. Brangwyn, and Monet before him, also opened Solliday’s eyes to the use of broken color, which lets the viewer’s eye mix colors that are adjacent on the canvas, having been applied as separate brush strokes. “It’s all about colors bouncing off other colors, or the illusion of brightness by adding gray around the strong colors,” Solliday says. “I’m known as a colorist, but if you study my work in person, you’ll see a great deal of gray.”

Solliday especially admires the use of gray to influence color in the work of western painter Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939). As it turns out, Solliday worked for a time in the Alhambra, CA, studio that once was Johnson’s. He’s also had use of the former studio of William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). These days the 65-year-old artist stands at his easel in the light-filled space on the top floor of the historic First Baptist Church—one of Pasadena’s largest, built in 1926. With arched stained-glass windows and a high ceiling, the studio has a touch of the medieval but with fresh white walls and state-of-the-art lighting that Solliday installed when he leased the space two years ago. It’s worth all the steps he climbs each day to reach it, he says.

For many years Solliday was known as a landscape painter, capturing California’s natural beauty, especially through his plein-air work. He continues to use the landscape as the setting for his imagery, but now his focus is on the Native Americans, mountain men, and others who carried out their lives on the land. It’s a full-circle swing back to his boyhood fascination with the Old West—minus the confrontation—with special inspiration from the work of the Taos Society of Artists. When Native people and European-Americans interact in Solliday’s paintings, as they do in FRONTIER COMMERCE, it is in quiet encounters reflecting a feeling of mutual respect. The painting, as with much of his work, gave the artist an opportunity to combine intricate details, like beadwork on clothing, within the almost stage-set context of beautifully balanced color and solid, muscular shapes.

Similarly, COURTSHIP places a young Indian couple in a forest of dappled sun and shade as a horse grazes close by. “It’s about love blooming out of the peacefulness,” Solliday says. Both paintings are part of this year’s Prix de West Invitational show at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, on view through August 6. The two paintings reflect the artist’s shift not only in subject matter but also painting style. In both areas, Solliday has moved to a less literal, more imaginative approach. “It’s all based on classical principles of composition, light, and drawing,” he says, “but I had to come to a place that’s a little more free.”

What this means when he starts a new painting is sitting down with paper and scribbling abstract lines and shapes until they begin to suggest compelling forms, and a painting idea emerges from there. Then he turns to his trove of plein-air sketches, his collection of books and artifacts, and a well of artistic knowledge to flesh it out. More important than a literal interpretation is a feeling and mood that “moves the soul,” he believes. Like the best filmmakers who use camera angles, filters, and composition to produce a visually memorable scene, Solliday understands the powerful visceral impact of thoughtfully rendered color and form. “Every time I saw a poetic scene in a movie, especially westerns, it went into my mind,” he says. “And now it’s coming out.”


The small town of Taos, New Mexico, has provided inspiration for Western artists since Joseph Henry Sharp first visited there in 1893. The art haven is the subject of a new group show at Maxwell Alexander Gallery, which opens with a reception from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on September 23 and remains on view through October 7, and features the artwork of Danny Galieote, Kim Wiggins, David Grossmann, John Moyers, Tim Solliday and Logan Maxwell Hagege.

“The mix of cultures in Taos, its history and its beautiful surroundings make it a fascinating place to paint,” Grossmann says. His painting Clouded Sunset, Taos, captures an adobe structure called La Morada on the outskirts of Taos, which was part of a Catholic monastery dating back to the late 1700s. “The evening that I did this painting, the silence of La Morada seemed to carry a hidden history, a feeling echoed by the clouds that veiled the glowing sunset. I wanted to capture the sense of deep solitude and the way that the adobe walls seemed so connected to the land.”

In Galieote’s The Watchers, three protectors watch over their Pueblo family. “I wanted the figures to conjure a feeling of order and stability and that nothing could get past their glistening inscrutable eyes,” Galieote explains. “The middle figure seemed to naturally take his place as the wisest and the one who will have the final word to carry forth in war or in peace.”

Taos is an alluring subject for Wiggins. The landscape and the history imbue a sense of importance in his work. “My work, One Night at Taos Pueblo, centers on the iconic San Geronimo de Taos Mission located at the Taos Pueblo,” he explains. “In the painting two beautiful Pueblo children stand outside the mission under the light of a full moon. This painting is both symbolic and ethereal in nature hopefully capturing the very heart and resilience of the Taos people.”

View the show preview HERE

American Art Collector Previews Jeremy Mann's solo exhibition "OPUS 27"

Theater of Light

In the early 20th century Florenz Ziegfeld, creator of the Ziegfeld Follies musical revues on Broadway, was widely known for his muses, elaborately costumed chorus girls often called Ziegfeld Girls. The girls were the primary residents in Ziegfeld’s fantastical worlds of music and drama. “[H]e simply couldn’t stop being more and more lavish with every show,” wrote his wife after his death in 1932. “...the world remembers Mr. Ziegfeld as the man who revealed a whole new world of color and light and gaiety in the modern musical revue.”

Using the iconic Ziegfeld Girls and the era that they thrived in as inspiration, painter Jeremy Mann will be presenting a new collection of work at an exhibition July 15 at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles. The show will open the gallery’s brand-new space, which will be decorated with the installations the artist used for his photo shoots. For the opening guests are encouraged to come dressed in their finest and interact with the installations. The exhibition is a collaboration with Christina Molcillo of Black Lotus Clothing, who used Ziegfeld Girls as models for her designs, including dresses, gowns, headpieces and other antique materials.

“Many good things come out of collaborations in unexpected ways,” Mann says of working with Molcillo. “Wanting to not only keep my hands from detaining the unexpected, but also with respect to another artist’s unhindered personal visions, Christina developed and created the wardrobe and sets with unobstructed direction, based on a few meetings and her own research into my stylistic tendencies combined with her own artistic style.”

Their collaboration can be seen in works such as Luna and Moonlight, both featuring a female figure elegantly dressed in front of a prop crescent moon. Like Ziegfeld’s girls, and the photos of them that have survived, these figures have an element of theater to their presence amid carefully placed light, oversized stage elements and beautifully designed costuming. They are at once sumptuous and also vulnerable within Mann’s cool shadows and delicate brushstrokes.

“Having a theme to hold everything loosely together and give direction, we both have affections for the 1920s and the Ziegfeld Girl style, crossed with some [Alphonse] Mucha and modernity, as well as theater and darkness,” says Mann. “The moon stage grew from that era’s fascination with it as often seen as a moon with a painted face upon the stage. The timeless feeling is always something I prefer in my paintings, creating a haze of memory and capturing fleeting moments in perpetual paintings which draw up those same emotions, something dreamlike and lost, or a thing once wonderful and now forgotten.”

These “dreamlike” qualities overlap with much of Mann’s current state as an artist, in which he says he’s diving further into the cerebral ether of creation. “I suppose these would be my foggy years. I’ve been exploring deeper into the feelings evoked from atmosphere and light, how their effects work both with and against form, while eliciting emotions of fading memories, things past and times ceaseless endurance,” he says. “Logically this exploration evolved from my endeavors with film and Polaroid photography from the homemade cameras, and now into video and films using homemade lenses to capture that same effect, without the need for digital manipulations—I’ve a badinkling about most things digital. Film and video have a direct connection with ‘time’ and that is something which I desire to have a stronger place in my paintings. What an artist does with their time when not painting affects the painting even more than when they are.”

Mann’s show, which will also feature his bold cityscapes, will continue through August 12 in Los Angeles

To view more of Mann's work, click here.

Courtesy of American Art Collector magazine

Logan Maxwell Hagege is awarded the Thomas Moran Memorial Award




Logan Maxwell Hagege "The Heart of Everything" 68" x 54"


The Thomas Moran award at this year's Masters of the American West at The Autry was awarded to "The Heart of Everything" by Logan Maxwell Hagege. This award was previously given to Howard Terpning for 11 years straight, this is the first painting to win since.  Hagege is the youngest artist to ever win this award. This best in show award is given in recognition of exceptional artistic merit.

Southwest Art Previews "Ranch Life"

Show Preview: Ranch Life

Southwest Art

Culver City, CA

Maxwell Alexander Gallery, December 10-January 7

Billy Schenck, To Kill a Mocking Bird, oil, 24 x 30.

Billy Schenck, To Kill a Mocking Bird, oil, 24 x 30.

This story was featured in the December 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  December 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

As the landscape of American ranch life continues to change with the tides, Maxwell Alexander Gallery’s group show this month invites viewers to savor slices of its preservation through the eyes of 12 contemporary painters. Each artist shares one or two works inspired by their personal experiences, observations, and expressions of the American ranch and what it stands for. Those artists presenting works include Howard Post, Billy Schenck, Grant Redden, Eric Bowman, Josh Clare, Josh Elliott, Bryan Haynes, and Mark Maggiori. The show opens Saturday, December 10, with an artists’ reception from 6 to 8 p.m.

Gallery director Beau Alexander notes that much of western art is about preserving a changing way of life, a trend that goes back to American artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “This show pays homage to the continued vanishing of the West,” he says. “We’re asking artists to paint their artistic interpretations of ranch life, particularly how it looks today, capturing the moment in history.” 

As a third-generation Arizonan who grew up on a small ranch in Tucson, artist Howard Post is intimately familiar with the show’s theme. “I usually portray the quiet times, the downtimes, the little vignettes of ranch life,” muses Post. In one of his two works for the show, CLEAR WATER, horses graze languidly near a stream. One horse stands apart in the shallow water, poised to take a drink. “I like the abstract qualities I find in animals and nature. That’s what gets me going,” says Post. If a narrative results, he adds, that’s a bonus.

Artist Grant Redden, too, experienced ranch life firsthand growing up on his father’s sheep and cattle ranch. “I’ve worn out many a pair of buckskin gloves,” says Redden, “digging post holes, fixing fences, branding, spreading salt on the summer range, mowing hay, feeding stock in a blizzard.” In his painting for the show, WYOMING COWPUNCHER, Redden portrays a rider in the high-desert plateau of southwestern Wyoming, where he lives today. Although subject matter is important to him, Redden is even more motivated, he says, by “the textures, colors, design elements—all those things that make a painting compelling, regardless of the subject.”

Landscape and figure painter Eric Bowman says he’s discovered a new direction this year in western subject matter. Inspired by the “iconic American cowboy,” Bowman created the painting MORNING RIDER for the show, portraying a working cowboy riding on horseback across open land. “His freedom and slower pace of life is something I see being slowly lost to the modern, industrial, and globalized digital age,” says the native Californian, who today lives in northwestern Oregon. 

Bowman has witnessed the effects of urban sprawl and global outsourcing on ranches and farms around him. “That way of life is diminishing,” he says. “I think art is and always has been a strong influence on the public consciousness when it comes to drawing attention to important issues. Hopefully, this show will contribute to that consciousness and encourage people to consider this important part of our unique history.” —Kim Agricola

To view this show click HERE.

Southwest Art Magazine Previews "Grand Canyon" Exhibition October 2016

Show Preview-Grand Canyon Group Show

by Southwest Art, September 15, 2016

Culver City, CA
Maxwell Alexander Gallery, October 8-November 5

Brett Allen Johnson, "Southern Rhythm", oil, 19 x 24.

Brett Allen Johnson, "Southern Rhythm", oil, 19 x 24.

This story was featured in the October 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. 

As often as it has been painted over the past few centuries, the grandeur of the Grand Canyon never ceases to inspire artists. The sheer vastness of the canyon—277 miles long, a mile deep, and up to 18 miles wide in some areas—presents infinite vantage points for creating interpretations on canvas. This month at Maxwell Alexander Gallery, 12 western painters share their own contemporary takes on the Grand Canyon in a group show dedicated to the national park. The show opens on Saturday, October 8, with an artists’ reception at 6 p.m. 

“The Grand Canyon is one of my personal favorites,” says gallery director Beau Alexander. “Probably every western artist in our genre has painted it, and I’m excited to see what the modern masters do with it.” Participating in the show are artists Glenn Dean, Logan Maxwell Hagege, G. Russell Case, David Grossmann, Mark Maggiori, Tim Solliday, Ray Roberts, Matt Smith, Josh Elliott, Teal Blake, Bryan Haynes, and Brett Allen Johnson. The artists began preparing their works as early as eight months before the show, and each artist exhibits one or more paintings. “The Grand Canyon is such a vast and complicated landscape and it’s going to be interesting to see how the artists simplify that,” says Alexander.

Brett Allen Johnson "Southern Rhythm"               oil, 19 x 24.

Brett Allen Johnson "Southern Rhythm"             oil, 19 x 24.

Bryan Haynes, "Havasupai–Grand Canyon" oil, 36 x 54.

Bryan Haynes, "Havasupai–Grand Canyon" oil, 36 x 54.

G. Russell Case,               "One Piece of the Pie"         oil,  24 x 18.

G. Russell Case,             "One Piece of the Pie"       oil,  24 x 18.

Mark Maggiori,            "Secret Talk at Sunset"         oil, 30 x 24.

Mark Maggiori,            "Secret Talk at Sunset"         oil, 30 x 24.

Ray Roberts, "  View Towards Horus Temple, Grand Canyon National Park"       oil, 18 x 24.

Ray Roberts, "View Towards Horus Temple, Grand Canyon National Park"       oil, 18 x 24.

David Grossmann, "Canyon Heights" oil, 34 x 20.

David Grossmann, "Canyon Heights" oil, 34 x 20.

This was Bryan Haynes’ first time painting the canyon, but he has visited the area more than once and has hiked within the park. “I like to tell stories with my paintings and to give a sense of regionalism by placing figures in a landscape,” he says. The artist, who lives in Labadie, MO, brings a piece called HAVASUPAI, GRAND CANYON to the show. In this painting, Haynes says he wanted to suggest the history of the Havasupai Indians who have lived there for centuries, and he selected shapes and colors that reflect the region. “At the same time, I hope to achieve an illusion of the vast depth of the Grand Canyon, while simultaneously referencing the flatness and beautiful design of a Navajo weaving,” adds Haynes. 

Brett Allen Johnson, of Lehi, UT, says his works are often a response to the arid parts of the Southwest—the deserts, badlands, and canyons. “I’m not usually a painter of literal places, and I avoid well-known landmarks,” says Johnson. “I don’t capture places. I make paintings, first and foremost, and I knew that if I were to create a successful painting here, I would have to maintain that motto.” His resulting work, SOUTHERN RHYTHM, portrays the canyon’s rugged geologic strata in fiery vermilion tones. “I feel it’s very important for a painting to come from an authentic place,” says Johnson. “Very simply, these are my places, and this is what they look like.” 

No two paintings in the show will be the same, says Alexander. “When an artist has the vastness of a landscape, it gives them an avenue to explore it and give it their own voice,” he says. As for iconic locations like the Grand Canyon, he adds: “We know how we see it, but how does an artist view it?” —Kim Agricola

To view this show or others, click HERE


Western Art Collector Magazine Previews the "Grand Canyon" Exhibition October 2016

Vistas of the canyon

Nothing defines the freedom and open spaces of the West more than the Grand Canyon. It’s the icon of icons, the natural force that has inspired Western artists beginning famously with Thomas Moran. Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles has put together a show of contemporary interpretations of the canyon from leading Western artists such as Mark Maggiori, Bryan Haynes, Brett Allen Johnson, David Grossmann, Ray Roberts, and G. Russell Case.

Grossmann is known for his ethereal and abstracted landscape paintings. In his Grand Canyon piece, titled Canyon Heights, he is able to show the vastness of the canyon as well as its signature vistas just through implied detail.

“Standing on the canyon rim gives me the feeling that I am flying and falling at the same time,” says Grossmann. “When I look far across to the other side, first I notice the flat stillness of the horizon line. Then, as I look father and father down the layers of earth, I watch as the

lines leave their stillness and become more and more curving, gracefully turbulent, until at last I finally glimpse the twisting green river far below.”

Maggiori’s piece Secret Talk at Sunset shows two riders on horseback sharing a moment while the canyon spreads out behind them. It’s a beautiful piece and contrasts the intimacy of the two riders with the overwhelming greatness of the landscape.

“There is no place like that on earth,” says Maggiori. “The Grand Canyon is mystical, mighty and majestic. Observing the light changing from sunrise to sunset is such an enlightening experience. It makes you forget about everything else and imagine that you are all alone and in total bliss.”

Another interesting piece is Haynes’ Havasupai-Grand Canyon. In it a lone Native American figure runs across the foreground, his body lightly imprinted with traditional designs mixed across parts of the canyon.

“It depicts that vast depth of the Grand Canyon while simultaneously suggesting the flatness and beautiful design of a Navajo weaving,” says Haynes. “The painting pays homage to the history of the Native Americans, the Havasupai who have lived in the Canyon for more than one thousand years, with a

figure integral to the landscape: he looks out at us—directly at the viewer. So, I wonder what emotions might be elicited from people who view the painting.”