InkSpired Magazine Issue No. 42 - Page 9

ETHEREAL PAINTINGS OF CT NELSON Words: Morgan Febrey If you were to ask me to describe CT Nelson’s style, I’d be at a loss for words. I’d reach for my phone to show you a photo; so, hopefully you aren’t reading this article on some non-smart flip phone relic. Recently, I visited CT at his studio in Denver to explore this enigmatic quality of his work. As a default conversation backdrop, I brought beers with me. Let’s get the ol’ conversation machine greased a bit, right? But when I arrived, the warm-hearted and grateful CT let me know that he doesn’t drink during the day. While this may seem like a pointless detail to recall, it illustrates a point. We’re talking artistic style. Often, when something is difficult to describe [or simply original] as CT’s art is, “what drugs were they on?” gets tossed around. I mean, even the pope drinks wine, but not everything with vibrant color is psychedelic or in the visionary category. CT uses color in a very fresh and unique way. Is there a need to slap a name tag on it? After the standard pleasantry exchange, we walked back into his studio. It’s unassuming and rudimentary. A table with an art supply store’s worth of oil paints spread across it and zero distractions from focus or flow. We jumped right into the fire. Mind if we start out talking about your style? I’m struggling for descriptors. CT: Sure. You can call it non-objective realism. A lot of abstract painters will start with an actual thing: a person, landscape, bowl of fruit, etc. Something in this physical world. I like to use just the feeling of those objects. To paint those feelings as if they were a tangible thing that had light, shadow, and texture. The title of an important transition painting I did, ‘The Aura of Something That’s Actually Nothing At All,’ opened my eyes to this potential. I’ve painted enough real things and don’t want to look at a thing. It spoils the visual feel that’s in my head. For example, you can communicate ice and how it feels without painting ice. A photo of ice on your computer isn’t very interesting. I’d be obsessed about copying what I was looking at. I never want to do that again. What helps, too, is sometimes I’ll switch direction in the middle of a brush stroke as I’m painting “the feels.” That’s my wild card. Helps with distorting my notions and keeps the work honest and fresh. I also layer paint very thick in strategic parts of each piece. It figuratively and literally jumps off the canvas. This creates a feeling you can jump into the painting. I really enjoy the unexpected and that is a very important to my process. It creates an unrealized, then realized energy that allows painting to be fun and not a drag. Expect the unexpected is my motto. CT has been painting since ’96. He decided it was what he wanted to do and taught himself oils in ’06. Since moving to Denver in 2002, CT has found a worldwide following. “So, Denver. Treating you well?” CT: “I wouldn’t be the artist I am now if it wasn’t for Denver. The West Coast has an established illustrative feel. The East has the conceptual. Denver has a large and growing art community but it hasn’t taken on a specific identity yet. It’s allowed me to go any direction I want and still be received very well.” CT went on to explain that he is actually influenced by every artist and every painting he’s ever seen. Each of his paintings contain not just the art, but every experience he’s ever had. This has helped him grow as an artist. And after speaking with him, his style started making more sense to me. Energy as a subject. The culmination of every moment he’s experienced. Whether I think his painting is a nebula birthing a constellation or some quantum phenomenon at CERN, it’s all true. It’s energy and that’s enough of a description. CT has a show coming up, Sept. 2016, at Last Rites Gallery in NYC. If you’d like to see more of his work, follow him on Facebook: or Instagram: @CTNelsonArtist. 7