Know Your Art: Painter James Bohling

Painter James Bohling often uses palette knives rather than paintbrushes to create a unique blurring effect in his work. Courtesy Paul Miller

Painter James Bohling often uses palette knives rather than paintbrushes to create a unique blurring effect in his work. Courtesy Paul Miller

Here, the world is not precisely photographic and landscapes are not necessarily centered. The sky often dominates the canvas, colors are extra vibrant and every slice of scenery looks slightly abstract. This is the world, through the eyes and fingertips of James Bohling, a Denver artist known for his unusual painted landscapes— although he rarely uses a paintbrush. Instead, he applies thick layers of paint and then works it with palette knives, leaving blurred edges and fields that are etched with jagged lines.

“I don’t have the patience to sit and do fine lines, so I kind of just sweep the paint across to see what happens,” Bohling says. “I know where I’m going, but I don’t always end up in the same place.” Most of Bohling’s paintings feature landscapes of Colorado and the Great Plains. He says he’s inspired by his grandmother’s home in Nebraska.

“There’s a nostalgic quality that I get from painting a farm or prairie,” he says. “People respond that way to it sometimes, too. They say, ‘That reminds me of home when I was a kid or of my grandmother’s house.’”

Painter James Bohling often creates sweeping landscape paintings. Courtesy Paul Miller

Painter James Bohling often creates sweeping landscape paintings. Courtesy Paul Miller

Bohling didn’t set out to be an artist. He studied petroleum engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden and got a degree in finance at Texas A&M University. Then he worked as a flight attendant for 22 years.

“I was always interested in art—it was one of my favorite subjects in school—but I never thought I could do it,” he says.

He painted occasionally for himself and hung his work in his house. Then, five years ago, a friend saw Bohling’s art and encouraged him to sell it at a summer art market. It went so well that Bohling, who also paints non-landscape abstracts, ended up enrolling in art classes and quitting his job to paint full time.

“I can express myself in a way I never could before, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in starting with a blank canvas and ending up with something that I find beautiful and other people find beautiful,” he says. “I have never done anything that makes me as happy as painting does.”

See James Bohling’s work at Sync Gallery, 931 Santa Fe Drive, and Main Street Fine Arts Gallery in Evergreen.

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