Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist
 

Signpost featured artist: Lyle Brown

Artist Lyle Brown with some of his paintings
Photo credit: —Oli Robbins

Old Barn Charm, pastel, 18x24”, by Lyle Brown

The Blue Wagon, oil painting, 16x20”, by Lyle Brown

Weathered Whereabouts, by Lyle Brown

Signpost featured artist

Lyle Brown: building with paint

—Oli Robbins

A painter is defined as “an artist who paints pictures” and architect is “a person who designs buildings.” Now, we all know how limiting and flat-out erroneous definitions can be, but I’ll concede that, in general, painters do paint, and architects do design structures (which may or may not be buildings). Rio Rancho artist Lyle Brown is both of these things, a creator of aesthetically pleasing compositions, some of them functional, who possesses an undeniable understanding of the visual realm.

Brown knew he was an artist in early childhood, explaining that “it’s either in you, or it’s not.” With an acute sense of observation, Brown has forever examined the visual essence of all things before him, from natural elements to houses. In his later teen years, he decided that he’d like to try his hand at designing structures, and studied architecture (both undergraduate and graduate) at Syracuse University. After his studies he moved to San Francisco and worked at an architecture firm.

Despite feeling gratified as a young architect, Brown wanted to further exercise his creative, unrestrained faculties. So, he took a year off from architecture and enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute. This was the Sixties, and it was a great time to study art in San Francisco. Several of Brown’s teachers were involved in the Bay Area Figurative Movement and Abstract Expressionism, including American painter Richard Diebenkorn.

Diebenkorn’s most famous paintings are at once geometrically structured, texturally layered and reductive. His style resonated with the architecturally-trained and artistically-inclined mind of Brown. During Brown’s one year in art school, he produced fantastic figurative imagery that is loose and energetic. Looking back at those paintings today, Brown admits that he wishes he could still work in such an untethered style, but has “become more conservative” after drafting precise lines for so many years in architecture. To fulfill the needs of his family, Brown soon went back to architecture, and instead of spending his free time painting, he took up photography.

Says Brown, “I didn’t like the idea of isolating myself in a studio, and with photography, you can be out and about in society.” Today, Brown continues to enjoy the boundlessness of the camera—that you can carry home and possess an image from elsewhere—and usually paints from photographs that he’s taken of not-to-be-forgotten scenery.

After eight years in San Francisco, Brown moved back to upstate New York and opened up his own architectural firm. He always approached architecture as form following function—that the appearance of a building should mirror its various purposes, taking into account the day-to-day needs of the inhabitants. Brown left his firm after thirty years and moved out west. He initially envisioned Colorado as a good match because of his predilection for skiing, but after taking a ski trip in New Mexico, he witnessed Native American pottery that hooked him to this Land of Enchantment. He soon after read twenty-some books on New Mexican Native American history and was intrigued by the advanced concepts within Native architecture. “The more I read,” says Brown, “the more I knew it’s where I wanted to go.”

Brown felt sure that he would resume photography during his eventual retirement, but instead, New Mexico prompted him to embrace painting—four decades after his first experimentation with it. It wasn’t until he moved here that he began to recognize the state’s sheer abundance of artistic talent. His first foray into the local art world was at an Expo he attended with a friend. He bought a couple of pastel paintings, and shortly after went to a handful of painting workshops. The workshops and Brown’s year at the Art Institute in San Francisco are the only formal artistic training he’s received. He’s largely self-taught, though feels that architecture disciplined him to be sensitive to the (sometimes abstract) relationship between certain shapes. It’s no coincidence that buildings feature prominently in his paintings, for his eyes continue to perceive and consider the structures in his environment. Says Brown, “If I didn’t move to New Mexico, I might not be an artist at this point.”

He’s frequently inspired by his surroundings, and takes many road trips to nearby locations—stopping short anytime he sees captivating structures or landscapes. He works in both oils and      pastels, and since reinventing himself as a painter ten years ago, his preferred genre is landscape. Most of his works are quiet in tone, and Impressionist in their seeming looseness and ability to express tranquility. He tends to “push color” to achieve “subtle variations” and honestly convey the sentiment of the moment, often missing in photographs. Brown is always drawn to architectural constructions resting alongside the natural. Explains Brown, “as an artist, you look at the world around you and think about composition. I love old buildings with mountains behind them—pictures that have mood.” 

Brown shares a studio with 12 artists at “The Artists’ Studio” in the Hoffmantown Shopping Center. His work is currently displayed at the Hyatt Tamaya gallery, and he welcomes emails at lhbrownart@gmail.com.

 
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