Art of the outdoors

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – Greg Scheibel moved to Montana when he was 12 years old. It was 1973 and his father, who worked in construction, relocated the family from Minnesota to Bozeman to help build Big Sky Resort.

Although Scheibel was always drawing as a child and his interest in art never left him, he followed in his father’s footsteps and went into the construction business, the two eventually partnering in a drywall contracting company.

During Scheibel’s 28 years in the industry, the seed of his artistic ambitions lay dormant until it began to stir in 2000. It was a slow process of study and practice, but in 2007 he rolled up his construction business to pursue art full time.

“In letting myself take more time to paint and the more I did it, the more I wanted to do it,” Scheibel said, recalling how, while on custom home-building projects in scenic locations, he’d sneak away to paint.

The only other pastime that rivaled Scheibel’s love of painting, was spending time in the outdoors.

“When I made that connection between my love for the outdoors and my passion for art—when I realized the two could be combined—that was kind of a life changing period and I got really serious about my desire to paint,” Scheibel said.

In the beginning he painted exclusively outdoors. Today, some of his favorite spots to paint are along the Gallatin River—which he said he’s painted from Yellowstone National Park to Three Forks—the Spanish Peaks and the Crazy Mountains.

“You need to go out and paint from life,” said Scheibel, who attributes the singular quality of his work—not a small achievement when painting subject matter common among Western artists—to his intimacy and familiarity with the natural world.

“For me each painting is more about my own personal attraction to an area that makes me want to paint it,” he said. “Hopefully some of that comes through for the viewer, and it strikes a chord, whether [they’ve] been there, can relate to it, or it’s the light.”

Scheibel does not rely on a bold, flashy palette to grab hold of a viewer, but takes a subtler approach.
His ability to capture a scene’s authentic light is a strength of Scheibel’s, whether highlighting the ears of a deer, flickering aspen leaves or the ripples of a river, which can be especially challenging.

Scheibel paints the places that are special to him, as can be seen in this work, “Autumn on the Bitterroot.”

“Depending on the time of day and the lighting conditions, it’s always different,” Scheibel said. “And it can change dramatically while you’re standing there.” Snow can also be tricky, he said, adding that while you may think of snow as white it can contain the whole spectrum of color.

Scheibel does do some studio work now, working from photographs, but says there’s nothing like painting on site.

“You can pick up things from life that you really can’t from a photograph,” Scheibel said. “[In a photograph] shadows appear darker; when you’re standing out there you can see into those shadows.”

Scheibel paints with oils and, despite the intimidation factor they often hold for beginners, actually finds them quite forgiving, and has always liked the texture and “the juiciness” of the medium.

Scheibel is one of 14 nationally recognized artists invited to participate in the inaugural Yellowstone Plein Air Invitational from Sept. 26-29. Over four days, the artists will paint in various locations throughout Yellowstone National Park, offering daily demonstrations and, on the final day, all of the artists will gather to paint in one location.

Since starting out, Scheibel has broadened his scope of subject matter from solely landscapes to include the occasional still life, wildlife and figurative pieces; and is branching out of the region to paint coastal and European street scenes, which may have more appeal at national juried art shows.

Scheibel still shows his art in the first galleries that picked up his work, Montana Trails in Bozeman and Simpson Gallagher in Cody, Wyoming. His paintings can also be found in Jackson, Wyoming, at Astoria Fine Art; The Mission Gallery in St. George, Utah; and Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“It just sort of evolved and kind of got to the point where I was going to have to choose [between art and my construction business],” he said. “It had never been a question of what I wanted to do, just a question of whether I could make it or not.”

He kept up his construction license for a few years just in case.

“I think it’s played out pretty well,” he said about taking the leap to pursue his art fulltime. “I haven’t had to put my toolbelt back on.”

Visit scheibelfineart.com to see more of the artist’s work.