David Watson doesn’t paint to be critical. He doesn’t paint to send any particular message. He’s not painting to make a living.
For him, painting is all about one thing: having some fun.
“I just like to share,” Watson said, sitting at a table at Snake River Brewing, where a number of pieces will hang in his show, “Colors,” until Sept. 30.
For Watson, who moonlights as a painter when he’s not working as development director at the Teton Raptor Center, getting out and painting has always been a bit of a release. It wasn’t until he stopped skiing a few years ago — his kids had begun to ski more with their friends, and he realized that he’d been skiing for 30 years without a knee injury, so he decided to call it quits — that he dove into his practice full time, looking for a new wintertime hobby.
“I was kind of looking for something to do in the winter, and I thought, ‘Well I used to love to paint and draw and all that kind of stuff when I was a kid,’” Watson said.
That, combined with watercolor journals he’d kept from camping with his children when they were younger, got him started. He started with fall scenes, often something to do with aspens.
But the winter darkness got Watson going in another direction.
“In the wintertime you wake up to go to work and it’s dark and you come home after work and it’s dark, and it’s either white or black out,” he said. “And then I just started thinking, ‘Wow, I could probably use some crazy colors and just paint some wildlife in different perspectives here.’”
Now, Watson paints a variety of subjects, wildlife mostly, with a few landscapes thrown in. But the artist’s work isn’t your everyday clean, Teton-inspired sort of landscape art.
Instead Watson took his thoughts about colors and perspective literally, infusing them into works like “Camouflage,” which looks like a playful take on a Pollock-inspired splatter painting, as well as “Stampede,” an abstract rendering of a herd of bison that’s become something of a staple for Watson, painted in bright, popping blues and oranges.
Watson submitted a 3D version of “Stampede” to Jackson Hole Public Art, which he said chose it for a wintertime show at the ArtSpot near the intersection of Broadway and Karns Meadow Drive. Pending the ArtSpot’s potential relocation (a new car wash may force Public Art to move the installation space), he hopes his piece will be able to hang and is also considering shopping pieces like that out to a few galleries later this year.
Still, it’s all about fun for Watson, who uses sandwich baggies to paint splatter backgrounds on pieces like “Camouflage.” After taping the outline of whatever subject he wants to sit in the foreground — a great gray owl, for instance — Watson fills a bag with paint, cuts the corner and goes to town.
“I do a color, rinse it out and do another color,” Watson said. “And then I’ll peel the outline of the [owl] off and actually paint the [owl]. I just enjoy it.”
Watson also enjoys spending time with family.
His daughter, Taylor Woods, who had her own debut photography show at Snake River Brewing early this year, signed him up for her first few shows when she came home from college and realized how much artwork he had lying around the house. Since then he has shown at Snake River Brewing once before, as well as Cowboy Coffee and Pearl Street Bagels.
Whenever Watson sells a painting, the funds go straight into the family vacation jar.
Together with his whole family — Watson’s kids are his most frequent travel accomplices, but his parents sometimes tag along, as well as his brother and his family — he’s traveled to Costa Rica, Mexico, and other places across the world.
And whether his family makes the trek to Europe or elsewhere, Watson likes those trips for the same reason he likes his paintings.
“They’re just fun,” Watson said. ￼