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Unlike a lot of artists, Phil Lear will paint almost anything. He's known for his narrative works — circus and bar scenes, illustrations inspired by books or Tom Waits songs — but he also does the Westerns, the still-lifes and the landscapes. Very well.

"I really enjoy all these different kinds of things," he says, adding that "to jump back and forth is, like, something different for supper."

Lear projects more artistic excitement than business savvy, but this approach naturally helps set him up for success. At least, that's the hope among his many admirers, patrons and friends. He's done well in town, but at the risk of becoming potbound in a limited market, Lear's now looking to expand into the galleries of Denver and New Mexico.

Meaning he may no longer be Colorado Springs' artist to keep, which has prompted us to profile Lear in a cover story starting here. That, and his upcoming solo show at the Rabbit Hole, where he'll unveil a bevy of brand new work.

When we spoke last month, Lear was knee-deep in ideas and fresh into a supply of palette knives a friend had dropped at his door for Christmas. Near the end of the interview, as the conversation shifted to the limited painting I've done, he offered me one.

When I demurred, saying I was too out of practice, Lear looked thoughtful and said he's known skills to come back fairly quickly. For him, I have no doubt it's true.

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