Unison | Oil on Canvas | 38 x 62 inches | 2022

Artist Spotlights: James Corwin

James Corwin paints wildlife from across the Rocky Mountain West and worldwide in boldly close-up compositions and a vividly ultra-realistic style that forges intimate connections with viewers. In Unison, for instance, a mother gray wolf rests in a snowy forest clearing and raises her muzzle to howl into the crisp air as her three pups join in. Keenly rendered details like the she-wolf’s ruffles of fur and the fog of her breath endow the work with such powerful presence that one can almost hear the canid family’s chorus emanating from the canvas and feel the chill of the woodlands. “I aim to paint my subjects with that kind of up-close-and-personal style that lets you experience the story and the emotions within it,” says the artist.

So heightened is the experience that one might even imagine a soundtrack for the scene. It may come as no surprise, then, that Corwin’s earliest passion during his childhood in Kalispell, Montana, was playing the piano and dreaming of someday composing music for films. But, in an art class during his junior year of high school, he showed so much aptitude that his teacher encouraged him to apply for a college painting scholarship, which he won. He completed his baccalaureate studies at Montana State University, and before graduating in 2014, he’d already begun selling his works — at the time, mostly landscapes — via Facebook postings and in street markets. Two years later, a safari vacation in Africa inspired him to change direction. “I was so enthralled by the wildlife I saw there that, as soon as I came home, I painted a rhino.” The effort felt so positively challenging and the results so satisfying that Corwin never turned back.

Diving for Silver II (above) | Oil on Canvas | 36 x 12 inches | 2022

In the years since, he’s continued to refine his intimate approach and the verisimilitude of his renderings. But he never copies photo references. “I create the idea first within my mind, aiming for something that I think somebody may not have seen before,” he says. “My goal is to evoke a feeling that captures the attention of the audience and emotionally connects with them.” Sometimes, the link may come from a sense of primal maternal love, or it could stem from the noble majesty of a bison bull in Reverence or the elegance of a sandhill crane stretching its wings beside a lake in Moon Dancer II.

One of Corwin’s recent achievements is Diving for Silver II, which depicts — from a water-level view — a belted kingfisher plummeting into the water towards an unsuspecting fingerling trout. In addition to extensively researching formations of bubbles and splashes, he also carefully studied the necessary avian and piscine anatomies. “Then I use Photoshop to combine elements from multiple photos to create the image that I use as my reference to bring the idea to life on the canvas.” The results possess all the spontaneity of nature itself.

Reverence | Oil on Canvas | 48 x 24 inches | 2023

Corwin’s work is represented by Corwin Galleries in Aspen, Colorado, and Hamilton, Montana; Going to the Sun Gallery in Whitefish, Montana; Courtney Collins Fine Art in Bozeman, Montana; Beartooth Gallery in Red Lodge, Montana; Gold Mountain Gallery in Telluride, Colorado; Sheldon Fine Art in Naples, Florida; Sandpiper Gallery in Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina; and Dare Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.

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