Denver native and Colorado based visual artist and filmmaker, Topher Straus has been developing his visual vocabulary and modern brand of ultra modern representationalist art since he was young.

With roots in Post Impressionism, Straus' great grandmother Florene May Schoenborn was a benefactor and life trustee of the Museum of Modern Art. her vast private collection included Matisse, Picasso and other Modern Masters that inspired Straus to pursue a career in painting, albeit with a twist.

Topher prints his large, intriguing piece on an aluminum sheet metal after he digitally creates the ultra modern images. Layering colors, lines, shapes and ideas over a photograph allows Straus to introduce people to his unique perspective.

You had not started creating art until you were in college. Why was that and what were the benefits?

That's correct. Although I had always admired art from a far, creating it was not something I had done until I had to. So, I enrolled in one of the nations best film schools Syracuse University in their BFA Film Art program. I got accepted early and found myself having to create art as part of my core cirriculum, Imagine - never doing drawing and being in a class full of kids who had been drawing their whole lives. Needless to say, I struggled in my first year with my art courses. For the first time in my life I got below a B. I still keep all my C- work from that year.  It might not be the most amazing work I've done, but it reminds me of how fortunate I was for my foundation year at Syracuse. 

HAS YOUR ARTWORK AFFECTED YOUR FILMMAKING?

My film work and my art always dance together. Might be the most peaceful moments when I am directing a film or advertisement on set. I look through my viewfinder to frame the shot. The colors and negative space hypnotize me and that's when I "paint the frame." 

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The two are interchangeable and complement each other. I grew up with the soul and spirt of an artist.  

The best illustration of true unity and harmony of film+ art to me personally is Akarai Kurasaua's stunning 1990's film Dreams. If you have not seen it, I would say it's a must see for any filmmaker or artist. The film is a series of short films centered around actual dreams that Kurasaua had. I am inspired by Asian filmmakers - Asian in general.

You did your ipad finger painting shows in rented u-hauls? bet you have stories.

Yes, and it was fun. I would get a crew and rent a U-Haul. We'd pull up to the pop up spot and set up in the dark, trying to be as under the radar as possible.

I would often select big art gallery parties and park directly outside. Next about four of us would hang pictures, set up lights and my drawing demo space. We'd power the generator and lower the gate. Within twenty minutes a line would form. It was mobile and pirate. At the time, a statement on the commissions that galleries charge to use the space. 

I'd get a line of folks who would be touching my prints and the iPad button at the bottom center. Quickly learned to bring my micro-fiber and Windex with me to these pirate digital art shows. Most everyone out from the "art happenings" inside their gallery and enjoy the U-Haul. It was funny, most of the people felt uneasy, afraid as they first stepped inside the truck.  Not when they'd leave though. It was viral, social, and organic - word of mouth. The iPad Finger-painting Shows were old school on the verge on new. Those experiences and interactions got me to where I am now.

WHAT MAKES THE ALUMINUM SHEET METAL SUCH A WONDERFUL MATERIAL TO PRINT ON?

I like how extraordinary and vibrant the aluminum makes my work. The coating gives my images a luminous quality that my acyrilic painting didn't have. The coating makes is durable without the need for a protective glass. It's even waterproof. 

The rigidity of the metal plates bring to fruition my "ultra-modern Representational" style. It makes me feel good to know that the art is as durable as it is. 

DO YOU PLAN ON CONTINUING THE DENVER SERIES?

Yes. I made one in 2015 and 2016 and plan to debut each year at the Denver Center Gala to help raise money for children theater education in Denver. The DCPA means a lot to me with my acting past so it really is an honor to help. It's all about planting the creative seed, now more than ever. In 2016 at the Gala my Denver, 2015 piece was the top selling piece of art at the auction. There were lots of pieces and here comes me, no name. I fell so embraced by my city when someone reacts to the pieces with the same sort of price and affection for

I don't know what shape Denver, 2017 but I am thinking something more political. The same strong colors and lines. We will see. I am really excited to create a new Denver themed painting. I love Denver and my family has been a part of the history of Colorado for generations. 

I love my hometown. I am proud to be able to be creative in Colorado. It's the best spot for my family and creative work.

HAS YOUR ARTWORK AFFECTED YOUR FILMMAKING?

My film work through (www.reeldreams.com) and my art dance together. The more I exercise my artistic side the richer my frame becomes. When I am directing a film or documentary I see myself as painting frames. I love light, being a artist and filmmaker so when I am on set I put a lot of value of my grips. The two are interchangeable and complement each other. 

DO YOU PLAN ON CONTINUING THE DENVER SERIES?

Yes. I've made 2 so far and plan to debut each year at the Denver Center Gala to help raise money for children theater education in Denver. The DCPA means a lot to me with my acting past so it really is an honor to help. It's all about planting the creative seed, now more than ever. In 2016 at the Gala my Denver, 2015 piece was the top selling piece of art at the auction. There were lots of pieces and here comes me, no name. I felt so embraced by my city when someone reacts to the pieces with the same sort of price and affection for Colorado

ACRYLIC BASED PAINTINGS TO THE DIGITAL MEDIUM? when did this happen?

With the advent of the iPad and the ability to create things digitally captured my attention. This was right when the very first iPad was released. At first I started with abstract shapes and colors, but when I began to understand the potential of using still photography and digital painting. I would take photos in my adventures, out and about, looking for the image that captured me most. I actually did a series of 10 iPad Finger painting.

It started with a photo I took while crossing the Cook Straight on a ferry in New Zealand. The water was rocky, I wasn't feeling great so I went to the top deck. 

I looked below at the lower decks lined with mini vans and old Subarus. There were also a few open shipping containers. Inside were sheep off to slaughter. They were caged and all the same. Their cargo world full of grey and rust. I took this photo and three years later when the iPad came out started playing with what would evolve into my current technique. The vivid shadows full of color and wonderment. This contrasted against the start bleak slaughter they face. They were all done with my finger and on my iPad.