Meet the Experts: Topher Straus

Written by Colleen Smith

Topher Straus publicly launched his fine-art career only about four years ago. Already, he ranks as one of Colorado’s most popular artists. His mixed-media land- scapes landed in dozens of exhibitions, and he has widespread gallery representation. A Colorado native, Straus’s oeuvre is heavy on large-scale Rocky Mountain landscapes sublimed on a metal substrate in collaboration with fabricators.

You’re a fourth gen- eration Coloradan. What inspires you about the state? 

“Everywhere I’ve lived, whether in London, New Zealand, Los Angeles, or New York, I’ve carried a Colorado flag and put it on a wall and dreamed of the day I’d move back here as a successful creative. It took me coming back to Colorado to find suc- cess. I still have that Colorado flag hanging across from my bed. It’s not just the state’s nature, it’s also the people that make Colorado special. I know a lot of people are against growth here, but growth is inevitable, especially when a place is as special as this one. People coming here are bringing positives: culture, amazing new foods, and art. My goal as an artist is to be a representative of Colorado. I love this state. It’s where my heart and soul are, where I choose to raise my son.”

Which works from your family’s art collection had the most influence upon you?

“I was heavily influenced by Matisse. I grew up with my great-grandmother’s collection that includ- ed Matisse paintings, and works by Picasso, Miró, and Gauguin, but looking at Matisse made me whimsical and happy. Matisse was an absolute mas- ter of color and com- position. His bright, happy colors capture people’s imagination, and I try to incorpo- rate his palette to a certain degree.”

Your work has an easygoing, up-lift- ing look and feel. Is that intentional? 

“Yes, because it’s where I am in life. I’m really happy. I want my work to inspire people not only to go outside and experi- ence and preserve nature, but also to experience love for oneself and for the state of Colorado.”

You’re also trained as a filmmaker. How does this inspire your painting?

“I actually started on the other side of the camera as a child actor on a local televi- sion channel. I did 350 commercials before age 18, and then I went to Syracuse University in New York to get my film degree. The prerequisite courses were art, and I’d never done any art and didn’t under- stand why I had to study art to get a film degree. But film is art. I learned to express myself visually. Com- position and framing helped me understand iconic perspectives and create cinematic awe with my art. As a result, my originals are big: 45 inches by 90 inches. My limited editions are 30 inches by 60 inches.”

As an avid outdoorsman, did you always realize you’d paint landscapes?

No, I didn’t think I’d be captivated by landscapes the way I am. I’m an artist and an athlete, so I get outside every day, sometimes twice a day, whether skiing or hiking or riding my bike. Basically, I was asked to do a com- mission for a friend, and I turned him down several times because I thought landscapes were boring and didn’t think I could do it the right way. He pleaded with me enough that I tried it, and it worked.”

How do you stay inspired?

“I meditate. I do a gratitude meditation in the morning and usually another medi- tation every night—a lot of visualization. A lot of my work comes to me in my dreams. I use meditation for my art and for my soul.”

Tell us about your fundraising.

“I approach organizations that grab myheart and are doing good, especially to help with food inse- curity or conservation efforts. I’ve helped raise over $75,000 in about four years. We all need purpose in life. This is what drives me: to use my art to help out all kinds of people in need.”

Tell us a bit about your proprietary process.

“I like to say my work is a combination of experience, collage, and photography. I paint using a digital pad and stylus—a very tedious, arduous pro- cess that takes from one month to up to nine months per piece. I put on virtual-reality goggles and immerse myself in a landscape, and all of sudden I see the balance of colors. I hear a rhythm in the landscape.”

A sort of synesthesia?


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