For painter and sculptor Aaron Yount, answering the call of the wild in his artwork could well be down to his DNA.
The wildlife artist was working in Wyoming when he discovered something on a map: Yount’s Peak. Turns out, the peak was named for Yount’s great-great-great uncle, Harry Yount, who was the first Park Ranger in Yellowstone National Park. Yount was delighted and impressed.
“I show my pass at the gate of every national park and it gets me no favoritism,” the artist joked. “But it makes it fun for me to trace those footsteps. It makes it special, and hopefully it comes through in my work.”
Yount’s artwork is currently on display at the McLean County Arts Center in Bloomington. His collection, dubbed “East Meets West,” is a part of a larger show entitled “Prairie to Peak” that is currently up through April 10.
Yount finds the large scale of the Rocky Mountain area to be immensely appealing and features the animals he finds there—bison, elk, grizzly bears—frequently in his work. He photographs his subjects, then brings them to life in his studio.
His paintings and sculptures are highly realistic, capturing the animals in their natural environment. You really have to be there, explained Yount. And that takes patience and luck, such as with the oil painting “Morning Run,” which depicts an elk looking majestic in the early morning hours.
“I went out the day before with a photographer friend in Grand Teton, and he had described this area to me. He loved to set up there. So, I copied him the next morning and the elk showed up, just as we’d hoped. And the light was really nice that morning. I’ve returned since and it doesn’t always happen twice, so I was glad I was there on that day. Then, back at the studio, I put the painting together.”
Yount also created the frame for this particular work. “The feeling of the painting extends beyond the painting and into the frame.”
Oils, canvas, brushes and sculpting tools all factor into creating a successful work for Yount. And so does honesty.
“I’ve heard portrait artists speak of how to connect the viewer with your subject, and I think it boils down to being honest with the subject. The more you try to relate to the subject and give it the attention it needs, that will translate to the viewer, without a doubt.”
“My point in doing the work and showing it here it to share my experiences and take people on a little bit of a trip to see these animals.”
“I hope to grow as an artist. Going out finding the animals always presents new ideas. You can have a list of things you want to see, but when you get out into nature, it almost always gives me a different idea that I didn’t see coming.”
Sometimes, that thing you don’t see coming can quite take your breath away.
“My wife and I were out in Colorado and we were ready to head home, but we stayed one more morning. We hit the trail in search of Steller’s Jays – they're like a blue jay, but they have a black head. Hadn’t seen them the whole trip, so we were going to get that last one off our list, and I found ‘em.”
“Earlier, I had told my wife, ‘This is a real black bear morning.’ And sure enough, a black bear was on the trail with us. I was preoccupied with the Steller’s Jays, because I was thrilled. And she maybe had to grab my shoulder three times, saying ‘black bear!’ before I turned around.”
“I did get between the bear and her, and then got my photographs. We decided it was best to let the bear go on its way. But that bear will show up in a painting, for sure.”
Aaron Yount’s work is up as part of “Prairie to Peak” at the McLean County Arts Center through April 10. It then travels to New Jersey’s Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum for an exhibition in the spring.
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