Sunday, March 17, 2013

Color, Realism and Simple Moments Inspire Landscape Painter’s Journey

When Amery Bohling first visited the Grand Canyon as a child, her main interest was cracking open a geode at the local souvenir shop.  The next time she visited the Canyon she was in her 20’s and, as a new painter, found herself fascinated by the challenge and the colors.

“At the time I was mostly painting in California since I was living there,” she said.  “I liked painting the Canyon so much that I kept driving back to paint it.  It only made sense to move back to Arizona to be closer to my favorite subject.”

The Canyon has the cool and warm pallets that Bohling loves to paint.  She soaks in the atmosphere and the Canyon’s muted to vivid colors and contrast, pointing to the stratifications in the Canyon’s appearance and the natural desert flora as the perfect challenge.  “The layers vary from reds and violets to pale yellows and whites,” she explained.  “And it’s not too green.”

Bohling intentionally seeks out dynamic color combinations that occur in nature, and she prefers a balance of shadows and light in her paintings -- something the Canyon provides in abundance.   She also prefers sunshine in her paintings, even if only a patch of light.

“Generally I am out the door in the early morning to get those blue shadows and hot reds and yellows in the light,” she said.  “I will seek out a scene that is either backlit or side lit.  Full sun and full shadow is not as compelling to me.”

Winter is Bohling’s favorite season at the Canyon, in fact, and she has been known to wait in snowdrifts for the right moment in order to paint.  During her most recent trip, the north rim was completely socked in with clouds, she said, but that didn’t stop her from exploring. 

“I walked all the way out to the furthest point,” she said.  “I couldn't see a thing, but it was still amazing.”

Bohling, now 36 with a thriving career as a painter, has had an interest in art since she was a child, starting with drawing. Her first subjects were her sister and the people who appeared in the photos in National Geographic magazine.  A bit shy as a youngster, she used her drawing talents to break the ice and connect with her classmates.  

“Many times I traded drawings for friendship bracelets and trinkets other kids made,” she said.  “During lunch time I would draw large figures in the ground.  I wasn't always brave to go up and talk to others, so this was a way I could bring them to me.”

When Bohling was 16, she took her first formal workshop with cowboy pencil artist Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt.  Bohling still has the doodle -- a cowboy and hat – that Shufelt sketched for her during his workshop.  It was where she drew her first nude—about the time she was learning how to drive.

“It still amazes me how long ago that was,” she said.  “I know I am young, but I also started seriously pursuing art at a young age.  Taking classes are some of my favorite memories.”

It was during Shufelt’s class that Bohling was convinced that she should be a pencil artist.  She drew for a while, gained her confidence, and then decided to work with color.   But it didn’t work out as planned right away.

“Every time I colored something it got worse,” she shared.

Looking back, Bohling sees that her approach with painting – even when she was a teenager, has been to master her current skills before moving on to another challenge.  It is a natural process for her as an artist, but one that she was completely unaware of early on.

“I learned about value and drawing before plunging into something as complicated as applying color,” she said.  “I was naturally leery of color.  I could ruin a lovely value drawing in a moment by adding color.”

She eventually took the plunge with color—in moderation, she explains.  Starting with colored pencils to tint a girl’s cheeks, for example, then moving on to watercolors that would allow her to keep her value drawings intact.  She then tried pastels, and eventually graduated to oil.

“I took my time in learning how to work with each medium,” she said. “Transitioning to oil was the hardest.  I spent a lot of effort learning how to manipulate the way water dries on paper and it was so different to work with oil.  I can't blow or add salt to an oil painting to give it texture.  I’m still learning different ways to apply the paint.  But it’s such fun to learn a new trick.  I also really love the diversity of the medium.”

Bohling also seems to enjoy the diversity of her favorite subjects.  From the majestic and colorful Grand Canyon and other expansive Western landscapes—the terrain, flora, fauna and the people who inhabit her paintings, to the quiet slices of small town life she beautifully captures in her Americana scenes, Bohling covers a lot of ground.

“I’m not a romantic,” she explained.  “I am just so inspired by simple reality.  I prefer what is happening in front of me at a certain moment.  There is a beauty in those moments that is overlooked or missed since they can be fleeting.”

Bohling understands that immediacy and impermanence are a part of the landscape artist’s journey--central to capturing the natural world in a painting.  She knows that light, color and shadows – and even a scene’s natural inhabitants, during a particular season at any time of day can bring her what she hopes to paint, and in a moment it can change or be gone.  But being outside is essential.

“Going outside renews my interest,” she said.  If I’ve not been outside my studio, my works get a little stiff.  When it feels like such a happy place to be outdoors, I know it was overdue.”

Her favorite places to paint include San Miguel, Mexico, Canyon Lake, Wyoming for its aspens and waterfalls, and the Grand Canyon. In order to absorb the essence of where she is painting, Bohling prefers to be there to see and experience its personality. 

“For me, I love the sound the most,” she said of the Grand Canyon.  “It’s so quiet, you can stand still and just listen to the wind for hours.  There is a calm to it.  The Canyon also has a rich history giving it a truly inspiring personality.  I can't help but keep these things in mind as I am painting.”


Amery Bohling earned a fine arts degree from University of Arizona, which included a year abroad at the Marchutz School of Art in Aix en Provence, France, where she studied Plein Air landscape under the tradition of French impressionists. She also studied extensively at Scottsdale Artists' School.  Her awards include Best in Show at the Scottsdale Beaux Arts 2010 Instructor’s Exhibition, the Alden Bryan Memorial Medal for traditional landscape painting at the Allied Artists of America Fall 2008 Exhibition in New York and their 2007 John Young Hunter Memorial Award.  In April 2006, she received the Emerging Artist Award at the California Art Club's 95th Annual Gold Medal Show.  

Bohling is a member of the Grand Canyon 7, and participates in art exhibitions across the country including the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art, Cowgirl Up, and many others.  Bohling has been featured in Western Art Collector, American Artist, American Art Collector, and Southwest Art magazines.  She teaches workshops at Scottsdale Artists’ School and is involved in the California Art Club, Arizona Plein Air Painters Society, and Oil Painters of America.  Bohling is represented by Abend Gallery in Denver, Colorado and Mountain Trails Gallery in Sedona, Arizona.  She has her own gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona – Amery Bohling Fine Art.  To learn more about Amery, or to view her paintings, visit her website at


Photos above, from top to bottom:
“Angel's Window," 16x20
“Dressed in Snow," 30x40
“Teton Sunset," 18x24
“Yaki Point," 18x24
“Montana Mist," 24x30
“Daybreak on Canyon Lake," 24x30


Scottsdale Artists’ School, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was founded in 1983 by a group of dedicated artists and community leaders. Tucked away in the heart of the Scottsdale Arts District, located in a charming historic schoolhouse, the School features over 160 workshops and classes taught annually by the nation’s leading artists.  Scottsdale Artists’ School is considered a leader in traditional, representational art training for all skill levels—from absolute beginner to professional artist.

--Written by Denise Kronsteiner

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful paintings! Enjoyed learning more about Amery's artisitic journey.