Christopher Owen Nelson Artist Review

Colorado Artist Christopher Owen Nelson


In modern times unconventional mediums used in the artistic process captivate a questioning audience, asking themselves “How?”. Different mediums open up a host of possibilities so today’s artists can create beyond the classical traditions. Recycled art is made entirely from recycled materials such as plastic bags and trash that is found and repurposed to become works of art. Temporary and fleeting artwork made with food and beverage that vary from coffee to jell-o. Environmental artwork leads to designs carved into sand or built with stone that are placed in nature to be slowly broken down back to their original purpose. New and unconventional mediums challenge even the most practiced artists to push the limits of art and their own abilities.  

Paradigm II, Found Aluminum Cans, 2012 Paul Villinski
Paradigm II, Found Aluminum Cans, 2012
Paul Villinski 
From the Tree House, 2019 Christopher Owen Nelson
From the Tree House, 2019
Christopher Owen Nelson

Artist Christoper Owen Nelson has found new and captivating ways to capture the landscapes he loves. To push beyond the traditional painted landscape, Christopher innovated his own medium and style of carving into acrylic and painting along the way. Christoper works in reverse and from behind, meaning he paints the background before carving in to paint the trees from the back of the thick sheet of acrylic. The result is a shiny surface that has dimension within the acrylic, moving as the viewer moves around the painting. Christopher’s work ranges from photo realism to contemporary abstractions that most often focus on trees. The unconventional medium Christoper works in sets him apart from all landscape painters for its uniqueness and ingenuity. 


Principals of Art:

: Space is demonstrated to create dimension in the composition. Christopher demonstrates space and depth by balancing the negative surrounding space with the positive space of the carved trees. In From the Tree House the background negative space is blurred and unfocused in contrast to the highly detailed tree of the foreground. These changes in detail provide depth and a feeling of infinity in the paintings as the background recedes beyond sight. 

Color: Christopher often chooses to paint in similar color tones that work nicely together and can convey a mood. In From the Tree House the color pallet is warm with soft touches of cool blue. These colors contrast against each other, and the warm tones of the sunset are reflected in the warm tones of the tree. Christoper’s expert color use demonstrates his fundamental understanding of color theory.

Shape: Curving and undulating shapes compose the branches of the trees in Christopher’s paintings. In From the Tree House note how the shapes all originate from the left side of the acrylic and weave into the composition. These bending shapes lead the eye around the composition and overlap to display depth. 

Form: Circle is to shape as sphere is to form. Christopher breathes life into the trees by sculpting from behind so the shapes protrude within the glassy surface. To heighten this depth of form, Christopher paints with deep changing values to show shadow and highlights which rounds the trunks and branches to look and feel realistic. 

Value: Value relates to the tint/shade of a hue (color). Every color can be tinted by adding white or shaded by adding black. The purpose of considering value in a painting is to help create both dimension and a mood. Christoper works with strong changes in value to add a dramatic flare to his paintings. Note the highlights on the branches in From the Tree House that show the viewer the light source and sit boldly against the shadowed portions. Not only does this add drama, it also heightens the sense of depth and reality. 

Texture: The subtle carved texture that Christopher creates is noticeable when the painting is viewed up close and walked around. The viewer can see the artist’s touch and appreciate the dimensions created within the acrylic as it shifts in view.  

Line: Angular and curving lines compose the branches that intersect across the composition. These lines lead the eye around the painting as they change direction and overlap. 

Expression original artwork by Christopher Owen Nelson for sale at Raitman Art Galleries

Principals of Design:

Balance: One strong dominating branch or tree is counterbalanced by smaller less detailed branches or trees in Christopher’s compositions. The soft background provides space for emptiness that also balances the fine details in the trees. You can see in From the Tree House how the dominate tree branch originating from lower left is counterbalanced by the many surrounding smaller branches. 

Unity: The unity of a piece is what creates a sense of completeness. A cohesive style unifies Christopher’s work both individually and throughout his entire body of work. In From the Tree House the painting is unified by the continued styling of the tree branches and the color pallet that connects the background to the foreground.  

Variety: Variety is what adds interest into a work of art. The variety in details is important in Christopher’s work. From the Tree House shows clear changes between the hazy background and the detailed trees. This variety helps balance the composition as well as makes it more visually interesting for the viewer. 

Emphasis: Emphasis is what the artist uses to create a focal point. Focal points can vary viewer to viewer, but a truly successful composition will have one clear focal point that the eye is continually drawn to over and over again. The clear emphasis in Christopher’s work is the highly detailed and dramatically valued trees. The viewer can not help but to get lost in the beautiful details of the winding tree branches. 

Movement: Movement implies motion is a snapshot of time. To make the viewers eye move around the composition, sharp changes in direction are created with the tree branches. Due to the branches overlapping and changing direction, the eye is subconsciously stimulated to move about the composition and take it all in. The image appears still in nature, but the highlights on the tree remind the viewer that the sun is setting and moving.

Pattern: Think of pattern as the visual skeleton that organizes the parts of a composition. This underlying structure uses consistent and regular repetition. You can have both natural and man made pattern. Irregular and organic patterns are demonstrated in the tree branches as they repeat across the composition. This pattern unifies the piece and is subconsciously aesthetically pleasing to the viewer. 

Perspective: Perspective is what creates a three-dimensional painting vs a two dimensional painting. To show dimension Christopher recedes the background from the viewer with distortion, fading, and blending set against his highly detailed foregrounds. The viewer’s personal perspective will also alter the appearance of the piece as they walk around the painting. Due to the sculpture being carved from behind, the viewer can see the created textured set within the thick acrylic and will see it take on new forms as they view it from new perspectives. 


Christopher works back to front on a thick sheet of acrylic. The thick clear sheet of acrylic is placed front side down as Christopher begins with his background colors. Layer after layer, Christopher carves into the acrylic with personally designed tools to carve forward and continue painting. This long process requires Christopher to think backwards and he often resists the urge to flip the piece over to check the progression. There is no going back in this permeate process, only opportunities to move forward. The final steps are done with a blowtorch that burnishes the paint and smooths the corners and surface of the acrylic. In this stage the acrylic become malleable and the artist can manipulate the source to bend as he often chooses to do.

Billows original artwork by Christopher Owen Nelson for sale at Raitman Art Galleries located in Breckenridge and Vail Colorado

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