I had the pleasure and the privilege of attending an exhibition of Stephen Lyman original paintings and prints at the Coeur d’Alene galleries in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho recently. I counted at least seventeen pieces, with five being original paintings and the remainder being either offset or giclee’ prints. I had never seen a Lyman original before, and that was the main draw for me without a doubt.
Stephen Lyman Exhibition 2011
If you aren’t familiar with the art of Stephen Lyman, you can go to http://www.greenwichworkshop.com/ and view a slide show of his many prints that have been published since 1983. Stephen Lyman was born in 1957 and died in Yosemite National Park in 1996.
Stephen Lyman Originals on Exhibit
The five Stephen Lyman originals at the show were “High Creek Crossing,” “Paw Print on Dry Creek Bed,” “The Raptors Watch,” “Song of the Meadow,” and “Woodland Haven”. “High Creek Crossing sold for $40,000. “Paw Print on a Dry Creek Bed” was for sale for $5500. An interesting note on this painting is that I have a catalog from a Stephen Lyman show in 1996, in Carmel, CA. In this catalog that painting was titled “Treasures on a Dry Streambed.” It was offered for sale at that show for $4500. “The Raptors Watch was not for sale, and neither was “Song of the Meadow.” “Woodland Haven” was for sale for $25,000.
Some of the prints of note displayed were “Evening Star,” “A Walk in the Woods,” “Stellar Autumn,” “Riparian Riches,” “October Flight,” and “Bear and Blossoms.”
While all of Stephen Lyman’s work is very impressive, I though the most impressive was the original of “High Creek Crossing.” This painting measures out at 26″ high by 72″ long inside of a beautiful natural wood frame. Freaking Awesome. It was very interesting to see that original painting hanging on the wall, and right across from it, a giclee’ print of that very same original. The colors were right on, no difference that I could tell. Compliments to the publisher.
I wanted to see Stephen Lyman’s original work to check out the brush strokes, textures, edges, craftmanship, etc. Let me say that I really like Stephen Lyman’s work a lot, and I am no art critic, so take it for what it’s worth. Here are some of my thoughts gathered from my own eyeballs…
Brush Strokes – Virtually none. The detail was exquisite. Foreground, background, and everywhere in between. Every rock, tree branch, leaf, rendered beautifully without worring about brushstrokes.Even though there were not a lot of brush strokes in these particular paintings, it seemed to me that they were painted deliberately and with confidence.
Texture– Again, virtually none. What texture you will find would be what Lyman painted there, not by the use of heavy paint, spackling, or a palette knife.
Edges – Mostly hard, modeled edges, with a very few exceptions.
Craftmanship – The skill level of Stephen Lyman’s paintings are extremely high, I think it goes without saying. I, for one, admire a master craftsman in any endeavor, painting included. He is most definitely that. Rocks, snow, trees, animals, whatever, all painted with care, skill, and knowledge of his subjects.
Substrate– “High Creek Crossing” was painted on some kind of board or masonite. I could not tell for sure about the other originals, They could have been on canvas or board. It doesn’t matter to me, what matters is that the painting is well done and is going to last a long freaking time.
Framing – The frames were excellent, all different, and professional, which one should expect from an artist of this caliber. Whether the framing was done by one, or by many framers, they were all appropriate to the piece they were attached to.
Stephen Lyman Prints on Exhibit
Prints – Some Stephen Lyman’s prints were giclees’, some were offset, some were framed, some were not, all were of the highest quality. You see a Stephen Lyman print here or there, you may see a couple in a magazine, or online, and they look good. To see so many all in one place, done over many years, looking fantastic, was very impressive.
Not knowing when to quit, a week later I went back to the show a second time, and “High Creek Crossing” was still there. I would like to personally thank the collector who bought that painting for taking so long to come and get it so I could enjoy it one more time. Some prints had sold, some were gone, and their were several people wandering in and out of the gallery, coming in just to see the Lyman’s. Even though he has been gone since 1996, I just know his work is still greatly appreciated by thousands of people, including myself .
Back to the most important thing, the art. Better than I thought it would be. If you ever get a chance to see Stephen Lyman’s originals or prints, especially giclees’, somewhere besides a book or online, I highly recommend making the effort. Even if you don’t like real tight work, or work that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of emotion, I think you would have to appreciate the skill, detail, and craftmanship of his work.
What I like most besides the work itself I think, is that I have no doubt that Stephen Lyman was one with his work and his subject matter. He took the time to paint his vision of the animals and wilderness he admired. He loved it. He lived it. It shows in his paintings and in his affection for his subjects. They are rendered with knowledge, respect, and skill. While so many of his paintings are exceptional, it is those campfire paintings that are legendary. One person who had met and visited with Stephen Lyman in the past mentioned to me that he was also something else…a real nice guy. How about that! A good guy and a great artist. He loved nature, and while I wouldn’t know for sure, I’ll bet he never left a candy wrapper on the ground when he left his camp site.
Good on you Stephen Lyman, your time on this earth was too short, but it was not wasted.
An afterthought…Upon seeing many different Stephen Lyman prints all in the same place, I noticed that the hand signatures that were used to “authenticate” the prints were more of a distraction than anything. If an artist wants to make their signature a distraction on their own painting, that’s up to the artist. More care should be taken when someone else is doing the signing. Especially on art of Stephen Lyman.
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