"For a guy my age, I have a lot of energy," says Michael Charron. "It sounds cool, but it's sort of an affliction." The contemporary realist expels some of that energy in the summer when, funded by various collectors, he disappears into the Colorado wilderness with a pack of llamas and a few hundred pounds of gear and paints seldom-seen landscapes. Charron calls his collections "Colorado Pictorial Essays," and displays them annually at the Gilmore Art Center, a casual, dual-use gallery space adjoined to Mile High Framing that functions as the Curtis Street Church on Sundays. This year's installment, showing through December 20, features 34 plein air paintings from the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, along with several larger oils, a self-portrait, new abstract rock paintings dubbed geoabstractions and a photo slideshow from Charron's most recent journey.
But he had other journeys ahead. "I was one of those people who had a proclivity for altering the state of consciousness, and it just started to unravel for me," the artist explains. "I got sober, and I started painting." Thirteen years ago Charron bought a few llamas, and the following summer he took them into the wild for the first of his lengthy painting expeditions through the backcountry.
"You can throw a dead cat in Denver and hit an artist," says Charron. To distinguish himself, Charron brings something unique to the landscape collector -- views of Colorado that have never been painted. "They've been photographed maybe, but not painted," he adds. "If you like the outdoors but are sick of seeing the Maroon Bells, I've got something for you."
Charron's llama treks take at least two weeks to complete. "This year was a really good example of why you need to dedicate that kind of time," says Charron, since rain and snow shut him down for days at a time. "Even if it is very cloudy, I can't work because nobody buys flat paintings," he adds,
Intensive time in nature is much more than a business practicality, though: Charron's connection with the natural world is what activates his work. The artist has painted upwards of 400 pictures of the Zirkel Wilderness, that large stretch between Steamboat Springs and Walden that's just south of Wyoming, and his heartfelt appreciation for the natural world shows in every piece.
Continue reading for more on Charron and his painting treks.