Topher Straus paints iconic landscapes in a bold and colorful way, beginning with reference photos, often taken from personal outdoor experiences. Topher isolates the best colors in these images with a stylus and uses contour lines to describe the horizontal, diagonal or vertical quality of a landscape.
When the painting is completed, Topher prints it on special paper with dye, then transfers it onto a large aluminum sheet. The result is a luminous image that allows light to reflect through to the base metal. Finishing two pieces of artwork a month, Topher has over 100 of his paintings on his website and displays dozens in Colorado galleries.
Before becoming a professional painter in Genesee, Colorado, you had a film career in New Zealand. Why’d you decide to move back where you grew up and dedicate yourself to your art?
I wanted to raise my son, Oliver Viking, CEO of my company, in the place I grew up and really adore. I’ve lived all over the world—New Zealand, London, L.A., New York—and everywhere I went, I carried a Colorado flag with me, dreaming of moving back when I’m successful. But it took me moving back here to find my success.
What’s Oliver's role as CEO?
He’s the catalyst for me sharing my art. For 30 years, while I was making video games and directing films, I was secretly producing art. It took me going through a divorce and my son saying, “Papa, it’s time for you to share your work” for me to decide to open up.
He gives me amazing feedback, through the eyes of a child and the pure essence of what’s important. My work is really free, and he helps keep it free. His desk is right beside my desk, so he does his homework while I’m painting. His easel for his art is right beside my easel. We’re two peas in a pod.
He also helps out with social media: My Instagram account @CreativeTopher has over 100,000 followers. And I’ve got a team of people helping me out, so I’m able to focus solely on my art. All I do all day is paint happy little trees; it’s awesome.
Besides landscapes, where else do you find inspiration?
In addition to my ever-growing National Park series, which is more than halfway done, and painting Colorado ski areas, I find inspiration in everyday details of life. There is beauty in everything, and it’s all about the perspective in which we see it and appreciate it.
Last year, Breckenridge Gallery put about 15 of your works alone in a separate permanent gallery space. How has reception been and what’s on your horizon?
It’s been amazing to have my own gallery space. There’s been explosive growth. In Colorado, I now have my work in Aspen Art Gallery, Topher Straus Gallery by Breckenridge Gallery, R Gallery Art Bar in Boulder, Slate Gray Gallery in Telluride, Uptripping in Winter Park, Vail International Gallery and Meyer Gallery in Park City, Utah. I have a bunch of ski-themed paintings coming soon.
In my wildest dreams, I could have never imagined that things would have turned out this way. With that comes the responsibility to give back to my community. I’ve raised $75,000 in the last three years for various charities and organizations throughout Colorado. I’m always open to collaborating with nonprofits and helping out my community.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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