The hottest interview in town right now is talented artist and Colorado native, Topher Straus, who says he’s creating more art through the pandemic than ever. Aside from a recent article done on Topher in Colorado Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, and an upcoming feature article in a prestigious art publication out of London, he’s a sought after man of interest who continues to enhance his style.
After being in the film industry in California, and being mentored by the great award-winning director, Robert Altman, his exploration of his talents brought him back home to create digital art and original aluminum landscape paintings, acrylic canvas paintings, and limited edition aluminum prints. “I am seeing rhythm in everything which drives my compositions and lines.” Says Straus. Most impressive are his recent landscape paintings of ten National Parks named “The Parks.”
He has been an artist for 20+ years, and his work has been shown in museums, exhibits & galleries throughout the United States. With focus and determination, the visionary artist has created some dynamic artwork which can be seen in several upcoming art shows: The American Mountaineering Museum in Golden called “Colorado”; a two-person show with Howard Harris (who also works with metal). The two-person event will be debuted at the Niza Knoll Gallery on Santa Fe Drive; and a landscaped-themed exhibition, also on Santa Fe Drive, at the Bitfactory Gallery. Topher is also among a handful of artists accepted into the inaugural “Denver Fine Art Fair.”
Topher has a great sense of community. He loves nature, wildlife, cares about our environment, and he has traveled far and wide. Also dedicated to being the best father and son he can be, Topher has accepted life on his terms with his intelligence, authenticity & boundless energy.
Topher Straus has grown to become an accomplished artist with grace & tenacity.
His metal and mental toughness are stronger than ever!
Maroon Bells (Colorado) by Topher Straus
What nonprofit or community organizations are you involved with at this time? Helping out my community is paramount to me. The greatest thing I can do with my art—besides bringing positivity and happiness to people—is to use my work to raise money for organizations I believe in. I feel so blessed for the support that Colorado has given to me, and I believe giving back is my responsibility as an artist.
I achieve this in two ways: when I sell a painting, I work with the collector to donate a portion of my profit to a charity of their choosing. I am fortunate enough to work with an organization that matches any donation I make! The other way I give back is by contributing artwork to charitable organizations for their fundraising events. The first organization I contributed artwork to was the Denver Center for Performing Arts for their annual Saturday Night Alive event. Over the past four years, my work has raised $15,000 for their children’s outreach programs. This year I’ve donated to the Jaimie Beck Foundation, The Golden Civic Foundation, and Redline. I am very open to donating more so please reach out if you know of a group that would benefit.
What special techniques do you use in your process? I use modern, digital tech to create my work, but I keep things simple. I don’t obsess over the method, I put most of my attention and effort into my execution. With the use of a desk tablet and stylus that directly plug into the hardware I use, I am able to paint digitally by hand, a technique that is barely being utilized in the industry today.
I also use photography as inspiration for my artwork. Often times, I use my own photos of places around the world that I’ve traveled to. There is a special feeling and perspective you get when you’re creating a landscape that you’ve experienced yourself. You gain knowledge that can’t be expressed in words, only through color and rhythm can I describe the emotion I felt.
The other special technique I use is in the printing process. Once my digital work is done, the image is printed onto transfer paper. Then, that paper is laid over a sheet of recycled aluminum. A large press applies a very specific amount of heat and pressure to the transfer paper and aluminum, causing a reaction called ‘sublimation’. The solid ink—when pressed with enough heat and weight—turns directly into a gas, then the ink re-solidifies on top of the aluminum. Finally, the aluminum art piece is coated in a high-gloss resin to give it a mirrored finish.
Where can people see your art pieces? I display my originals and limited editions on my website TopherStraus.com and I sell open-editions on TopherStrausPrints.com. I will also be showing work at Bitfactory Gallery, Niza Knoll Gallery, and at the "Denver Art Fair" in October. In addition, I display art at a number of restaurants and cafes in the Golden and Denver areas. I will also have a solo exhibition at the American Mountaineering Museum featuring 9 of my Colorado landscapes this Summer—if the pandemic allows.
Who is the most interesting person you have ever met? Academy Award winner Robert Altman is the most interesting person I met while I was in the Hollywood film industry. I worked for Bob for a few years as his personal assistant, and I learned more from him than anyone I’ve ever met. He helped me to both understand and bridge the worlds of film and fine art through his creations of environments that expressed optical balance and narrative. These lessons can be seen in all my paintings. He also inspired me to transition from film into art at a late age as he began his film career at a later stage.
I’ve talked to Robert Downey Jr. while he was in jail which was interesting too! It’s my goal to seek the most interesting people I can find and understand what makes them special. We are all awesome, and I enjoy connection; Which is a theme of the novel I’m writing, entitled “Aloha, Love.”
What do you consider a priceless gift? My son, Oliver, is my priceless gift. Being a father to him and teaching him my craft has been an amazing journey. His art is so free, and he teaches me as well. I’m so proud of Oliver. His upcoming art show with Phil Bender at the Pirate Gallery will be my proudest moment as a father. Not bad for a 10-year-old right? He will be showcasing his emotive acrylic paintings. His easel sits beside mine, and we enjoy doing our work beside each other while we wonder through our own worlds in our heads. He is my muse and motivation for my success.
Nature is also a priceless gift that we can all find delight. Preserving nature is very important to me. Our national parks, often a subject of my work, is one of our countries greatest treasures and we should all do our best to ensure their preservation so that future generations can enjoy them too.
When in your life did you realize you had artistic talent? I was forced into art as part of my core year at Syracuse University Film School. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of frame and composition or art history. I was thrown into classes with peers who had produced art their whole lives. It was such a struggle at first. While they created advanced work, I had to learn all the basics. My style was built from the ground up, and I realized my inexperience was a gift. I became comfortable with my errors and used them to motivate and guide my creations. Never would I have imagined that I would be a full-time artist. Now, it is who I am.
After college, I used my art as a form of self-expression. I never showed my creations to others. In fact, I didn’t share my art until I endured the roughest period of my life. I was going through a divorce, and I needed a career change. My friends encouraged me to contact some galleries and a few years later— after my first show at Denver’s Bitfactory— I had exhibited artwork in 15 shows and museums across the country.
What other hobbies or interests does a talented man as you have? I enjoy fitness and the outdoors. Living up in Genesee, I try to get outside to enjoy the mountains. I ride my bike, take hikes with my dog, and play soccer with my son.
It’s been tough to do much else during quarantine and nature has been a refuge for me during this period of lockdown. I’ve made so much art inspired by my observations during the quarantine.
What is one of your favorite places in the world? The Island of Kauai is my muse for many of my art pieces. I actually did a whole series of photographs of the tropical paradise, capturing not only the dreamy, idealistic coast, but also the grungy, rougher spots of the island. My ideal day on the Island consists of beach yoga and open water swimming in the stunning Hanalei Bay.
Travel is an important inspiration for my work and I have been all over the world; Hong Kong, Thailand, and New Zealand are my favorite international destinations. Before returning back to my home state of Colorado I lived in Wanaka, New Zealand. Shooting commercials in the dreamy mountains of New Zealand was amazing.
Where is your focus these days; and what’s up in the future for the talented Topher Straus?
I am tenacious and goal-oriented. In 5 years, I will be one of the top artists in Colorado, while also being very involved in my community, and hopefully showing internationally!
How did you come to understand your own artistic rhythm? By learning the technical aspects of painting in college, I’m now capable of applying my knowledge of color combinations to my digital creations. My life took a very dark turn a few years ago, and I expressed that sadness and despair in my artwork, but I decided to use my art as a positive source of motivation. I stopped using clashing, contrasting colors and lines, and I began to utilize the skills I learned in school to create fluid, blending color combos and lines that complement the happy feeling of my landscapes.
What artist do you admire the most? I admire so many artists and that’s why I am so excited about my two-person show with Howard Harris. He is amazing and also works on metal. We will be doing a ‘masters show’ with our works inspired by Picasso, Miró and O’Keeffe at the Niza Knoll Gallery in Denver soon.
The inspiration from these artists has pushed me in new directions and to create new pieces that I am so excited to share with the public! I did a Picasso-inspired Guernica painting about the Covid-19 pandemic, and I’ve also been working on a painting using Matisse’s bright color pallet. I will be employing their older techniques into my new landscapes.
What is something you would still like to learn to do? Learning is everything in life—that’s what my high school education at Kent Denver taught me. Currently, I am learning how to play the banjo and didgeridoo.
Who are your fans & followers? Most of my fans are other appreciators of natural environments. My National Parks series has been especially praised by the outdoor adventuring community, and I was so pleased to share my National Parks series with some of them in person last summer, during my solo exhibit at the American Mountaineering Museum.
On Instagram, I’ve got over 30,000 followers from all over the world and it’s been an amazing platform to get my vision worldwide. I never thought it would gain so much traction and I’m extremely grateful for the positive feedback I’ve been receiving.
What is the most important lesson your parents taught you? My Mother, Jean Dennis, has always been a caring exemplary individual. She showed me we are all special and always believed in me. I try to embody that love and attention in the parentage of my own son. She is an active, strong woman who is always helping to make the world a better place.
Recently, I was feeling very low and that I couldn’t make change. My mom showed me even during these odd times we can. She sent emails to the neighbors about giving money to the under-appreciated garbage collectors. Lots of friends in the neighborhood participated, and we made their day together. We can always make changes to help the people around us.