Brian Sindler, "Ephraim Yacht Club," 2013, acrylic on board, 6 x 6 in., Primitive (Chicago)
Brian Sindler, "Ephraim Yacht Club," 2013, acrylic on board, 6 x 6 in., Primitive (Chicago)

There is a lot of superb art being made these days; here, writer Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual. Based in Northbrook, Illinois, Brian Sindler creates both plein air and studio landscapes.

Brian Sindler (b.1957) makes plein air paintings that come to life with just a few simple but strategically placed brushstrokes, carrying all the correct information. Some of his paintings are so simplified, in fact, that they border on abstract. That strict focus on design — large planes of color, strong geometric shapes — strips away extraneous visual detail and allows us to focus on the feeling of a certain landscape or vista, particularly what the artist himself felt when viewing it.

The 6-x-6-inch plein air sketch “Ephraim’s Yacht Club,” for instance, transmits an immediate sense of moodiness and mystery. It’s a scene that takes place, one might imagine, on a midsummer night, with mist so gray and smoky that the silhouette of the yacht and slight flicker of umber light become one with the surrounding sea and sky. This simple yet powerful piece hits all the right notes, possessing the multi-layered, lyrical beauty for which both painters’ and musicians’ nocturnes are known.

Sindler’s subdued and more modern take on the landscape derives from his varied training and influences. He did not start painting until his 30s and was at first a figurative and still life artist working in a Picasso-inspired Cubist style. He then trained at Chicago’s American Academy of Art, followed by four years of study at the atelier-style School of Representational Art nearby. During that time, Sindler’s work moved into more structured realism, with a stronger emphasis on accurate draftsmanship, an understanding of form and light, and three-dimensional believability.

Not long after graduating, Sindler discovered plein air painting, and this has been his genre of choice since. After an initial focus on the color and light of impressionism, he moved through a full-spectrum stylistic evolution to arrive where he is today: a minimalist approach that acknowledges and incorporates elements of abstraction, impressionism, realism, and tonalism.

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