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What's So Great About: Jill Soukup

Chico Basin Percherons 48" x 72" copyright Jill Soukup 2015

She has been called one of the '10 stars that will help define the future of Western Art'. Her work has been featured in countless magazines, including Western Art Collector, American Art Collector, Western Art & Architecture, and Canvas REBEL to name just a few. She's been featured on podcasts, offers classes on YouTube, and leads some of the most intriguing in-person paint workshops out there. But is she really that good?

Here's what's so great about Jill Soukup.

THE FUNDAMENTALS. It's not every day you hear someone talk about their passion for composition and color theory, but Jill Soukup is one such artist. Her work is so visually pleasing to look at, and her application of paint so seemingly effortless, that the structure on which it all hangs might easily go unnoticed. But the framework is all there, evident to anyone who will take the time to look. Her draftsmanship is SO solid, her compositions are intentional and bold, and her colors are rich and layered. I mean ... I can't be the only one that gets excited about aggressive cropping or beautifully layered paint?

White Horse Rhythms 36.25" x 40.25" copyright Jill Soukup 2020

THE MARK-MAKING. With an absolutely stunning use of color, layered with beautifully gestural mark-making, Jill Soukup's work comes together to create something that feels both real and ethereal. At first blush this is all representational painting, but a closer look reveals much greater complexity. What first appears as highly rendered detail is merely a masterful 'suggestion' using the fewest possible strokes. Each work is a beautifully balanced combination of light and dark values, soft and hard edges, real and abstract regions. Her application of paint is so confident and versatile - sometimes implying movement, other times lending history and interest to a completely static surface, with each stroke leaving some hint of what came before it.  

Green Criss Cross 72" x 72" copyright Jill Soukup 2011

THE INSTRUCTION. You can marvel at the work, but you can't follow Jill Soukup very long without learning something. Her Instagram account is a gold mine of finished works, sketches, and thumbnails that lend an insight into her process. She has led online workshops, joined podcasts, and found countless ways to invest in other artists. Perhaps her most significant teaching investment are her regular workshops at Ranchlands (a family ranching and conservation business that owns and manages livestock operations in the American West), a destination learning opportunity that incorporates intensive art instruction on a working ranch. What more could you ask for? 

Saddled 28" x 36" copyright Jill Soukup 2017

THE PERSONAL NARRATIVE. Call it kismet, destiny, or providence - there is something deeply satisfying about a person doing exactly what they were meant to do. The story of Jill Soukup is exactly that. A girl who loved horses and knew by the age of six that she wanted to be an artist. Combine the dreams and passion of that young painter with years of learning and concerted effort and you get this spectacular result. I can't help but think that her personal history lends a little extra 'something' to the work we see today. And her story should be shared with every aspiring artist, no matter how young. 

Saddled Dark Horse 20" x 16" copyright Jill Soukup 2013

Fundamentals. Mark-Making. Instruction. Personal Narrative. These are just a few of the things that make Jill Soukup's work so engaging. I didn't even have a chance to mention that her architectural work is just as compelling as her western work. Do yourself a favor and take the time to look at her prolific body of work. Then take the time to tell an aspiring artist about her story. Who knows - you may inspire the next Jill Soukup.

Visit her website, follow her on Instagram, or maybe keep an eye out for that next Ranchlands workshop experience. You won't regret it.

What's So Great About: Mark Maggiori

Heartbeats 45" x 60" copyright Mark Maggiori

Earlier this month, Mark Maggiori opened his latest solo show, Beyond the Golden Skies, at Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. There was no shortage of hype going into the show, and the Insta-verse has been abuzz with videos and reaction from his uber-successful opening. Sixteen paintings sold by draw at retail price, with an additional nine paintings sold at auction at 'well over' the high estimates, which is a bit of an understatement considering the piece In the Middle Runs A River sold for a cool half a million dollars. But is all the hype really warranted?

Here's what's so great about Mark Maggiori.

THE STORY. Each Mark Maggiori painting tells a story. A carefully curated stage with characters and places that are somehow both entirely believable and too fantastic to be true. This is purposeful; the settings and people are real, photographed and staged in the few remaining wild places of the West. They are then interpreted in the studio to include the perfect composition, the most magical lighting, and of course those trademark Maggiori clouds.

THE FOUNDATION. Mark Maggiori is no amateur - he's a generational talent (though to use the word 'talent' alone belies the effort that goes into developing a craft like his). There is a reason his work is reminiscent of the old masters - because he has followed a similar path of education, doing his formal study in Paris, and putting in the work of maintaining those foundational muscles. And trust me, it's work. These are not skills you develop and then 'have' in perpetuity. These are skills that are trained and maintained with effort.

Headed to Payson 11.5" x 20" copyright Mark Maggiori

Certainly his skill is obvious in the painstakingly rendered detail of his finished pieces. But it is perhaps even more evident in his sketches and studies, in which the confidence of his mark making and his sense of value and proportion are on full display. Each finished work is hung securely on this masterful underlying structure of form, composition, light, value, and color.

Tuah Tah 54" x 80" copyright Mark Maggiori

THE BRAND. You know a Mark Maggiori painting when you see one, and that's harder to accomplish than you might think. It's in the palette, it's in the romantic narrative, and it's certainly in the clouds. But the artist himself is also the brand. It's the whole look - the tattoos, the vintage clothing, the boots, the stunning studio space, and the vintage American cars. All of it sells. And maybe there is something to the dichotomy of a French artist painting the American West ... and lapping the field while he does it.

THE ACCESS. It is rare to find an artist of this caliber who will do both limited edition (a set number) and timed edition prints (30 hour sale window with no limit on the number sold). Even more rare to find one that will ask your opinion on which pieces to reproduce. The skeptic would say he sells more work this way. Sure. It's good business. But the reality for the consumer is, you can purchase high quality prints of one of the great living western artists for a very reasonable price. Follow on Instagram and you'll even get some behind the scenes looks at what it takes to produce and distribute these prints, including the mountains of prints he signs and numbers by hand with each edition.

In the Middle Runs a River 36" x 32" copyright Mark Maggiori

Story. Foundation. Brand. Access. There is a reason his work smashed auction records. Personally, I was grateful to have purchased prints of his sketches years ago, and maybe kicking myself just a little for not buying the one original I've been fortunate enough to see in person (though let's be honest - that was never a very realistic option). And while you might feel a little sticker shock when you see that $500,000 price tag ... I don't think it will be too long from now that we'll be thinking, "what a steal."

Visit his website, sign up for his newsletter, or follow him on Instagram. You won't regret it.