Osterhaus’ style marked by unique use of color layering

by MARTHA MABEY - Special correspondent


Had Roanoke artist Greg Osterhaus decided to paint only the countryside of rural Virginia when he made his commitment to paint full time 12 years ago, he would have become a good landscape artist. Or had he turned to cattle exclusively, he would have attracted a loyal following for his beautiful bovines.
By making decision to paint both pastoral settings and cattle, Osterhaus has placed himself squarely in the midst of the significant 400-year-old tradition of landscape and animal painting.
Cow paintings---in pastoral settings, in particular---belong to one of the finest traditions in the history of art. As far back as the mid 17th century, Dutch artist Paulus Potter left a lasting mark on the genre of both landscape and animal painting, especially after his “Two Cows and a Young Bull Beside a Fence in a Meadow” art catalog as the was sixth-most significant painting in the world.
It makes you wonder if Osterhaus, who fits within this tradition, would smile if a critic placed one of his lavender cows or pink meadows on such a list.
He succeeds in highly idiosyncratic ways, partly through his unorthodox use of color, a meticulous layering of paint upon paint and the visual world he creates from his imagination.

Osterhaus, who acknowledges the influence of international colorist Wolf Kahn (a second generation-generation New York Abstract Expressionist), loves color as much as he loves what he paints. This unpredictable use of color allows Osterhaus unlimited freedom to create a pastoral world as he sees it.
Some 25 oil paintings by Osterhaus of some of the most appealing cows you’ve ever gone eye to eye with are on display at glave kocen gallery this month.

“I like to paint cows” Osterhaus said. “Years ago, I did lots of small watercolors of cows, the entire cow. Then I got more interested in the cow’s face. It is soulful, restful. It’s very calming to look personally at the cows, to feel like we are on personal terms with each other.”
Working at his studio in his Roanoke home, he listens to music as he paints. “I go back and forth between painting landscapes and painting cows
Osterhaus takes hundreds of photos of cows in a year.
Then he decides which images are best. The photos serve as a point of departure for the paintings.


“Color intoxicates, composition challenges the intellect, nature feeds the human soul. It is the combination of these components on a once-blank canvas that opens up a universe of possibilities.”

“Mango Tango” (top) and “Brown Beauty” are oil paintings by Greg Osterhaus, who says a cow’s face is soulful, restful.”


The finished product comes from his head. Since cows are not normally the colors he paints them, all the colors are inspired.
Painting in layers until he arrives at the finished image, he typically works for five hour stretches, usually in 10 minute segments.  “Paintings are as much about paint,” he said, “as they are about the subject matter.

Born in Illinois in 1963, Osterhaus moved with his family to Roanoke when he was 12. It has been his home ever since and where he and his wife reared three college-age children.
Encouraged by his parents at an early age, Osterhaus has always had a passion for art. After graduating with a technical degree from Virginia Tech, he tried various jobs, including illustration. He also spent 16 years in the corporate world “until I saw the writing on the wall and realized it was now or never” if he were to become a full time artist, he said. But he learned a lot of lessons in that world. “I saw how things worked there. It was helpful.”
Osterhaus lauds “the good people in the art world” who promote his work. “my job is to focus on my painting,” he said, and never stop learning.”






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