Surrealist impressionist art of Craig Newman

“Emerald Bay” | Craig Newman

Staring at Craig Newman’s “Tallac Morning” landscape painting, the observer’s eyes swirl around the surreal Van Gogh-like image. It’s colorful and at the same time relaxing, the clouds forming waves that float over a vanilla sky. A lot of Newman’s art has a modern psychedelic feel as if he acutely relays his view of the places, people and symbols in which he finds a distinct beauty.

“I try to capture movement, light and the emotion that takes place. I try to emphasize a lot more color contrast because I want to catch the moment of being in that place.” —Craig Newman

Newman began his unique take on art when he was about 6 years old. He would sit down with his sketchbook and crayons and start doodling as he watched famed painter Bob Ross on PBS. At that young age, Newman started drawing and painting mountains, trees, clouds and little cabins.

Craig Newman painting. | Claire Nightingale

This South Lake Tahoe native’s love of art stuck with him throughout high school. When he was 15 years old, he started taking art classes with Phyllis Shafer at Lake Tahoe Community College. His love of art continued after he graduated, and he honed his craft as he learned about perspective, composition, atmosphere and portraiture.

“[Shafer] has an effective teaching style, which allowed me to follow my own creativity by taking it step by step,” Newman says.

“Swirly Clouds Over Sand Harbor” | Craig Newman

But then he laughs and admits that he was a pain when he was a teen taking her classes. He tended to go outside the box, taking a twist on the assignments. He would be told to paint something tangible like a bottle or a brass horn and then skew it into something more imaginative. He did it so often that Shafer ended up creating a class that was pretty much tailored specifically to him called Figurative and Narrative Painting, with the artistic coursework based around a storyline and fantastical myth.

“It was a collaborative effort. She helped me see what I innately had,” Newman says.

It was with her help that Newman was able to apply his own original painting style to images of the Tahoe Sierra, adding a vibrant color and movement to favorite Tahoe landscapes.

Newman now considers himself a surrealist impressionist. His own favorite artists include Claude Monet for his use of color, Vincent Van Gogh for his use of movement and M.C. Escher for his wild and intense depictions/illusions of landscapes and structures.

“And Phyllis Schafer of course because her art has a lot of movement and liveliness to it. Nothing about it ever feels mundane, it’s very real,” he says.

Newman does a lot of commissions and prints that have Tahoe themes — especially of Emerald Bay.

“Emerald Bay is our Eiffel Tower of Tahoe,” he says.

He also likes to paint wild fantasy landscapes, representative nature scenes with waves, trees, mountains and more with swirls and popping color.

“I have one painting with waves, trees and the sun. They all have eyes and they’re all looking at each other, representing awareness all around. I try to capture movement, light and emotion that takes place. I try to emphasize a lot more color contrast because I want to catch the moment of being in that place,” he says.

His favorite subjects to paint include a combination of clouds, waves and mountains.

“Even though they’re completely different elements, they have similar patterns,” he says. “I like to do similar objects and repeat them throughout the whole painting.”

Throughout his adult life as an artist, Newman feels he has progressed quite a bit in his work and he admits that teaching art helps him become a better artist.

“My biggest change has been in landscapes. I teach a Bob Ross-like landscape class at Ski Run Marina, three to four times a week and just by doing that I’ve vastly improved,” he says. Because Newman had the opportunity to grow an appreciation for art at a young age, he is paying it forward by teaching art at Tahoe Valley Elementary School to inspire the next generation of artists.

“It’s fun. I plant seeds and say nice things about their work and hope they continue to paint and draw,” he says. |