This Illinois artist creates oil paintings that juxtapose industrial spaces and figures in ambiguous settings.
2001, oil, 30 x 35¾.
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by Naomi Ekperigin
Todd Snyder was born and raised in central Illinois and finds his favorite subject matter in the landscape that surrounds him. “I grew up in a small industrial town in the Rust Belt, where the predominant industry was the manufacturing of heavy equipment, such as cargo trains, bulldozers, and mining equipment,” he explains. “I’ve had an interest in these images for as long as I can remember.”
Snyder earned a degree in commercial art from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, in Denver, but only briefly worked in that field as a break from working in auto body repair, which he returned to a few years ago. “Although I have the traditional artist’s ‘day job,’ I religiously paint for a couple of hours a day during the week and longer on weekends,” the artist says. When he has extra time, he goes on location to industrial settings, taking pictures with his digital camera. Although he takes several pictures so that he can work in his studio, Snyder often returns to the site to draw. “I find that, due to the distortions and flattening effect of the camera, my pictures aren’t adequate,” he explains. “I often create sketches on location for increased accuracy—and because I love to draw.”
After his initial sketch is complete, Snyder turns to his canvas, which he tones with a light acrylic wash. Once it is dry, he transfers his image onto the canvas in charcoal. “If I draw on top of the wash I seal the drawing with fixative,” the artist explains, “but if I draw directly onto the white surface—which I’ll do depending on the look I’m after—the wash seals the charcoal.” He then covers the entire surface with an underpainting in a monochrome earth color. “After this stage, I usually work back to front, starting with the sky area or the furthest point in the image, and then I work my way forward, tightening up elements as I go and checking the composition along the way,” says Snyder. He normally does this by looking at the painting in a mirror, as many artists do. As he approaches the end, he tightens and polishes areas of interest and adds the final highlights.
The artist finds the biggest challenge is painting the figures in his urban landscapes, which he does to add a surreal aura to the location. Inspired by such masters as Konrad Witz and Jan van Eyck, Snyder also admires the work of Surrealists such as Paul Delvaux, Salvador Dalí, and Giorgio de Chirico. “I like to incorporate the figures– place them in ambiguous situations and create a sort of broken narrative,” he says. He imbues his work with meaning by disrupting the scale of objects and giving figures a caricatured appearance, which can be seen in the piece Wayfarers. “I think this was one of my more successful surrealist pieces due to the scale changes and situations the characters seem to be in,” he comments. “Are they arriving or departing? I think the large crane also adds a menacing tone, which I like.”
2003, oil, 16 x 24.
Since 1989 Todd Snyder has been accepted into more than150 international, national, and regional juried exhibitions and has had 11 solo shows. His work is in the collection of the Lakeview Museum, in Peoria, Illinois, and the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
For more information on Snyder, visit the Chicago Artists’ Coalition’s website, or email him at [email protected].
Naomi Ekperigin is the editorial assistant of American Artist.