arts and cultureIssue 24

The Far Horizon: Artist Tyler Abshier

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By Noel Daniel

The Central Valley is the large, flat central point in California—a sprawling landscape permitting a view to the far mountains, if you cared to look. Traveler and artist Tyler Abshier put pen to paper, documenting his travels in handwritten and sketched journals in a series he calls “The Far Horizon.”

Although Abshier has only been painting on a regular basis since college, art is something he’s never really lived without for as far back as he can remember.

“I feel like I wouldn’t really be myself anymore if I suddenly stopped drawing or painting altogether,” said Abshier.

As a painter, Abshier has always been interested in landscapes. In searching for something he could paint, he allowed his interest in the Central Valley to guide him. Many of his paintings, especially those done in the Central Valley, feature roads. This is practical, artistically, as it’s a strong focal and anchor point—but it’s also sentimental, reflecting his love of traveling and road trips.

Twin Barns

“When I was a kid, me, my dad, and my sister, and sometimes relatives and family friends would go on a camping trip in the Sierra Nevadas,” said Abshier. “So I’ve always been fond of the mountains as a result.”

Abshier’s wanderlust stems from the sole desire to go out and see a new place, or to return to those he’s already fond of. Sometimes, he says, he just looks for a change hoping that he might see something he’d never noticed before.

The first two volumes of The Far Horizon cover his travels up to mid-2008, which was just before he moved out on his own. The third volume, which he’s putting together now, begins about a year after the larger story ends and carries it forward to the beginning of last year. Much like all of his art, his books are handmade—he’s sewn them together and bound them, himself. He’s even done the embossed gold designs on the covers to imitate professionally-done foil stamps.

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For his general art, Abshier uses the basics: a sketchpad, a number two pencil, and a 4B graphite pencil for darker colors. For his painting, he’ll use oil paints straight from the tube—Utrecht oil paints that he’s been using since college—and two brushes for most of the work. A wide, half inch brush for filling in large areas, and then a ⅛ inch wide brush for detail work. Sometimes he will supplement these brushes with a fan brush for blending in atmospheric effects and sky.

For those hoping to learn from Abshier’s technique, he always starts by sketching on the canvas with pencil. Then, he paints the sky before filling in the background, middle ground, then foreground. And don’t worry about getting it perfect: it takes time.

“If someone has the right attitude—if they really love to create something of that nature—then I would say get started, try stuff, and don’t be afraid of what you or other people might think of your work in the beginning,” said Abshier. “I’ve had to learn a lot of things along the way. I’m still learning. Hopefully I never stop learning as I continue with my work.”

In terms of painting like Abshier, what’s important is developing an eye for the piece, translating your vision to paper, and keeping your sights on the far horizon.

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