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Paint By Nature: Capturing Door County's Beauty

Courtesy of Arnold Alaniz

Wisconsin has picturesque scenery - rolling hills and pastures, farmland, Lake Michigan, and the North Woods. So it makes sense that they'd be painted.

Artist Arnold Alaniz takes advantage of the natural beauty that surrounds him at his summer home on Ellison Bay in Door County.

“Every time I wake up, I’m ready to take a walk and ready to see something new,” Alaniz says. “Door County is probably one of the more scenic spots in the Midwest, so it is constant inspiration.”

Alaniz, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, became a student at University of Wisconsin-Madison nearly 40 years ago. He did not intend to be an artist; he started off as a language education major. With the help of general classes and professors, he changed his major to art education, specializing in prints, and minored in art history. Alaniz went to teach in Mequon for six years before moving out to California.

What Alaniz gained from living in Wisconsin - his “adoptive home” - is the ability to see the differences among the seasons. He also discovered different kinds of plants and how they evolve throughout the year. Those changes are what Alaniz wants to convey through his artwork.

“A viewer likes color,” Alaniz says. “They seem to be attracted to things with color, more so than black and white. Black and white is a sophisticated approach. You have to have some knowledge of the art itself to really enjoy it totally. I think color is a little more involving to most people.”

Alaniz, too, loves color, and long ago transitioned from black and sepia prints to painting. He considers his earlier paintings to be impressionistic. His winters were blue and his colors were spring-like.  Now he paints with earthier tones and captures mysterious, woodsy scenes.

The transition from printing to painting was also fostered by the digital era. He found that his original means of printing has become extinct, but still creates a print occasionally.

Credit Courtesy of Arnold Alaniz

“The digital era has created a wonderful boom for artists because you just take in your painting, it’s digitally photographed, scanned to a computer, and then within hours, you have a print,” Alaniz says.

Alaniz has seen other changes in art throughout his 40-year career. Multidimensional art is making its way into the art world, while painting is no longer so dominant. But he isn't worried; he says such shifts are part of the journey taken while creating art. The process, he says, needs to be an adventure.

“I think the process is the fun part,” Alaniz says. “In a way, I can almost envision the finished project, but getting to that point sometimes opens a new door or a path to something I didn’t try.”

Alaniz will have two shows in the fall: one in northern California and potential show in Waukesha.

Alaniz has a piece he is contributing to the Channel 10, Milwaukee Public Television, auction called “Autumn Twilight,” capturing the beauty of Door County in the fall.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.