The essence of art
Dylan Tellesen injects soul into his work
It was almost 11 a.m. on a recent Friday as local painter Dylan Tellesen called out to one of the electricians hustling about putting the finishing touches on some sheet rock at Studio 46—a large storage space in north Chico—to make it into a room ready to host an art opening that night at 6 o’clock.
“We were here till 4 this morning,” fellow local visual artist (and Studio 46 partner) Stephen Beebe chimed in, between dashing about moving paintings from one place to another and making mental notes about necessities like toilet paper and beverages for that evening.
In addition to the many stacks of large canvases of faces and trucks, vans and campers—Tellesen’s favorite subject matters—Tellesen still had 15 little glossy paintings on wood drying under a cover to protect them from sheetrock dust. Many of the paintings had to be moved from the upstairs office/loft he built himself, which contains a desk overflowing with piles of photographs of people with interesting faces, from which he likes to paint.
“I have been working for the last month straight, it seems like,” the 31-year-old Tellesen said. “Two months ago, Stephen and I got this space and we gave ourselves a deadline: Dec. 1. It was definitely an ambitious milestone to hit, but we’ve just kicked ass. My wife says she has a fever just from the energy I’m putting out!”
Tellesen, a father of two young children who also teaches graphic design and illustration at Butte College, is an intense and extremely likeable man. In Tellesen’s presence, one feels the powerful energy radiating from him as he discusses his art while at the same time moving paintings from upstairs to downstairs, answering calls and checking with workers on their progress.
“I just start painting,” Tellesen explained of the process of creating his combination of abstract and sharply realistic paintings. “I get a couple of colors in mind and then that leads to something. I started with the greens and yellows on that painting over there [motioning to ‘Ruth,’ a striking portrait of an older sculptor friend from his college days studying printmaking at San Francisco State] and then she came to mind, so I put her in there.”
Even the vehicles that Tellesen loves to paint have an intensity similar to that which emanates from the eyes of his portrait subjects. His Blue Truck, for instance—a large acrylic-on-canvas painting of a broken-down, old pick-up—captures the soul of the vehicle as it sits there somewhat forlorn-looking in its abandoned state, but still a little cocky in its old age with a slightly upturned hood looking a little like an Elvis Presley lip-curl.
Tellesen explained simply: “The trucks I paint are similar to faces. They’re just a kind of quiet moment to show the beauty in one thing.”
And Tellesen does this without adding any caricature to his work. He simply has the impressive ability to portray the essence of a subject, to bring even inanimate objects almost eerily to life without any painterly embellishment of the subject, other than the choice of colors he uses and the abstract way in which he uses them.
Tellesen is noticeably pleased with his newest project, his series of playful, super-glossy paintings on old book covers with curious titles that he resurrected as canvases for his art.
One of them, The Hucksters, features a somewhat sensuous painting of a woman with her panties down around her ankles juxtaposed against a depiction of a horse being lifted into the air by an emergency rescue device. Another, on a book cover with the title A Field Guide to Birds, is a simple, eye-pleasing painting focusing on a partially clothed woman’s back.
Tellesen pulled out PERT: A New Management Planning and Control Technique, onto which he had painted a slightly suggestive painting of a man and a woman with a red lollipop.
“There’s some great titles out there,” he laughed.