A bowl may seem like any other vessel, until Denver-based artist Daniel Sprick lays eyes on it. In the ethereal light of his paintings, any moment can become profound and precious. Whether creating still lifes, landscapes or portraiture, he is dedicated to extracting the sublime. “Beauty is what matters to me,” says Sprick. “Art is supposed to bend the world toward beauty.”
His portrayals include classic scenes like ancient ruins and the churning currents of the Pacific. Yet Sprick is equally transfixed by the unglamorous, from highway overpasses to a pile of bones. When choosing what to paint, “I am not drawn to saccharine prettiness,” he explains. “Beauty can have ugliness in it too.”
In this pursuit, the artist has become a modern master realist, with works exhibited at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum and Denver’s Gallery 1261. A longtime lover of Renaissance painters, Sprick trained early on with figurative doyens Harvey Dinnerstein and Ramon Mitchell Froman. These traditionalist techniques ground his work, whether painting carefully posed models and vignettes in the studio or hiking with an easel in hand across hills and fields to paint on site.
Painting outside has remained fundamental to Sprick’s practice, including producing a recent exhibition of plein air works for the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood. He believes the experience has only enriched his more studied pieces. “It helps me synthesize a complicated thing to just a few strokes,” notes the artist. “That’s a skill I find really useful to make studio painting more alive and spontaneous.”
Indoors or out, the process begins the same way. Primarily using oil paints on boards, “I try to establish the compositional shapes, the big patches of light and dark, then make the rest of the elements fit,” he says. Sprick’s overall palette remains subdued, caught in gentle shades of dawn or twilight. The final effect feels fleeting, on the verge of disappearing with a shift in the light.
Producing the work, however, is far from brief. Sprick can spend years fine-tuning his pieces. His studio features a few of these unfinished treasures among the pottery and skeletons he keeps around for his still lifes. He remains ever patient. “You don’t know if it will ever come,” he confesses. “But I think somewhere in the ether, the greatest beauty has yet to be discovered.”