Now we know we’re only just edging in to summer and the last thing we want to do is wish away the year after the time we’ve been having lately, but given that this year’s ski season was cut short by a good couple of months you’ll surely forgive the snow bunnies among us for already getting excited at the prospect of hitting the slopes come November and packing in as much piste time as we can over next season. While we may not be travelling right now there’s nothing wrong with planning future trips…
One man who’s undoubtedly already counting down the days until the snow starts to fall again is alpine artist Adam Attew, whose dramatic landscapes are so strikingly realistic you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re photographs. While Attew works from his own photography, each painting is painstakingly recreated and his work instantly transports you to a chilly mountaintop. Childhood visits to the Alps every summer and winter throughout childhood ignited a lifelong passion for the mountains and with BASI Alpine Ski and Telemark instructor qualifications under his belt, Adam’s winters are now spent, accompanied by a sketchbook and camera, ski touring throughout the Alps capturing his experiences and translating them to canvas.
This winter saw Attew spend time in Obergurgl in the Austrian Alps where he took up residence for several days painting live at one of the resorts mountaintop restaurants, as well as hosting a solo exhibition of his work at the brand new Gurgl Carat exhibition centre. We caught up with him in between painting and skiing over a Glühwein to find out more about the multi-talented Alpine action man…
What inspired you to first pick up a paintbrush?
It was such a long time ago during my early years of childhood that I don’t remember, though I do have early memories of Christmas presents consisting of special brushes that held paint in the handles, probably to reduce the mess, though I probably make more mess now! How Santa Claus knew I would be an artist, I have no idea. Clever man.
When did you know you had a talent?
I do remember art teachers at school discussing with my parents that I was drawing detailed people with features, bodies and limbs whereas my friends were still drawing the classic ‘round blob person’; I was obviously driven by detail even back then.
What path led you to painting for a living?
Following my dreams. I owned and ran an animation studio in London and Chicago for about 12 years, but as my role had changed and lost its creativity I no longer enjoyed it. So I packed it in and went in search of what I really enjoyed; skiing , mountains and painting mountains is pretty much what I arrived at. I had been painting mountains as a hobby since 2000, having been a ski instructor for several years, and I was writing for the ski and winter section of TheBespokeBlackBook.com. Clearly I was being drawn back to the mountains again and again. Being a driven and not to mention rather stubborn human, it made sense to follow my passion and make it happen.
How long have you been painting professionally?
It’s difficult to say, as it depends on one’s definition of ‘professional’. I had previously worked with Ray Mears creating art for his business and we released some limited edition prints of Arctic Lapland back in the early noughties; I also took on the odd commission piece over the years. However, I would say that I have been painting full time for the last three years.
Do you have a favourite landscape or location you’ve painted?
Although I am known as an Alpine artist, I love any scene if it is covered in snow and the lighting is spectacular. The Alps are of course my spiritual home, but I feel equally at home in the snows of Scandinavia or Canada.
Painting can obviously be a solitary lifestyle. Do you enjoy your own company or do you sometimes struggle with not having others around?
As much as I love spending time with others I also love my own company. I had so much fun meeting all my fellow mountain lovers from around the world at my recent Artist Residency at the Hohe Mut Alm in Obergurgl, but I also love the solitary time spent painting in my studio listening to music, though it is good to break it up now and again with a cuddle with my partner or a coffee with the cat… or was that the other way around?
A lot of people would use painting as an escape or relaxation, what do you do to relax?
This is why I feel like one of the luckiest people, I can still escape and relax whilst painting, unless the painting is going wrong! Outside painting, I find weight training relaxes me and sets me up for the day, generally being in nature is important and of course any pursuit in the mountain can reset the mind and soul. I discovered the ‘Wim Hof method’ cold water immersion many years ago and as a result now find that cold water immersion is important in my daily routine producing a feeling of well-being… nothing like swimming with Endorphins!
How long do you spend in the mountains each winter?
As much time as I can. Obviously this winter things ended with bit of a sudden bump sadly, but I still managed to spend about 30-40 days on snow in the mountains.
Tell us about a typical day…
I’m not sure that I have typical days anymore. In the winter I spend much of my time reviewing ski resorts, hotels and ski equipment all whilst collecting reference material for my painting through photographing and sketching the mountain landscapes. I intend to take part in more artist residencies in the mountains and more ski touring and sleeping at altitude in the future. When not in the mountains, my days are spent mostly painting, working on my social media or writing reviews.
How long does one of your paintings take?
It really depends on the size, but I would say anywhere between 40 and 140 hours.
What advice would you give to someone scared to pick up a paintbrush?
Don’t worry, brushes don’t bite! As a child we have no fear to give it a go, every child paints…so what happens? Do we become self-conscious or worried about what other people might think? Or perhaps we are scared of failing.
Well….who cares what others think? Just give it a go, make a mess and most of all enjoy it and be proud of your accomplishments.
What does 2020 look like for you since ski season ended early?
It really saddens me that so many Alpine resorts, hotels, businesses and pistes fell totally silent! For me though it was a case of getting back to painting and building my portfolio in readiness for next winter season; I am in talks with various ski resorts concerning my next exhibitions and artist residencies, so watch this space for where to see my work in winter 2020/21.