Warning: getimagesize(/home/domains/wnightingale.com/docs/cache/generated_images/37020d2d51615ddb32cd5d1405166ca4.png): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/domains/wnightingale.com/docs/include/php/Page/class.PageSiteFront.php on line 64
When Doug Hemler surveys the horizon, he connects with the landscape and that synergy inspires a story. He engages composition and colors, and the storylines begin to flow and reveal themselves to him. Since 1999 he’s focused on his artistic relationship with nature and its various monologues, expressing those conversations through Plein Air Art and Studio landscape painting. As a fifth generation Wyomingite raised in Sundance and Casper, Doug’s roots in nature run deep. He smiles as he remembers winning art competitions when he was a grade schooler. For a time he put away his sketch pad to pursue careers as a physician and and a military officer.
In the late ‘80s, the US Army transferred Doug from Washington, D.C., to Colorado, just one more adventure in his very diverse, exciting life. “I have had a lot of great experiences,” he says, humbly glossing over intense, fulfilling careers as a US Army flight surgeon and a Denver-area sports medicine physician, not to mention his time engaging in sports such as mountaineering, skiing, and triathlons. Returning to the rugged vistas of the American West he began to feel the pull of the the landscape, painting and drawing. After 9/11 he wanted to do his part, so he enlisted in the US Air Force Reserves (again as a flight surgeon) and found a way to balance his medical practice during deployments. In 2014 he retired from the reserves as a full Colonel, sold his medical practice in 2018, and turned to his art full time. His role models include other military men turned artists including Wilson Hurley and Conrad Schwiering.
Doug’s story today is all about the simplification inherent in Plein Air: identifying a scene and translating its beauty on canvas. Whether Doug is on site somewhere in the West or in his Denver-area studio, he explains his focus is on defining what is beautiful, what is quintessential, what is true and what is beautiful in the landscape. “Not all trees are pretty to look at,” he says, “but they are all beautiful. It’s up to the artist to capture the inherent beauty.” Similarly, the western landscape evokes many emotions. Standing on the California shore, feeling the wind and hearing the surf is about the power and rhythm of the earth and land. Looking down at the Colorado River from Dead Horse Point is akin the being in church. For Doug, the perfect painting of the American West falls somewhere between the Hudson River Painters and the California Impressionists, a blending of Thomas Moran, Granville Redmond, and Thomas Hill. Doug aspires to paint the West the way Wallace Stegner writes about it.
Watching master painter Conrad Schwiering (1916–1986) at the canvas left a lasting impression on Doug and he’s also been inspired by other notables including Jay Moore, Lorenzo Chavez, Matt Smith, Skip Whitcomb, Ellen Howard, Bill Davidson, and Peggy Immel. He works to call out the crucial element of the scene, knowing in his heart it will catch someone else’s attention and imagination as it captured his. “A painting can heal you. It can motivate you. It can center you. Or it can totally discombobulate you!” he says, laughing. As that story and vision take shape, purpose comes to life. “Every painting should have a story in it,” he admits. “If a painting has my story in it, then it is perfectly capable of having someone else’s story in it as well.”
Joy and vision aside, there’s an inherent, altruistic theme in Doug’s painting and his artistic philosophy. “Art is good for people,” he says. “People all too often don’t have the opportunity to see things, experience things,” he explains. “But the message that comes from the painting can heal, make whole, make happy, make somebody’s life better—even for just a second. And maybe that will help them find peace and joy and maybe they’ll do something good for the world. As all artists know,"Art can save the world!"