In Randal M. Dutra’s Brush Strokes

Posted on May 14, 2018 by Blaine Smith in

Randal M. Dutra, Pebble Talk — Killdeer, Oil on Belgian linen, 16″ x 20″


Prix de West artist Randal M. Dutra is a curious creature. Not only is he an elite painter and sculptor invited annually to show at the premier Western art sale, but he is also a two-time Oscar-nominated visual effects Animation Director for some of cinema’s biggest blockbusters. While you won’t see any dinosaurs, gremlins, or aliens lurking about in the Prix de West show this June, these innovative expressions of Dutra’s interests connect directly to attributes displayed in his paintings.

Randal M. Dutra, Yellow Bird — Wilson’s Warbler, Oil on Belgian linen, 20″ x 16″

Why does such a talented contemporary Western artist maintain such a multifaceted career? The answer is simple: he thirsts for knowledge and challenge, following wherever that leads. “Genuine curiosity keeps one moving forward – keeps one exploring,” he explained. Being naturally cross-disciplined results from an unwavering creative drive. Dutra believes in the importance of versatility and open-mindedness to subject matter, using mediums and stylistic approaches inventively. Not wanting to be pigeonholed, he freely translates subjects while remaining absolutely true to his own voice as an expressive being, instead of working in any singular style.

Dutra sees himself as an “unobtrusive observer of nature”. Many times the models, such as Yellow Bird – Wilson’s Warbler, are quick and flighty; field observation of the bird’s behavior, with supplemental photographic reference, is crucial. As in the Wilson’s Warbler’s case, success comes through the artist’s ability to express himself while still honoring the spirit of the subject. Notice the care given to portray its environment, and the unusual composition and placement of the bird.


Randal M. Dutra, A Meditation, Oil on Belgian linen, 30″ x 24″

Indeed, you can see Dutra’s Hollywood influence in the painting. While working on movies, Dutra affirmed he became “attuned to the way the eye composes a picture, how it travels” due to the progression of a scene’s viewpoint captured in a single, “moving” take. This led Dutra to a higher awareness of compositional opportunities for any given subject matter and how unique layouts can correspond with varied meanings.

The artist likes his pieces to possess “a bit of strangeness.” And, no, by that he does not mean a T-rex or Tripod lies in waiting amidst the brushstrokes. Dutra embraces mystery, the intangiblesomething you can’t process immediately. This strategy is present in his pure landscape, A Meditation. Consider the weight and distribution within its composition. The high-key, airy background is offset by a heavy foreground diagonal, with vertical aspens tying the two distinct sections together. The unusual layout is contrasted with intentionally varied application styles and an atypical color palette–the viewer senses a mystery in the painting’s presentation. This is Dutra’s missionthat you feel the piece before your intellect kicks in. By engaging in a more intimate level, you open yourself up to its influence.

Dutra believes that, “in nature, life lives in harmony with its surroundings.” He urges us to value the natural world around us finding an organic bond amidst the “bombardment of technical distractions.” Art holds a unique capability to move and transform us. And that is what Dutra values in coming to Prix de West each year: the Western art on display reflects the tradition to inspire and honor while progressing forward. The show represents gratitude for nature, for the West, and offers all a chance to pause and meditate on these elements so important to our lives.


About Blaine

Blaine Smith works in the Traffic & Graphics Department at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. His love of history and museums was spawned by his grandfather, who owns his own museum in southeast Colorado.