Ed Mell’s Phoenix studio, like many artists’ studios, holds a wealth of history. Paintings on the walls, stacks of sketches and reference material tucked away on shelves and bits of ephemera that reveal the artist’s interests.
Treasures from Mell’s studio, all of them on paper, will be the stars of a new show opening October 6 at the Ed Mell Gallery in Phoenix. Works include graphite sketches, pastels and several monotypes. “I still do drawings on paper, including some of these fairly recent pieces like Gathering Crops. Most of them are smaller studies and don’t always lead to larger works,” he says. “Most of the pieces are fairly old, though, especially the pastel works, which is how I would often do studies before switching to oils.” Works include the monotypes Shaded Horses and Saguaro Skyscraper, and an untitled pastel from 1980 that is likely one of Mell’s first depictions of his iconic bucking bronco images.
Texas art enthusiast Byron Lewis, a longtime fan and collector of Mell’s works, is excited for the show and hopes to add to his own collection. “His work is so mesmerizing because he doesn’t dwell on the complex detail. He just very carefully takes the subject and simplifies it. Some would say it’s modern or even angular, but it always has this color glowing out of the sunset.”
Lewis, who says even his children grew up calling beautiful landscapes “Ed Mell sunsets,” continues, “Ed’s work is just so unique that there is no one out there like him. I love what goes on in his mind, his creative process. He has his own voice. Even before I personally knew Ed, the best description I had for him was that he’s authentic. His work is unmistakable. You can truly get lost in it.”
Also in the show are a number of works that would eventually become magazine covers: Bryce Canyon, from 1983, was featured on
the front of Arizona Arts & Travel, and Sunset Storm, from 1985, would go on to be a cover for Arizona Highways, a magazine that featured Mell’s work frequently.
“I always enjoyed working on paper because it was a great way to learn about color. I would blend different pastels together and it really taught me how to handle paints,” Mell says. “One of the drawbacks, of course, was the flatter color. It was never quite as intense as oils. But paper offered a unique art education.”
Saguaro Skyscraper, 1999, monotype (oil on paper), 15½ x 135/8”
Gathering Crops, 2015, graphite on paper, 4¼ x 35/8"
Shaded Horses, 1999, monotype (oil on paper), 10¾ x 135/8”
Grazing Cow, 1985, pastel on paper, 6¾ x 9¼”