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Painting the scene, Hollywood-style

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If you’ve been anywhere within the Roaring Fork Valley arts scene, you’ve run into Brian Colley — it seems he’s everywhere.

On May 12, if you’re at Carbondale’s Crystal Theatre, you will see him in the movie “Paint.” Let me clarify that… three of Colley’s paintings star alongside actor Owen Wilson who plays Carl Nargle.

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Nargle is what Colley called “a Bob Ross-inspired character,” who has an instructional art TV show filmed before a live audience. But the Ross comparisons go no further than that. As Colley put it, “Carl Nargle is a fairly shallow character and nothing like Ross, other than his style of landscape painting.”

Ross created and hosted “The Joy of Painting,” which aired on PBS from 1983 to 1994. He was known for his funky and voluminous permed hairstyle and his soothing baritone voice that delivered words of wisdom to viewers, such as: “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

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Colley shared, “I grew up watching Bob Ross, as many people did, and I appreciate his style — it’s like magic watching it come together in 30 minutes.”

It turns out you don’t have to go to Hollywood to make it to the big screen. Sometimes you get there making friends in a printmaking class at Anderson Ranch. That’s where Colley was in 2012, when he met and became good friends with the class’s intern, Cassandra Holden.

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Over the years, they kept in touch, and in April 2021, Holden contacted Colley telling him she’d been hired as the art director for a film. While Colley thought it was “something she was putting together with a group of her friends,” it turned out to be a bonafide Hollywood production.

Colley secured a gig creating paintings for Nargle’s nemesis, a character named Ambrosia, played by Broadway actress Ciara Renée. When viewer interest is quickly slipping away, Nargle’s station hires the younger and hipper Ambrosia in an attempt to revive the show’s dismal ratings.

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Her paintings are drastically different than Nargle’s. She paints UFOs, laser beams and dinosaurs — some of Colley’s favorite subject matter.

Colley observed, “I think that’s why Cassandra reached out to me, because Ambrosia has a more imaginative take on art than Carl,” as evidenced by one Colley-Nargle painting that features a UFO hovering in a forest and spilling blood onto a tree stump. 

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Too dark? Colley assured potential filmgoers that “Paint” is a comedy and Ambrosia’s artwork is meant to starkly contrast Nargle’s serene mountain landscapes.

Colley is listed in the film’s credits as one of the commissioned artists. He said that, before film production began, he was approached to paint Nargle’s paintings, but “they needed almost 50 paintings in a matter of weeks, and I was like, ‘I got a day job,’” he said.

The Carbondale premiere screening of “Paint” will be May 12 at the Crystal Theatre. Plans are being finalized for a celebratory event with a dash of red-carpet flair. Be on the lookout for updates in The Sopris Sun in the coming weeks.

Colley appreciates the support he has received from his Carbondale Arts family and Kathy and Bob Ezra, owners of the Crystal Theatre. He said, “The movie poster tagline is ‘Come with me to a special place,’ but it’s like I’m in a special place already.”

As if the Hollywood hullabaloo wasn’t enough, last month, Colley celebrated the three-year anniversary of his comic, “Unparalleled Universe,” in the pages of The Sopris Sun.

In 2020, then-Sopris Sun editor Will Grandbois approached Colley with the idea of a weekly cartoon. As Colley recalled, “It was right as COVID was shutting everything down, and I was already at home, not sure what to do. Will reached out and asked me, ‘Do you think you’re going to have any more time on your hands these days? How about doing a weekly comic?’”

Grandbois gave Colley the freedom to create what he wanted, as Colley said, “Will gave me the space dimensions, and I had to come up with the comic title, and it’s just kind of stuck. It’s been a great creative outlet for me every week.”

The timing proved perfect. During the pandemic shutdown, Colley was unable to go to his job as gallery manager at Carbondale Arts or his studio space at the Studio for Arts + Works (SAW) artists collective.

He remembered, “I was living by myself in a tiny house, where it felt like the walls were getting smaller and smaller every day. As an artist, it forced me to think more creatively.” The situation prompted him to reflect on a quote by architect and Bauhaus School founder Walter Gropius: “Limitation makes the creative mind inventive.”

His “Unparalleled” cartoons were an inventive solution for the limiting confines that Colley and the world experienced during the pandemic. Colley will soon compile the first three years’ worth of cartoons to be published in a book.

Tags: #Art #Brian Colley #Cassandra Holden #Crystal Theatre #film #Hollywood #Owen Wilson #Paint #Unparalleled Universe
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