Constable: Wheaton artist captures the majesty of national parks

  • Using photographs to recreate this scene from the Grand Canyon, artist Fred Moss adds some green oil paint to a tree while working in his second-story studio in his Wheaton townhouse. His paintings are on display in "Art of the Parks: Painting of the National Parks" at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago.

      Using photographs to recreate this scene from the Grand Canyon, artist Fred Moss adds some green oil paint to a tree while working in his second-story studio in his Wheaton townhouse. His paintings are on display in "Art of the Parks: Painting of the National Parks" at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Using dozens of brushes and many $50 tubes of oil paint, Fred Moss paints his latest work in the second-story studio in his Wheaton townhouse. Yellow ocher, viridian green, cobalt blue and ultramarine blue are the colors he finds himself using the most.

      Using dozens of brushes and many $50 tubes of oil paint, Fred Moss paints his latest work in the second-story studio in his Wheaton townhouse. Yellow ocher, viridian green, cobalt blue and ultramarine blue are the colors he finds himself using the most. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Having been an artist in residence at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, oil-painter Fred Moss of Wheaton calls this painting "Silent Sapphire Sea." It's is part of "Art of the Parks: Painting of the National Parks" on exhibit at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago.

    Having been an artist in residence at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, oil-painter Fred Moss of Wheaton calls this painting "Silent Sapphire Sea." It's is part of "Art of the Parks: Painting of the National Parks" on exhibit at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago. Courtesy of Fred Moss

  • As a student at the Florence Academy of Art, painter Fred Moss of Wheaton fell in love with the Italian landscape. He did a series of paintings, including this one called "Sunset at the Ponte Vecchio," that depict the famous medieval stone arch bridge that was spared during World War II.

      As a student at the Florence Academy of Art, painter Fred Moss of Wheaton fell in love with the Italian landscape. He did a series of paintings, including this one called "Sunset at the Ponte Vecchio," that depict the famous medieval stone arch bridge that was spared during World War II. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Artist Fred Moss of Wheaton calls this painting of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore in Wisconsin "Evening at the Apostle."

    Artist Fred Moss of Wheaton calls this painting of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore in Wisconsin "Evening at the Apostle." Courtesy of Fred Moss

 
 
Updated 1/16/2020 6:20 AM

From the front window of his Wheaton townhouse, Fred Moss can gaze across a seemingly ceaseless suburban sea of brick and siding punctuated by small patches of green. From his second-story art studio, Moss can see the splendor of the Grand Canyon.

"I waited at this spot in the Grand Canyon for people to come up in this caravan of mule trains," Moss says as he adds some green to his oil painting of that moment. For that painting, Moss takes inspiration from several photographs he shot that day. For other paintings of our national parks, Moss painted plein air, or on location, in the parks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I've been to 14 national parks since 2013," says Moss, who visited some with his mom, Lillian Moss, who lives in Elmhurst.

His work is featured through March 6 in an exhibit, "Art of the Parks: Paintings of the National Parks," on the eighth floor of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. in Chicago. Moss also will conduct a workshop on "Postcards from the Parks" from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 8 in Room 8S-7 in the library. For details, visit chipublib.org.

His paintings include scenes from Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Glacier, Redwood, Apostle Islands and Crater Lake, the Oregon national park where Moss was artist in residence in 2018.

"They issued me snowshoes, a walkie-talkie and a GPS," says Moss, who hiked to the lake to capture his stunning "Silent Sapphire Sea" painting. "I just look for these amazing landscapes. It's a very calming feel. You almost get into the zone of painting."

Some paintings capture the setting sun dancing across red rocks. Others include animals, such as bison.

Capturing a lone bison in a meadow, Wheaton artist Fred Moss calls this painting "Solitude at Yellowstone."
Capturing a lone bison in a meadow, Wheaton artist Fred Moss calls this painting "Solitude at Yellowstone." - Courtesy of Fred Moss
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"First of all, the bison move. You can't get close to them. So I took hundreds of photos," Moss says.

He saw a mother bear and cub at Banff National Park in Canada.

"I was taking pictures of rams at Glacier National Park. At one point, my flash popped open, and a ram didn't like that," recalls Moss, who slowly backed his way to his car.

After spending his early years in Villa Park, Moss grew up in Elmhurst, where he attended Immaculate Conception High School, which now goes by Immaculate Conception Catholic Prep. His grandmother Ann Roberts also painted and was a member of the Elmhurst Artist Guild, to which Moss now belongs.

Excelling in art classes by the time of his graduation, Moss went to the College of DuPage for a year and then the prestigious College for Creative Studies in Detroit, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1998. After graduation, he studied with renowned painter Romel De La Torre in Arlington Heights.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A graphic designer for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association in Elgin, Moss paints after work and on weekends. He sells painting on his fredmoss.com website and is active on Instagram and Facebook. He teaches, speaks and conducts workshops as well.

Some of his more unusual art has been created for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, where Moss has painted life-size statues of police dogs and horses. For his "Horses of Honor" work, the fiberglass statue was delivered to his townhouse.

"It was 6 feet tall, and I had that in my garage," Moss says, noting that curious neighbors would stop by to talk. But natural scenes are his love.

"The landscape has been the most integral part of my work for the last decade," Moss says in his artist statement. "My paintings are an emotional response to scenic landscapes."

He also studied at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy, where his landscapes included a series of the sun setting on the Ponte Vecchio medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River.

"This one probably took 60 hours to paint," Moss says of one of those paintings, which is not for sale. "It's a labor of love."

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