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Good Books: Tracy Weil on Play

Artist Tracy Weil is known for his playful forms and bold use of color. Influenced by the emotional intensity of Vincent Van Gogh, the whimsy of Dr. Seuss, and the abstract landscapes of Fort Lewis College professor Stanton Englehart, Weil's paintings live in a passionate, colorful world in which brightly painted rural-scapes merge with loopy figures and vibrant striped objects. A leader in the Denver arts community, Tracy Weil is founder of the River North Art District, owner of Weilworks Gallery, and co-director of the new art-infused Denver County Fair. His paintings appear in Forecast, a poetry-painting collaboration. See his portfolio at

Tracy Weil shares three favorite books that encourage and celebrate play:

The Thinks You Can Think
by Dr. Seuss

As a child, Dr. Seuss taught me how to play and how to imagine new worlds other than the one I lived in. He taught me how to see the world in a way that was different than most. A few years ago, I was going through some old boxes and ran across this book. It's amazing how much one book can inspire a budding artist! In this book, Seuss illustrates and talks about a forest of red and white trees; this image has always resonated, and now populates much of my work. These simple red and white trees with a bold pattern have always influenced my imagery, along with red and white sunflowers, and boats filled with red and white striped noodles. It's with this simple visual that my mind as an artist was inspired to play and create something new, bringing joy and whimsy to my work. In that same box was a shoebox filled with legos — all red and white and stacked in stripes. I proudly blame Dr. Seuss for my visual obsession.
Stanton Englehart: A Life on Canvas
edited by Jules Masterjohn

In the mid 1980s, I attended Fort Lewis College as an aspiring architect. One of my course requirements was an art history class, and I met a man who would change my creative life: professor and artist Stanton Englehart. He taught me to PLAY with art. I always had a passion for art and loved to draw, but in this class I was really exposed to all the great things about art and the deep history of this expressive medium. As I progressed in school, I began to struggle with some of the technical classes required of my architecture major. Increasingly frustrated and distracted, I found myself attracted to art, its freedom and lack of boundaries. I enrolled in a beginning painting class and quickly learned that this was something I loved. Later, I signed up for Advanced Painting, and was thrilled to be under Engelhart's wing again. I distinctly remember that first day; he told us that to be a successful painter we needed to learn discipline, we needed to paint every day. Our first assignment was to paint seven paintings in three weeks. It was with that simple direction that I buckled down and started to create. He inspired me to jump in and get the work done. We were invited to visit his studio and discuss our progress and it's there that I became familiar with his impressive work, and realized he was a renowned artist appreciated far beyond this small college. He taught me not to feed into pressure but to have fun and play with this form of expression. This book is an amazing retrospective of his work over 50 years, from student to master. I strive to be as disciplined and prolific.
Life Doesn't Frighten Me
Poem by Maya Angelou
Paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat

This book was given to me by a dear friend. It's a simple book, but spurred in me a fearlessness that has shaped me as a person and as an artist. It taught me confidence in presenting my work in any form, and allowed me to play freely and never fear what other people think of my work. The book is made up of a selection of paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, with a strong poem by Maya Angelou that presents a contemporary narrative to Basquiat's work. It's direct and simplifies the negative energy fear sometimes dictates and makes it playful and almost fun. It taught me the power of my own voice and that my work is like no other.


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