This Friday and Saturday, Pine Country Restaurant in Williams hosts a reception and print signing featuring renowned southwestern and Grand Canyon artist Fred Lucas.
The event marks the launch of the restaurant's new gallery and expanded gift shop as well as Lucas' return to the Grand Canyon art market.
He has shown extensively in northern Arizona, including at the Grand Canyon, where he was the featured artist at El Tovar for more than a decade. His work has also been on display at the North Rim Lodge, the IMAX theater and the Best Western Squire Inn where one of his outsized murals still hangs.
"This is my first major entrance back into the canyon area market in three and a half years," he said.
At the signing, Lucas will also have a new charcoal drawing of two elk available to the public for the first time.
As she was renovating and expanding the restaurant she has owned for nine years, Pine Country owner Dee Seehorn was envisioning something special and unique.
"The food is the same, but we've dressed things up," she said. "We've moved the furniture around and took a corner and turned it into an art gallery."
She was introduced to the artist through a mutual acquaintance who thought Lucas' works would fit well with what Seehorn wanted to accomplish.
"He introduced us and it blossomed," she said. "His work is not only in the gallery and gift shop. It's throughout the dining room for people to enjoy."
"I had been showing my work in Williams for a number of years," Lucas said. "When Dee did her expansion, we met and I talked to her about an exhibition and she was very delighted. I'm hoping that Pine Country will be my central location for exhibiting Grand Canyon art for the region."
His works there include five originals and numerous fine reproductions expressing the American west's culture, wildlife and grandeur.
Ten of those are of Grand Canyon, three in extra-large format.
Lucas has been painting in the southwest for more than 25 years, ever since his job as an engineer for the government brought him to Nevada
Dream come true
"I had always wanted to be out west," he said. "So it was sort of a dream come true that they stationed me out here."
Eventually, his part-time painting proved successful enough to enable him to pursue it full-time. He moved to centrally-located Prescott, Ariz., and from that base worked out in all directions in pursuit of western themes.
He has 2,500 original works to his credit, 160 of those depicting Grand Canyon. He has rendered both the North and South rims and currently his interest has focused on the canyon's western reaches.
He has also painted from Yosemite National Park, Pacific northwest, California and the Sonoran Desert. Currently, he is engaged in compositions of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
"I love the beauty of nature whether it's the landscape or wildlife," he said. "I love the way in which you can communicate peacefulness in your art. Landscape seems to be a very strong way to do that."
He draws on site and does small color studies, which he takes back to the studio. He rarely works from photographs, and when he does, he refers to black and white images for shadow definitions.
Lucas began his formal art training at age nine and throughout his education and career has especially focused on the Flemish masters of the 1500s. Not only do his paintings reflect their treatments of light and form, but he has also embraced their philosophy that it isn't only composition but also careful preparation and choice of materials that contribute to a piece's perfection.
He sees fine art as an investment, and he paints with the collector in mind, choosing materials and following techniques to guarantee a painting's longevity. He is equally meticulous when choosing ink, paper and process for prints.
Collectors have responded. His work has been on display all over the country, from the Arizona statehouse to the White House, and in public and private collections worldwide, including at the Museum of Northern Arizona and 20th Century Fox headquarters.
A group of Arizona businessmen presented a Fred Lucas painting to the emperor of Japan and the late Sen. Barry Goldwater maintained that Lucas' Grand Canyon paintings were the best he'd ever seen.
Celebrating the west
Lucas' celebration of western culture doesn't end with his paintings. He is also an accomplished leather artist, has written artistic and historical narratives and is a professional performer of western and popular music.
"Having him show here is such an honor," Seehorn said. "His work is just amazing. You couldn't find a better selection of Grand Canyon and western art anywhere."
Seehorn said that visitors need not feel obligated to purchase prints or stay for a meal.
"Of course people can just come in and meet him," she said.
The restaurant is open from 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. For information, call 928-635-9718. For more on Lucas and his art, visit www.fredlucasarts.com.