Questions & Artists: Rodger Bechtold

Starting his art career in the world of commercial-art illustration, Rodger Bechtold has spent the past 30-plus years painting landscapes as a full-time artist. His paintings capture the exuberance and wildness of the natural world. 

Rodger Bechtold

“Caught up in an ever-hyper-busy world, we seem to be drifting away from something very precious, a bond with the land that’s ages old,” Bechtold said. “My hope is that my painting might somehow rekindle an interest in what wonder surrounds us every day and yet goes unnoticed.”

Bechtold and his wife, botanical illustrator Glory Bechtold, live and work near Chicago and on Washington Island.

Growing up, did you have a teacher or family member who gave you encouragement in the pursuit of art?

I was born in Flint, Michigan, and at two my family moved to Peoria, Illinois. Going through high school there, my art teacher, Lyle Suffield, encouraged my interest in art and introduced me to the American Academy of Art in Chicago after graduation.

How would you describe your current work? Has your work changed during the last several years?

My work today has to do with the abstraction I see in the landscape and expressed with color that I feel is there. My work is constantly evolving and searching for something new.

Why do you choose to focus on landscapes?

Landscape has always held my attention primarily because it is pure abstraction and busy with chaos.

Do you have a favorite color palette? 

Colors move in and out of my palette to keep things fresh. I’ve worked in pastel and watercolor, but the oil on canvas really gets my work where it needs to go.

“Blanket of Fallen Leaves” by Rodger Bechtold.

How large are your pieces, and how long do they take to create?

Paintings have a funny way of telling you that they are complete and have their own time schedule – never constant. The pair of paintings [that are] 12×15 feet – each commissioned for the Weidner Center – took nine months to complete, to give you an idea.

Who are some of your favorite artists? 

Rothko, Wolf Kahn, Matisse, Bonnard, Van Gogh, Monet, Joan Mitchell and Milton Avery to name a few.

Where do you call home?

I call Washington Island home because that’s where my heart is. I have a studio and home there, but winter months are spent in Bull Valley, Illinois.

Have you always been an artist, or did you work in another field before finding art?

Always in art. I’ve been making my living as an artist since I was 19 years old, and [I’ve been] represented by Edgewood Orchard Galleries for at least 30 years.

To see some of Bechtold’s work, visit Edgewood Orchard Galleries, 4140 Peninsula Players Road in Fish Creek. The hours are 10 am to 5 pm daily through Oct. 27. 

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