Speaker: Peering across time and space
Every artist’s perspective is unique, and few have as unique a view of the Connecticut River Valley as Will Sillin. Will spoke recently about his experiences painting the valley as it appears today, and how it may have looked hundreds of millions of years ago, at the Connecticut Audubon Center at Glastonbury.
Will's talent may have come naturally, but in order to develop his skills Will Sillin hiked in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, camped beside Alaskan glaciers, and climbed in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He learned to be resourceful, and fashioned special equipment to tote paintings while still wet, and rigged tent flies so they would dry.
Recording the marks time left on the land, nature made its impressions on him. Will became adept at painting landscapes on grand scales, with only minutes to capture fast changing conditions. He grew to develop his own sense of earthly shapes and forms, and the effects of light and shadow, as they interacted with his subjects.
By the time he returned to paint his native Connecticut River Valley he had mastered the plein air style of painting. Will has continued to portray its beauty by drawing from the many images, impressions, visual references and experiences he now keeps catalogued in his mind, and that give his work its enlightened perspective.
His paintings caught the eye of an Amherst College geologist who commissioned Will to apply what he'd learned about the earth in the present to paint a mural of how the world may have looked in the ancient past, during the Mesozoic, or the "middle ages" of life on earth.
Based on the success of that painting, Will had an opportunity to speak with Rich Krueger, then the supervisor of Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, about an idea Rich had to create a large mural of the Connecticut Valley in Late Triassic time.
Since fossils and rocks are all that remain of that times, Will began the mural by making field trips with renowned paleontologists Drs. Paul Olsen and Bruce Cornet, two leading experts on the Connecticut Valley of some 200 million years ago. The results of that research, seen through Sillin’s eye, are paintings like the magnificent mural seen at the park today.
Last year, Will began exploring a new media, creating computer generated, 3-D illustrations of dinosaurs known from Connecticut Valley fossils for our book, "Great Day Trips in the Connecticut Valley of the Dinosaurs."
These days, he is working hard at clearing his schedule to focus solely on his art. Where his work will take him next Will isn't sure. His next new experience may well be another journey into the past.