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'War Weary,' an acrylic, watercolor, ink and pastel painting by Will Storm, is a tribute to Storm's father, who flew B-17s during World War II.

The color of emotion

Whether riding shotgun in the cockpit of a B-17, doing ride-alongs with Oregon State Police or attending live fire training at Fort Lewis, Wash., Ashland artist Will Storm strives for a firsthand perspective for his prospective work.

Through his gonzo art strategy, Storm uses personal experiences and emotions to create the context for his artwork and draws from, not only visual, but auditory and tactile cues, as well.

After 32 years in the phone industry, Storm was introduced to a local art instructor through his wife and, within three days, quit his job and signed up for art school. He had found his niche.

While he prefers oil and pastel, his media depend on the scene. When there is movement and action, he prefers thick oils and acrylics, which produce texture and depth. He reserves the more smooth and "sensual" watercolors and pastels for nudes and nature.

Similarly, content also determines the style. Sometimes Storm employs tight details, showing the reflection of an object on the spokes of a motorcycle and reflected light. Other scenes command a more impressionistic approach. In this style, "globs" or large brush strokes may seem messy and erratic up close but as you step back, the imagery surfaces, says Storm. His slogan is, "If you're only seeing paint, I'm not doing my job."

Storm's content varies from planes, cars and trains to people, nature and nudes. However, motorcycles have always been at the forefront of his work.

"I spent a lifetime on motorcycles," he says. "I've ridden 500,000 (documented) miles. ... Part of my being is getting a leg over a bike and traveling."

Storm has a personal attachment to many of the subjects of his work. For example, "Marine Helicopter" is a painting of the first model of helicopter he rode in as a Marine. "War Weary," a mixed-media painting of a B-17, is a tribute to Storm's father, who piloted B-17s as part of the Fifth Air Force during World War II. Two days prior to his own B-17 excursion, Storm found out his father was dying of cancer.

Emotions, he says, dictate the colors he uses.

"Mood determines where the colors go," he says. "If I have a nude standing in front of me, sometimes there is a heat to a woman that may be better described with reds and oranges and hot colors."

Likewise, trains are a testament to a bygone era and evoke a gray, gritty and dirty image, so there is a tendency to reflect those colors on canvas, says Storm.

Colors also are capable of conveying sound. For example, the sound of a shell casing hitting the floor during live fire training can be “heard” in brass and yellow and green hues, says Storm.

“Colors vibrate, and I think that if you can listen close enough to the color, you can pick that sound up,” he says.

Storm's work is currently on display at Ignition Gallery and the Thomas Lee Gallery in Claycomb's Plaza Mall, 40 North Main St., Ashland, as well as Hansen's BMW Triumph Ducati KTM Motorcycles, 3598 S. Pacific Highway, Medford.

For more information, see www.ravenartworks.com or call 541-488-8259.

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