- Todd Koelmel
- Reservoir Sunset, oil on panel, 2018
The Ashokan Reservoir has been inspiring musicians, writers, and artists for generations. This month's cover artist, Todd Koelmel, says he's constantly drawn to the water's many moods and constant beauties. "I drive across that dyke nearly every day," he says. "I love that primitive view. There can't be many lakes with so little development on the shoreline."
Growing up in Woodstock is impossible without a certain amount of art exposure, but Koelmel's personal journey didn't lead straight to a paintbrush. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and spent two decades as an engineer, founding Kingston-based Solar Generation with partner Jason Spiotta in 2005. "My art is self-taught, and it's very much informed by my engineering background," he says. "It almost feels as though I build these images the way you would a structure. Coming up with a plan, creating a design, and then executing it—I love every step of the process."
Koelmel's process begins with images captured on his iPhone. "When I get an image that moves me, with the right elements of interesting contrast, layout, and balance, I'll take that image and start working with it digitally, just fiddle with it for a couple of days," he says. "Meanwhile I build a panel for it. I don't paint on canvas, I paint on birch plywood panels, so going and selecting the right wood from the lumberyard and cutting, sanding, and mounting it is a whole procedure in itself."
The panel is then painted black, and the digital image is printed as a stencil to guide Koelmel's paintbrush. "I paint in oils, and then when the stencil is removed, the black background is negative space between blocks of colors and I love that," he says. "It adds high definition. I love pop art, although I don't want to limit myself to it—I've just always been drawn to hard lines and solid blocks. I don't do a lot of shading."
Koelmel sold Solar Generation in 2017, allowing him to shift his art from avocation to vocation. "For 20 years, I was painting in my free time—after work, after the kids went to bed," he says. "For the last five years, it's been every day. Three or four years ago, I came to this style and I had to see where it would take me."
He's been selling work now for 18 months, and has exhibited in New York City, Los Angeles, and the Hudson Valley. (Koelmel's work came to our attention via the Small Bands of Misbehavior show last fall at Studio929 Canal in Middletown.) "And now a Chronogram cover!" he says. "I agree with Warhol that art can be business; otherwise, you'd run out of places to put the stuff. I feel so lucky to have found this unique voice that feels like me. And I just put a studio on the house this year, so the kids are in and out all the time and see their dad happily building paintings."
- Dustin Joyce
- Trending Plastic
- Dustin Joyce
For this issue's alt covers, we asked cover Todd Koelmel to recommend another artist he would put on the cover of Chronogram. Koelmel suggested the work of Brooklyn-based painter Dustin Joyce.