In Portland-based painter Josh Keyes’ series Old Ones, he features a soaring bald eagle, an elk sitting quietly in a green forest, and a bear looking at the world on his hind legs. It all sounds normal, but the elk’s antlers double as tree branches, and the brown bear is taller than all of the pine trees. For more than several years now, Keyes has painted realistically-rendered portraits of animals, like something you’d see in a text book. We’ve featured his work before, when the same style of paintings confined animals to small and desolate spaces of land. By contrast, this series is more idyllic as he depicts nature in lush scenes where the land feels limitless.
Keyes is best known for his subject matter, and it’s not a surprise that he’s started to explore different ideas within the scope of the animal kingdom. Old Ones is a new series apart of the larger The Far Side of the World, both started just this year, with its development a long time coming. He explains, “The endeavor of creating and exploring an inner world began to take shape in the pages of my sketchbook a few years ago, and what began as simple sketches has led to a vast imaginary landscape and epic narrative that unfolds into many directions.”
There’s no doubt Keyes has painted some strange things over the years (including a buffalo with a human hand), and based on this alluring statement, stranger things are yet to come. “This is a brief introduction to a few of the animals and beings that inhabit this world. Many have remained dormant in the land and forests and suddenly woke up or have come out of hiding. It may have been the gradual silencing of the human world or the change in the Earth’s climate that roused them from their deep slumber. One thing is clear, the world has changed…”