(b. 1940)Ray Knaub grew up watching the sky over his home on the outskirts of Scottsbluff in western Nebraska. His sense of wonder at the power and beauty of the heavens suffuses Knaub’s landscapes of America’s prairie. “I always paint the sky first,” Knaub says. “It controls what’s going to be in the painting. My main interest, as well as the prairie landscape, is the weather and what the light does in terms of mood.”
Ray won a track scholarship to Baylor University in Waco, Texas. That is where his talent for art surprised him. During his sophomore year he signed up for an elective course in drawing. “I found I really enjoyed it and I did extremely well. I amazed myself.” Knaub transferred to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1963. He did postgraduate studies at the University of Colorado where he and his wife, Sheri, moved after graduation.
He bought into the Modernist ethic, trying many different things including abstraction and pop art. But the longer he was involved in Modernism the more he thought that he wasn’t going anywhere with it. So he went back to his roots. Inspired by the very public success and acclaim enjoyed at the time by Andrew Wyeth, Knaub began to paint realistic oil landscapes. And he finally found his truest artistic calling.
Knaub’s finely honed ability to make the viewer see the prairie in a fresh new light or perhaps to stop and contemplate it for the first time has slowly evolved into a mission for the artist. “If the viewers find something in the painting that they enjoy, and it talks to them, terrific.” And if they stare at the painting, entranced, much as a young child might stare in awe at a stormy prairie sky, then Knaub knows he’s done his job.