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A painter of all seasons: Moen paints buildings when warm and on canvas during winter

Painter Aaron Moen stands in front of two of his paintings currently on display at the Hastings Art Center. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
This wolf by Aaron Moen stares at visitors of the art center as they walk past. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
An oil painting of a snow leopard currently on display at the Hastings Art Center. Artist Aaron Moen took the photo that inspired this piece at the Minnesota Zoo. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Aaron Moen has been doing art since he was a child growing up in Hastings, watching his father paint impressionistic landscapes. At 21, Moen created a business that paints building exteriors. In the cold months when no one wants to be outside, Moen works on his own paintings of animals and landscapes.

Now, Moen's winter hobby is on display at the Hastings Art Center.

The majority of the subjects in Moen's paintings focus on Minnesota scenes and animals: a squirrel, Split Rock Lighthouse and water rushing over rocks at Jay Cooke State Park.

"Animals (were) kind of my first love and I came to do drawings and paintings of (them) and then I branched out into more landscapes," Moen said.

Some of Moen's paintings show classic Minnesota animals: black bear, moose and red fox. However, there are paintings that do not seem to fit in with the others — a snow leopard, for example.

Moen revealed his not-so-secret secret: many of the animals he paints are actually in the Minnesota Zoo. He will take a photo of animals in the zoo and then combine that image with another photo he took for the background.

The painting of a moose that is currently on display at the arts center is a combination of two photos Moen took. The first was of a moose (taken at the zoo) and the second photo was of a large evergreen that he thought would be a good background.

Some landscapes and animals are also based on photos Moen took at state and national parks throughout the United States.

When asked how long it takes to complete a painting, Moen was unable to give an exact amount of time. One reason is because the length is dependent on the size of the painting. Also, he is usually working on three or four paintings at a time.

Moen works in oils, and they take a few days to completely dry. While the background of one painting is drying, he will work on the foreground of another or add finishing details to a third. With this process, Moen usually completes about seven to 10 paintings a winter.

Though all of Moen's paintings are oils, not all of his work displayed at the Hastings Art Center is. A couple of the pieces are giclee, or a print of a painting that is put on canvas.

One giclee piece is a fox. Moen's wife did not want him to display the original painting in the show.

"She's got the original at home and she made me sign a paper that I wouldn't sell it," said Moen with a smile.

The Hastings Art Center will be displaying Moen's work through Jan. 12.

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