Backhaus was one of the painters featured in the 2007 PBS series Plein Air, Painting the American Landscape, and is instrumental in the independently produced series Passport and Palette, which was recently running on the Create TV cable network.
The latter is one of the better instructional painting shows I’ve seen, and I found the episodes with Backhaus to be the most instructive.
Backhaus was born in Wisconsin and attended the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee. He pursued a successful career as an illustrator and designer, earning recognition from the Society of Illustrators in New York as well as national and local awards; but after ten years or so his passion for plein air painting took over and became his primary focus.
He paints with the crisp immediacy often associated with the best plein air painters, using textural brushstrokes and the artful simplification of forms to their essentials to capture fleeting light in the field.
Unlike a number of contemporary plein air painters who feel the need to emulate Impressionist colors, Backhaus exercises restraint in his color palette, refusing to overstate colors simply for effect. Instead he searches out the real light and color of the scene before him, finding compositional drama in value contrasts and richness of color in the carefully noted relationships of adjacent colors.
There is a gallery of work on his website (note at the top a link to a second page). Unfortunately, the images are on the small side. Somewhat larger images can be found on the websites of galleries where his work is represented (listed below).
In addition to pursuing his painting, Backhaus devotes time to a number of workshops and seminars throughout the year. You can see his current schedule here. The next workshop is a 5 day outdoor and studio class at the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops in Greenville, NY from September 26 to October 2, 2010.
He is also leading the Passport and Palette travel workshop in the South of France from October 16-25, 2010. These painting trips will be filmed as part of upcoming Passport and Palette episodes.