Ski Trail Map Painter
James Niehues, 60, resort and panoramic illustrator, Loveland, Colo.
Interview by Armin Harris

(FORTUNE Magazine) - Since I was a little kid, I've been enthralled with landscapes. I have to first be a mapmaker, but I'm really a painter.

I do about 12 to 20 illustrations a year. I've probably done 75% of the large resorts. My fee is based on the size of the ski area, the difficulty of it, and the time I spend doing it.

When I receive a commission, I'll go on location and fly the area. I photograph closeups and sections of the mountain as well as an overall view. Then I work with topographic maps and make a sketch that shows all the shadows, trees, and buildings. I try to give every area an individual look or feel.

For instance, for Taos I painted in a lot of reds for the desert conditions. I enjoy New Zealand because there are fewer trees. I like painting trees, but they're time consuming. I spend probably 80% of my time on trees.

I always hoped people would want my originals. They're now going to be for sale through an art dealer, It is kind of a crossroads for me. Before, I did this to make a living. But I'm hoping that I can sell some of these and can get on to the projects I'd really like to do: the national parks. I've got everything I need to do Mount St. Helens, I just haven't had time to get on it. Top of page