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Lend Us Your Eyes

March 12, 2007

Forgive me this one, but I must say it: “Gloria Jean Countryman, lend us your eyes.”

Gloria is a reknowned local painter whose work is now on display at the library. We will have an artist’s reception this Friday, March 16, from 5-7 p.m. at the library, at which Gloria will demonstrate painting clouds in watercolor.

She is a favorite watercolor teacher in these parts. A friend was on something like a 20-year waiting list for a class. Maybe it was just a 2-year wait. In any case, don’t expect to just walk in on a whim and find a seat in her class.

The library show has watercolors, of course, but it also includes pastels, acrylics, and varnished watercolors … the last I found particularly appealing.

The show begins over the water fountain with a watercolor entitled “Wet Mountains.” This made me smile. Who said artists can’t be witty?

At the top of the stairs on the easel is one of my favorites, “Chain of events.” I haven’t analyzed why this abstraction appealed to me immediately. Right now, I just accept it.

The watercolors range from a long landscape called “Hi Plains Storm” to a selection of numbered mini-landscapes, such as “Mini Landscape #7” and “Mini Landscape #66.

Look at “Hi Plains Storm” for a hint of what Gloria might demonstrate at Friday’s reception. We are blessed to see painterly skies here often, but they last only moments. You can look at Gloria’s skies at your leisure and remember.

I liked all of the mini landscapes. There’s something particularly attractive in them, and I liken it to reading a well-written letter in an elegant hand. I could picture an expert brush over these small pieces of paper bobbing and looping, dotting and dabbing, and saying in the end, “And that’s how it happened.”

The abstract “Visual Series” are in varnished watercolor. I don’t know enough to say what effect varnish might have in them. The colors seem darker, deeper. The paintings are soulful, but likely that’s the artist rather than the varnish. I just like the idea — varnish must change how light plays off the pigments.

Gloria began her career as an oil painter in Texas. After moving to Colorado in 1984, she started using watercolor, and it became her passion. Passion shows. Pastels are an even newer love.

One pastel in the show is entitled “Grasses of March.” I know it’s not my yard in March — red, yellow, green, purple. Must be farthest Texas. Another pastel, “High Mountain Runoff,” has a feel familiar to anyone who spends time in the mountains — the feel of standing with stone, water, evergreens in the shadow of a mountain, while distant mountains are awash in sunlight.

Watercolor painting is plain hard. A successful painting is the sum of vision, planning, and practiced technique. Plus the absence of mistakes; they’re hard to fix in watercolor. I’m always impressed by watercolorists of Gloria’s caliber.

Landscapes are a favorite class of paintings for me. I think interesting things are revealed about us — our psychology, our emotions — through landscape paintings. “Hi Plains Storm” has the drama that makes you want to stare, and it has the feel of the plains, being three-quarters sky.

Please join us Friday at the reception. You might be able to see Gloria’s work elsewhere (she has been at Mountain Spirit Winery and Gallery since 1995), but Friday you can also see Gloria work and hear her discuss her art.

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