Jill Beathard

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November 20, 2012
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A lifetime of painting

Artist Georgeann Waggaman started seriously painting when she was around 12 in Virginia, where she grew up. She recalls a visit to Monticello with her parents around that time.

"I sketched Monticello with my pencil, and I had all the Boy Scouts watching me," she said. "I thought, 'cool.'"

Now, after a long career painting architectural renderings in the Roaring Fork Valley, she is teaching classes at Colorado Mountain College in Aspen and is the primary curator of "En Plein Air," an exhibit on display in the Villas at Snowmass Club Welcome Center.

Waggaman worked hard as an architectural renderer. For much of her career, she was the only one in the valley.

"I did that for years and years but I wanted to see if I could be a fine artist," Waggaman said. "I always did a little bit of painting. But also my arch renderings were very tight and they were watercolor and it was too hard to be doing that all day and then trying to paint plein air or loose and free at night, fine art at night."

Eventually she decided she could afford to retire from rendering, and anyway it was becoming more computer-oriented, which she wasn't interested in doing.

"I want to be an artist, not a technician," she said.

She now teaches painting classes at CMC-Aspen.

"It's certainly no way to retire," Waggaman said. "I'm working harder than ever, but it's fun to teach, fun to share my knowledge."

"En Plein Air," an exhibit of plein air works by seven Roaring Fork Valley artists, opens Nov. 21 at the Villas at Snowmass Club Welcome Center. While the exhibit is a chance to view local art, it is also an opportunity to purchase a more affordable, smaller piece depicting local landscapes.

"Plein air" is the in-vogue term for painting outside these days. It sounds simple but really requires a lot of skill.

"Plein air painting is a whole different skill," Waggaman explained. "Most people, when they start to learn to paint, they'll paint from photographs and things. But simply because it's a lot harder to go outside and paint - you have to have all the gear and whatever and you have to learn how to do it. But as much as it's maybe harder, you want to do it because you can see so much better."

Waggaman experiences the difference in her own painting.

"Frequently I'll go outside to paint, but I'll take some photographs at the same time, and then when I come in sometimes I'll use the photographs to reference," she said. "But sometimes I only go by what I've painted outside, and I'm amazed at how different it looks. ... I really want to catch more what's going on in my own head."

Waggaman selected the exhibit's participants, all experienced artists from the valley whom she knows personally.

"I said what we want is paintings you've done outside of our local stuff and somewhat small, because we want things a person could easily say, 'Oh, I can take that home,'" Waggaman said. "I'm trying to enhance the visitor's experience with a memory of the Roaring Fork Valley."

The welcome center features a new exhibit about every six months. "En Plein Air" will be on display through the ski season. The opening reception for the artists is Dec. 17.


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The Aspen Times Updated Nov 20, 2012 04:58PM Published Nov 20, 2012 04:56PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.