At home in Aspen: Emily Chaplin’s online art auction |

At home in Aspen: Emily Chaplin’s online art auction


Emily Chaplin’s painting auction is live at

Prices range from $50 to $495. All proceeds will go to Nicholas Kristof’s C-19 Impact Initiative.

Soon after the stay-home period began, Snowmass Village-based photographer Emily Chaplin got to work on her long-delayed and put-off plans to develop a regular painting practice.

And soon after that, she found a way to use her practice to help people suffering during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Through May 21, Chaplin is holding an online auction of her paintings at with all of the proceeds going to Nicholas Kristof’s C-19 Impact Initiative, which is raising funds for five frontline organizations. Her goal is to raise $2,500.

As of Monday, she had already raised $1,585 toward her goal.

“It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s one way I felt like I could be useful and do some good,” Chaplin said.

The 20-piece online auction includes acrylic paintings based off of her photographs as well as options for custom paintings. Prices range from $50 to $495. The pieces include a soaring mountainscape of the Brush Creek Valley at sunset, sun-drenched South Beach lifeguard towers, still-lifes of flowers and fruit, and scenic portraits from Madison County to Cape Hatteras in Chaplin’s native North Carolina.

The pandemic shut down the commercial and editorial photography business she runs with her partner, Chris Council, and wiped out the event-heavy summer they’d booked here — anchored by the Aspen Ideas Festival, where the pair have been a fixture for years — and elsewhere. Like many, she found herself under public health orders at home without work and without a readily accessible way to help during the crisis.

Chaplin has painted since high school, on and off, though the hobby has taken a backseat to the photography gigs that keep her busy, traveling and inspired. It had become a rare indulgence, like an oil painting workshop she took last summer at Anderson Ranch Arts Center,

“I’ve always put it to the side made excuses like, ‘I don’t have the right space,’ ‘I don’t have time,’ ‘I travel so much,’’ she explained. “The shutdown actually presented an opportunity to stop making excuses.”

So she cleared out a spare bedroom that had become more of a bicycle storage space, put down drop cloths and an easel and carved out a five-by-five area, drenched in sunlight, to serve as her makeshift studio. She started painting in late March.

“It brings me so much joy and it’s a great way to pass the time,” she said. “It also relieves stress. It’s been a godsend during the shutdown.”

Until business comes back for commercial photography and she can generate income, Chaplin noted, her friends and family can expect upcoming holiday and birthday gifts to come from her easel.

The idea for the fundraiser began with gifts. As she began finishing paintings in late March, Chaplin sent some to family members, hoping to offer a dose of color and joy during the pandemic and its attendant stay-home period. The positive responses helped her decide she might be able to put them to use for the greater good.

She chose some of her favorite scenic photos, made new paintings from them, and started the auction.

“If I had a ton of money, I’d just be giving money,” she said. “Some people are in that position and I hope they are stepping up because there is so much need. Those of us who don’t have those resources are doing what we can.”

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