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For area painter, play is life and art is work

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Richard Waltsak has painted more than 200 paintings of Mount Sopris in his 29 years as a resident of the Roaring Fork Valley. (Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent)
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Artists are a unique breed. They see life as art and vice versa.

Life for Richard Waltsak is all about living. It’s apparent in his artwork.

“I have no problem wasting a day,” he said. “Today, I’m an electrician.”

He’s remodeling a portion of his rustic home on the banks of the Roaring Fork River, just south of Glenwood Springs, into a new studio and gallery for his artwork.

Hard work doesn’t scare him: You can tell because he’s doing all the labor himself. He finds enjoyment through labor, he said.

That’s play.

He believes in hard work, but also believes in balancing that with a lot of play time.

“That’s life,” he said. “Fishing, hiking, there’s always something to do around here.”

That’s life.

Living in the Roaring Fork Valley for the past 29 years, he’s done his share of both work and play. In just a couple of weeks he’s traveling to Acapulco, Mexico, for a painting trip.

That’s work.

“People have no clue how hard it is,” he said. “It’s a lot of work. It’s a pain in the ass just to find a place to paint.”

About this time last year, Waltsak traveled to Italy doing just that, working. He spent three weeks capturing landscapes on a canvas. He drove more than 3,000 miles and painted 24 works of art.

“Each painting has a story,” he said as he looked at one of the numerous paintings that decorate his home. “It’s like capturing a moment of your life; my paintings are like the story of my life.”

As he stood in his kitchen, working a coffee press, he described his time in Italy as “no vacation.” He said that it was a daily routine of waking up, finding a place to paint (sometimes more than one), then finding a place to eat, finally ending the day finding a place to sleep for the night.

“I did that every day. It’s a lot of work,” he said. “But there’s nothing better than setting up a canvas in God’s world and putting that beauty on the canvas.”

It may be work, but as previously said, work doesn’t scare him.

“I do it because I love it, because it’s in my blood,” he said. “When you’re out there, someone could steal your car. You are just focused and into the painting.”

Waltsak is an artist, but he doesn’t classify himself as one. Painting is his passion, though it may be a gift and a curse.

“It’s a major distraction in my life,” he said. “I would probably be a multimillionaire if I weren’t a painter.”

Waltsak estimated that he’s painted hundreds to thousands of paintings during his lifetime and even had a studio (Sopris Mountain Gallery) on Sixth Street in downtown Glenwood Springs for a year. But that didn’t fit into the life that he wanted. And it’s not how he does art.

“That was too much like work,” he said. “I thought that I could be a studio painter, but I couldn’t do it. I would rather be outside painting.”

Mount Sopris, overpowering the view from his backyard, has been a central theme in many of his works – more than 200, he estimates. He doesn’t really know because he doesn’t keep count of his paintings.

That’s work.

But you can’t ignore inspiration. Inspiration, such as what Waltsak gets from the majestic Mount Sopris, comes in many forms. You just have to be willing to accept it.

“Life in general inspires me,” Waltsak said.

You can tell by the way he plays and by the way he works.

It’s just life.


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