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The Evolution of Art in Castle Rock

Local artists share how they helping others stay creative during the COVID crisis

The art scene in Castle Rock has been accelerating at a rapid pace over the last year and a half, ever since the Castle Rock Artist Cooperative (CRAC) held its first board of directors meeting at Ecclesia in July of 2019. It filled a void left behind by the now-defunct Greater Castle Rock Art Guild, and until COVID struck, CRAC was hosting pop-up art shows at restaurants and bars all around town. 

Speaking of COVID, the crisis has impacted nearly every imaginable area of our lives, and the art world is no exception. Art classes have gone the way of our current education system — online. A handful of local artists, all CRAC members, offer to impart their wisdom of tricks and techniques of the trade to anyone who wants to up their game, artistically. 

Cindy Welch

Cindy Welch was teaching live classes at Hobby Lobby until the pandemic threw a monkey wrench into her plans. It quickly became clear that live, in-person classes wouldn’t be an option, so she created online courses using Zoom. Her class session is four to six weeks, one class per week. Each class includes an hour and a half of student interaction and live demonstrations. Students continue painting, and can communicate with Cindy between classes via email and through her Facebook group, Watercolor Painting with Cindy Welch. Students can watch the demo as many times as they like for one to two weeks after the class. For more information, visit cindywelchartist.com.

Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

A: My goal is to teach the fundamentals of watercolor in a fun and colorful environment. I teach the basics of creating a successful watercolor painting, including introduction of supplies, reference material, color, value, light, composition, special techniques, and more, for the beginning student as well as a refresher for the more advanced student to strengthen their fundamentals. For students with more experience, we will explore more advanced techniques and concepts while giving students an opportunity to work on their own projects in conjunction with the theme of the class.

Q: What are some of the themes?

A: Themes include landscapes, flowers, animals, and reflective surfaces. Art is ultimately a personal expression of each individual’s view of the world. I encourage unique creativity while teaching the skills to execute your vision. My goal is to personalize the instruction as much as possible in a class setting. Students also benefit from meeting fellow artists, observing different styles and techniques, and making new friends.

Q: How can creativity be taught?
A: Creativity can be therapeutic, invigorating, and exciting. My classes take the guesswork out of the creative process, so it’s less intimidating and more fun. Each student will be supported and encouraged. There will be demos, instruction at all levels, critique,, and lots of painting time. Class time is structured, yet open enough to accommodate the artistic spirit within us all. All levels are welcome and encouraged to attend. The only prerequisite is a desire to have fun creating. You will come away from this class with enthusiasm for watercolor painting, some new techniques, new friends, and knowledge that you can use for a lifetime.

Q: What are some of the advantages of online art classes?

A: You can learn in the comfort and safety of your own home. You can attend the live class, or watch the recorded demo when it’s convenient for you. You have access to the class to watch it more than once, and you can pause and rewind when needed. You can attend the classes from anywhere in the world. The classes are great for teenagers and kids who want art in their online curriculum. There’s no need to pack up your supplies and travel in traffic or in bad weather. 

Q: How do you like this new paradigm?
A: I’ve really enjoyed teaching this way and I feel fortunate to be able to continue to teach and connect with others who share my passion for watercolor.

Jeanne Oliver

Jeanne Oliver uses art to tell her current stories and also those of growing up among gravel roads, cornfields, and early life surrounded by open spaces. Through mark-making, layers, and mixed media, she hopes to convey that we all have a story to tell. Jeanne is married to her dream maker, Kelly, and the mother of three funny and creative children. She homeschools her children even though she has tried to get out of it a few times. You can often find her hiking, creating in her studio, and finding an excuse to have another cup of coffee. She speaks and teaches all around the country and sometimes she even gets to cross the pond. She was told that she needed to find that one thing but she doesn’t like listening to directions so she embraces many loves and that has given her a sweet mash-up of family, art, and travel. Connecting with women and sharing that each of us has been creatively made is one of her passions. For more information about Jeanne, visit jeanneoliver.com.

Q: When did you first begin to get into art? How did you know you wanted to become an artist?

A: I don't think there has been in a time in my life when I didn't long to live a creative life. Whether I was gathering the neighborhood kids to put on a play, writing really bad poetry under a tree, or spending all of my extra money at Ben Franklin on raw wood boxes and craft paint...creating has been there from the beginning. Now, it took me a while to understand I could embrace it as a career but that is a whole other story. To be an artist, whether through writing, painting, sculpting, performing, etc. has been my lifelong desire. 

Q: How long have you been in Castle Rock?

A: We have lived in Castle Rock for almost 18 years.

Q: How long have you been in Castle Rock, and how have you seen the art scene develop in Castle Rock?

A: When we first moved to Castle Rock from Ft. Collins, it was a huge adjustment. Castle Rock was a lot smaller back then, and there were not as many options as we have now, and I am excited when I see the direction that our beautiful town is going. When I think of the art scene I do not just think of fine art or art galleries but beauty of all kinds throughout our town. Some of the biggest changes I have seen are specialty dining, the amphitheater at the MAC with live concerts that make summer nights so much sweeter, fun food trucks sprinkled all over, art coming to our alleyways, local artists being shared on the walls of some of our favorite restaurants, Rhyolite Art Gallery, the outdoor Christmas market, the annual Castle Rock Art Festival, and the beautiful farmer's market during the summer. 

Q: What are the challenges facing artists in this area today? 

A: I think a challenge that faces many artists is not knowing how or where to get their work seen. I know that our business has been possible and has thrived because of the online community we have created that allows us to reach customers from around the world. I had no idea when we started connecting online over 13 years ago what a huge impact it would have on our lives but also the freedom it would give us to reach our customers easily and intentionally. 

Q: What are the advantages of providing online art instruction?

A: Online art instruction gives you the opportunity to learn from anyone about anything from anywhere in the world, you can learn for a fraction of the cost of live instruction/travel, you can take a course at your leisure and around your own schedule, you can create a community with creatives from around the world and you often have lifetime access to the content. Online learning is changing who we can access, how we learn, and even how we can create content for others. 

Q: How do you hope to see the art scene in Castle Rock evolving in the coming years?

A: I look forward to seeing more art murals in the alleys and buildings in the downtown area. There is something really special about the unexpected value of art that anyone can access. 

Colin Shreffler

Colin is a Pennsylvania native who’s a contract photographer for the Town of Castle Rock and has been shooting for half a decade. He has a passion for learning, and he has leveraged that skill to fully experience and immerse himself in various areas of interest throughout his life. Colin began his career at NASA after completing his undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Maryland. He is a self-taught computer scientist, and has been working as a software engineer for 25 years. His most recent passion, photography, has enabled him to explore the world with new eyes. For more information about Colin, visit colinshreffler.com.

Q: How have you translated your passion for photography and for teaching to the post-COVID world?

A: I offer photography instruction via an online Skype call. It’s interactive, and it’s recorded, so the content can be viewed over and over again. Subject matter ranges from photo editing to composition, workflow, night photography and long exposure, and printing your artwork. Think of it in terms of the entire process, from capturing the images in the field all the way through the finished work. 

Q: What motivated you to take your courses online?

A: I love to teach and have taught numerous courses over the years. I know my audience and can speak to the individual’s level. I analyze people’s needs and skill level, and teach to that level. I love to teach, because I love investing in other people, and I get passionate about things through learning and knowledge. 

Q: What’s next for your journey in art instruction?

A: I plan to expand my photo instruction into the Rhyolite Gallery for in-person instruction as soon as the current COVID restrictions are lifted. 

Nick Lucey is a Castle Rock-based landscape photographer, president and founder of the Castle Rock Artist Cooperative, and owner of the Rhyolite Gallery in downtown Castle Rock. 

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