In her backyard
Artist finds award-winning inspiration close to home
Painting is not a talent; it’s a discipline.
“I’m tired of people calling it a talent,” local painter Bonnie McGee said. “The talent part is the drive to do it and strive to get better.”
McGee has been painting since she was 6 years old and finally made it her full-time passion eight years ago.
Last month, she once again was validated for her efforts. McGee won the Third Place Show Award for a plein air painting she completed at the Estes Park Plein Air summer painting event.
“I did about 12 paintings all around Rocky Mountain National Park, but the one that won I did on my ranch east of Kremmling,” McGee said. “Maybe it won because it was different and they were tired of scenes of Dream Lake.”
Participants in the event were given three weeks and a 100-mile radius of Estes Park to complete their plein air paintings. McGee spent six of those nights camping in the Moraine Park campgrounds.
“I thought if I suffered for my art, it would come out better,” she said. “It rained the first 24 hours, but I felt a connection with the park that I never had when commuting from a motel.”
McGee does plein air paintings to challenge herself. The changing light throughout the day constantly redefines the image you are painting when outdoors.
“You have to learn how to see, that’s the hard part,” she said. “The colors look different in the different light, and you have to overcome what your brain is telling you.”
Other challenges plein air painters face include weather.
“I’ve been snowed, sleeted and rained on,” McGee said. “Wind has also interrupted me so that I had to pack up and leave.”
McGee has encountered many animals when she is painting, but they tend to ignore her. “A coyote right in front of me pounced on a pica and ate it right in front of my easel,” McGee said. “I was approached once by two bull moose because I was standing so still. I could have petted them.”
In her spare time, McGee likes to play violin, fly fish, ride horses, sail and climb fourteeners. Her love for the outdoors comes through in her work.
“Living indoors in a house is the only concession I make to society,” she said. “If you can capture some of the emotion that you feel, then you can capture the essence of that place. I can be moved to tears by the beauty around me.”
McGee thinks people buy art for more than just the pretty painting.
“They are buying a beautiful image that moves them in some way to get closer to nature,” she said. “And we are letting someone get into our head to see what we think is interesting.”
Painting is a process, and McGee is not yet where she wants to be as an artist.
“I would like people to stop dead in their tracks,” she said. “I’m trying to move toward looser brush strokes and saying much more with a single brush stroke. That’s what I’m drawn to as an art collector.”
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