Jeff Roth’s newest mural in downtown Steamboat is 130 feet long |

Jeff Roth’s newest mural in downtown Steamboat is 130 feet long

The power of art to transform forgotten spaces

Steamboat artist Jeff Roth excels at portraits painted in oil, but his background as a house painter made him a natural to paint the new mural on the south wall of Natural Grocers in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Tom Ross

— Riddle me this. What’s 130 feet long and brightens one of Steamboat Springs’ overlooked alleyways?

The answer is artist Jeff Roth’s new mural “Yampa River Flow,” which adorns the south wall to the rear of Natural Grocers at 355 Lincoln Ave.

“The power of art to transform our forgotten spaces is undeniable in this project,” Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Kim Keith said.

The mural is one of several supported by the Creative District through the Arts Council. Roth’s career-first mural is the large pair of wings on the west side of the Kali’s Boutique Building at 525 Lincoln, where so many people now pose for selfies.

Another new mural is an interpretive portrait of a deer, painted by Bobby Lopez McGee on the east side of Steamboat Meat and Seafood visible across the parking lot from 10th Street.

From late autumn into early spring, Natural Grocers’ wall is bathed in light from sunrise to sunset, and Roth has responded by anchoring either end of his mural with images of the rising and setting sun, which emanate large rays of light with the sinuous curves of the Yampa River between them.

It’s fitting that one of the best vantage points for admiring the mural is on the opposite side of the river from Natural Grocers, near the Howelsen Hill Ice Arena. The mural is visible to people walking or cycling the river trail.

“The wall is so big, you can’t get it all by being up too close,” Roth said.

Roth’s background as both a fine artist and a one-time house painter prepared him well for his first public murals.

“My confidence comes from all of my experience “ he said. “I can draw anything. I’ve painted realistic portraits and figures.”

But he’s also confident about his ability to be precise while applying paint with a roller on a long-handled extension after a nine year career as a house painter.

“I rolled many, many a house back east and in the Midwest,” Roth said.

Roth used digital technology to win his commission from the Arts Council. Using the layers tool in Adobe Photoshop, he superimposed the colors of his design on a photograph of the blank wall, so the selection committee could visualize the finished work.

When he actually started to work on the wall, Roth drew the sun in freehand with chalk, then ran strings from the center of the sun to help him paint straight lines depicting the rays of light. He worked on the giant painting from a self-propelled lift that allowed him to constantly change his working height and locations.

Roth has learned that painting a mural requires different techniques than he applies to an oil painting.

On a portrait painted in oils, he works his pigments on canvas from dark to light. It’s the opposite on a mural; Roth begins by painting lighter colors as the base of his painting and lets darker colors come to the foreground.

It’s a fair guess that many residents and visitors are oblivious to the short alleyway between Third and Fifth streets on the south side of Natural Grocers in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Now there’s a new cultural reason to seek it out.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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