Local artist draws on background to propel her work featured in this month’s First Friday Artwalk | SteamboatToday.com
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Local artist draws on background to propel her work featured in this month’s First Friday Artwalk

In this photo one of Sandi Poltorak pieces titled "Reverence" based on the Crow Indian Powwow in Montana. It will be on exhibit today at the First Friday Artwalk.
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If You Go...

What: First Friday Artwalk Exhibit: “Graphite Realism” by Sandi Poltorak

When: 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2

Where: Ski Town Computing, 1104 Lincoln Ave.

— There was a point in Sandi Poltorak’s art career at which adjectives defined her subject matter.

A furrowing of the eyebrows, a clinch of the jaw and the disposition of the eyes became images of realism at the tip of her pencil.

If You Go…

What: First Friday Artwalk Exhibit: “Graphite Realism” by Sandi Poltorak



When: 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2

Where: Ski Town Computing, 1104 Lincoln Ave.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



Poltorak worked as a forensic artist and scientist for 30 years with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and has since retired. As a composite artist, Poltorak said she drew “bad guys” and learned how to do so by attending two Federal Bureau of Investigation Forensic Arts Schools, in addition to training with an artist out of Texas.

“I would meet with people who were either a victim (of crime) or witnessed a crime,” Poltorak said. “You put their description and what they can recall all together and, hopefully, by the end, have something you can use. It was a matter of using their adjectives and then changing that to something on paper.”

Always drawn to realism and portraiture, Poltorak said her background in forensics set her on the path to perfecting “how a pencil works” and creating realistic images. About two years ago, she moved to Steamboat full-time and decided to pursue a career as an artist.


From 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Poltorak will hold her first gallery show, “Graphite Realism,” at Ski Town Computing as part of the First Friday Artwalk. The exhibit will feature a retrospective display of her realistic pencil drawings of Native Americans from the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, as well as images of Western heritage.

Striving for softer lines and being cognizant of the degrees of changing shadow and light, Poltorak quickly learned shading techniques, the gradation of grays and blacks and facial anatomy through the process of helping those victims or witnesses of various crime cases.

Her goal as an artist, she said, is to reproduce images that reflect reality so much that a viewer questions if the image is a photograph or a drawing. Primarily using pencil to create each piece, Poltorak said she experiments with different mediums but always finds her way back to graphite and charcoal drawings.

True to her background of realism, especially through photographs, Poltorak visited multiple locations to find subject matter for her art. One of those locations was the Crow Indian Reservation, where she attended a powwow to see the Crow heritage, native dress and culture.

“I admire them,” she said. “To see them in their native dress and speak in their own tongue, they have that connection that I think we all kind of lose.”

Other moments she captured were from local rodeos, with cowboys dressed in traditional slacks and hats. She has also traveled to the ghost town of Bannack, Montana.

“I really, honestly believe that you don’t have to go too far to find something amazing to draw,” Poltorak said. “I like presenting what is right here in front of us. I think people relate to it and relate to art for different reasons.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@ExploreSteamboat.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1


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