Steamboat artist Bonnie McGee showing artwork at Circle 7 Fine Art Gallery |

Steamboat artist Bonnie McGee showing artwork at Circle 7 Fine Art Gallery

Steamboat Springs artist Bonnie McGee has been getting a lot of attention for her work lately. McGee's painting "Convergence" earned Best of Show at the Plein Air Artist of Colorado National Show at the Abend Gallery in Denver.
John F. Russell

— Bonnie McGee was out riding horses with a friend one day and stopped abruptly to admire the beauty of the sun setting against the backdrop of the mountains.

She pointed to her friend and said, “Look at the variation of colors; there are oranges, greens, blues and purples.” The friend merely replied with a look of confusion and said,”Where? I’m not seeing it.”

McGee realized that she sees the world through an artist’s eyes.

“I think that makes me appreciate colors, textures and beauty in ways others may not,” she said about her creative passion. “I’m always looking for colors and thinking how I would paint something.”

Always expressing herself in some way, McGee has done everything from composing music, writing books or plays and even teaching English in addition to painting. Art for her has opened a door for a new perspective of the world.

More than a week ago, McGee’s painting “Convergence” won the Best of Show Award at the Plein Air Artists of Colorado National Juried Show at Abend Gallery in Denver. The show featured 160 juried paintings from across the country, and those finalists were selected from more than 500 entries. Although the painting remains in Denver, her most recent works can be viewed in the Circle 7 Fine Art Gallery downtown.

“Convergence” is of a view from the trailhead at Negro Bill’s Canyon outside of Moab, Utah. Despite the many distractions of the time constraint and passers-by on the trail, she felt as if the painting had painted itself. Judge Karen Vance selected “Convergence” because of the “technical mastery of line, shape, edges and color.” She also noted that it had heart, something that cannot be taught to artists.

“In my landscapes, I strive to capture an emotion or truth of a place,” McGee said about the 12-by-16-inch oil painting. “My art only begins a conversation with the viewer. Real meaning comes from the heart.”

This type of art competition is unique in and of itself by the fact that artists must work fast and create in a very public environment.

For most plein air — “open air” — competitions, artists have about six to seven days to work on a painting. They must get a stamp of approval of their blank canvas and have the whole week to create in an outdoor environment. It challenges artists to channel environments onto paper or canvas.

“I like the intensity of it and the pressure of being pushed,” McGee said. “I think it’s a really pure form of creating a painting, it’s very public and out there.”

Capturing intangible emotions or moments within the painting is what she finds most gratifying.

“An artist may be feeling something and that comes through in the painting,” she said. “There is a magical little something that comes across, and at times, you don’t even know what that is.”

Now that she has won the Best of Show Award, McGee looks forward to what the future holds.

“I think now I need to step back and go in the direction my heart tells me to go,” she said. “There are a lot of things I would like to try painting that I haven’t done before and I hope to see where it will take me.”

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

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