Magazine chooses resident as artist to watch |

Magazine chooses resident as artist to watch

Autumn Phillips

Just a month before artist Greg Effinger turns 31, Southwest Art Magazine has noticed him. Southwest Art, a magazine that caters to art collectors, runs a popular September feature called “21 under 31: Meet the New Generation of Western American Artists.” This year, Effinger joined 20 of his peers as an artist to watch.

As the article coincides with Effinger’s first one-man show, it’s hard not to get the feeling that things are about to take off for this illustrator and watercolor artist.

Born and raised in Steamboat Springs, Effinger discovered art in middle school.

“I was one of those kids who got a lot of Ds and Fs,” Effinger said. “And then I had my first art class. I moved into high school knowing what I wanted to do. After that, I was getting Bs and As.”

Effinger studied under Rich Galusha at Steamboat Springs High School, and even though Galusha recognized the talent in his student, he refused to represent him in Galusha’s Wild Horse Gallery when Effinger returned to his hometown after graduating from college. Effinger didn’t show the discipline that the gallery owner was looking for.

Realizing that a living in art would not come easy, Effinger started a graphic design business called Cigar Graphics but continued to make art on the side.

“The graphic design keeps me painting. It keeps the ideas flowing,” he said. “Everyone in Steamboat has two jobs, and I just consider painting to be my second job.”

Effinger’s art took a step forward when he went to Mexico to be with his high school sweetheart. They had met through a high school exchange program and kept in touch for 10 years until Effinger proposed.

“When we got married, I spent six months in Mexico waiting for the INS papers,” he said. “I came back with 61 paintings.”

When he returned with his new body of work, Galusha noticed. Effinger has been with the Wild Horse Gallery for four years.

Effinger is a realist and purist.

He paints what he sees with intricate detail and follows the rules of traditional watercolor. First, he starts with a drawing and paints inside the lines. His motto is: The better the drawing, the better the painting.

Traditionally, watercolorists use only thin, transparent washes of pigment — a rule Effinger follows. All his watercolors are transparent, and he never covers them over with opaque paint or white.

He reasons that there is nothing new under the sun in two-dimensional media, and he is more interested in showing the skill involved and reproducing the “beauty of our lifestyle, keeping true to the area” than experimenting with more abstract imagery.

“Yet, if you are going to make it completely photorealistic, why not just take a photo?” he said. “I use watercolor because it does something that oil doesn’t do. Oil is so deliberate, but with watercolor there is an element of surprise.”

As Effinger walked through the gallery on Tuesday watching his paintings being hung, he commented on how lucky he was to be sharing space with watercolor artists two and three times his age.

“This is by far the best time in my life,” he said. “I have a beautiful wife and two kids, and I’m hitting one of those early milestones that I hope is ahead of schedule.”

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