Barbara Wilaby begins the painting process on the edge of an overlook at Ida Gordon's ranch south of Hamilton. Wilaby was one of numerous Moffat County women who gathered at the spot Wednesday afternoon to create art and socialize.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

Barbara Wilaby begins the painting process on the edge of an overlook at Ida Gordon's ranch south of Hamilton. Wilaby was one of numerous Moffat County women who gathered at the spot Wednesday afternoon to create art and socialize.

Moffat County artists come together

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Nina Lawton sketches a grove of trees while sitting by the banks of Morapos Creek.

Works of art can be found in nature every day, be they in a sunrise, a babbling brook or a serene valley. The feeling of being one with this quiet beauty only can be made better by sharing it with a friend.

Or, in some instances, several friends.

Such was the case Wednesday afternoon at a get-together for the art enthusiasts in Moffat County, with 15 area women dropping by Ida Gordon’s ranch about 1 mile south of Hamilton. The gathering offered a picnic lunch leading into a group art effort as everyone set out during the day to explore the landscape of southeastern Moffat County and maybe get inspired along the way.

It didn’t take long for some to find what parts of the scenery they wanted to capture. Craig resident Barbara Wilaby quickly set up her easel in a spot overlooking greenery around the nearby Morapos Creek.

Wilaby specializes painting in oils and watercolors in the plein air style — in other words, outdoors.

“I love being outside and it’s great to be around painting with friends that I’ve known for years,” she said. “It’s a treasure today just to be able to come out and paint. I’m just thankful to be here.”

Nina Lawton set up along the Morapos further upstream while drawing a group of trees.

“Working outdoors, there’s so many scenes I don’t get to see at home,” she said. “There’s places to draw no matter where you go. You can always find something.”

Delaine Voloshin and Kathy Shea helped put together the event for friends within the regional arts scene. Some have been artists for years, others only recently took up the discipline through classes at Colorado Northwestern Community College, but all of them have a shared interest in helping build up the area’s arts world.

“There’s a serious underground layer of artists who have been working together, doing shows together, and we just wanted to do a gathering at a place that has interesting stuff to look at,” Shea said.

Another motivation for Shea to assemble artists was her late husband, Bernie Rose, who, before passing away last year, dreamed of bigger and better things for the arts community of Craig and the surrounding areas. Rose’s sculptures and paintings can still be found at numerous locations around towns.

“Bernie’s legacy was that he wanted to have art be an economic driver in Craig,” she said. “He was always doing things like having artists in every store downtown. The Craig politics kind of put a stop to that.”

The cluster of friends that includes Shea, Voloshin, Gordon and Cathy Vanatta, as well as other associates, has no official title — Shea likens them to “The Golden Girls” — but they would like to continue to bring art enthusiasts into their circle and hopefully build a stronger presence as a whole.

With the success of their recent event, they already have some interest in turning it into a regular seasonal entry on the social calendar.

Among those in agreement about the need for a more enhanced arts offering was Lucille Theis, who said she’d like to see Craig offer more to its artists.

“We need more of an outlet where we can sell our art, like a whole art building,” she said. “We need a big community building that could be an art studio or a dance studio, something like that.”

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@craigdailypress.com.

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