Reception for young artists held at Co-op

On March 15, the Pagosa Artisans’ Co-op hosted a reception for middle school artists in the fifth and sixth grades.

Winners of the middle schoolAll Community Art contestwere announced, ribbons were given and prizes were received from the sponsoring businesses.

The participants were asked questions about their entries and why they painted. The winners were: first place, Cynthia Castaneda, “Dog for Sale,” pen and ink; second place, Angette Pastuszek, “Silver Lighting;” third place, tie, Ryder Dermody, “Columbine,” and Leif Ege, “Santa Fe.”

There were 41 entries submitted by fifth- and sixth-grade artists, and the subjects were flowers, dragons, horses, self-portraits and other animals. There were also different mediums represented: color pencil, crayon, felt-tip pen, watercolors, tempera and acrylic. Chatting with the young artists, many of them said that they had begun drawing or painting at the age of 4. Many of them had experienced art through Miss Tessie at the grade school, private lessons from Soledad, and most of them through Gail Hershey, their teacher now.

“I was amazed with the creativity that has already been developed in these young students,” one of the members said. “To decide the winners was a very difficult process for the co-op. All the entries were outstanding and uniquely creative.”

Thank you to all the business sponsors who are supporting the artists of Pagosa Springs, the teachers who are building artists for the future and the parents who came and supported the event.

The Co-op is starting to collect artwork from seventh- and eighth-grade students. The deadline is March 31, and a reception will be held in April.

As a thank you for their support and a way of showing our appreciation to the people of Pagosa Springs, we are having a weekly drawing for locals who come into the Co-op. The week of March 7 the winner was Pam Stokes, who received a certificate from Tequila’s. Each week we start a new drawing, so be sure to stop by and drop your name in the bowl.

Featured artist: Claude Steelman

Claude Steelman is a well known professional nature photographer with a long list of accomplishments. Many of us have seen his images take flight on the tails of the Frontier Airline planes. He is a refreshing, warm and delightful artist. A veteran in the business for 25 years, he knows how he has got here and he doesn’t take life too seriously.

I asked Claude when it was that he realized he was a photographer and his response was, “I haven’t realized it yet.

“I was working at a mining company and dreaded every moment of going to a job I hated.,” he said. “When I’d had enough, I just quit and sat down on my couch. I was single at the time. A friend loaned me a coffee table book on wildlife photography and that is when I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I owned a camera and all I knew was to point and shoot. I started reading about photography and I purchased some equipment and took a few workshops. That’s how it began.”

Claude’s photos of wild horses are on display at the Co-op. When I heard that they were shot in Disappointment Valley I knew there was some kind of story behind that place that lies between Dove Creek and Cortez. Apparently, the Colorado wild mustangs survive best there..

In 2005, Claude jumped through several hoops to get permission to take pictures in Disappointment Valley. At certain times, they cull horses from the herd in order to thin them out. Many of the horse photos that Claude has taken have come from that place where wild mustangs run. Working as a dude ranch wrangler he spent some time riding bareback on rodeo broncs, so Steelman’s days in his youth prepared him for working with horses.

Claude has specialized in the wild horses of Colorado, namely the mustang. The mustang is the adaptable survivor of an unforgiving terrain, the feral descendant of strays and the romanticized emblem of the American West. Yes, the mustang is all of these. Above all, the mustang today represents the fortunate collision of mixed genetic heritage.

In order to appreciate Colorado’s wild mustang, one must see them, which is Claude Steelman’s intent in his collection of elegant, poignant photographs which is shown in his book, “Colorado’s Wild Horses.” His artistic eye and photographic skills are a fitting tribute to the animals who grace their wild surroundings and our hearts with their beauty and spirit.

During his remote travels he has captured images of a wide and wild range of life from jungle bats to polar bears. The resulting photographs have appeared in hundreds of publications worldwide, including National Wildlife Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Outdoor Photographer and National Geographic World. Steelman is also an accomplished cinematographer whose work has been featured in numerous nature documentaries internationally, and in the U.S. on the National Geographic Channel, PBS, The Discovery Channel, and HBO.

Claude and his wife, Katie, have lived in Durango since 1988 on 10 acres where he is training his own mustang. He is founder and president of Wildshots, Inc., a publisher of fine art prints, posters, and note cards. His still-increasing stock of images numbers more than 100,000.

I asked Claude his advice for want-to-be photographers.

“Make sure your spouse has a good job,” he laughingly responded. “For several years, I was single and I had to move into my car. It takes several years to get established and build your inventory. Business is also a big part of being successful. I’d rather be shooting pictures, but the business side is just as important.

Stop by the Co-op and see the photos of Claude Steelman and enjoy getting to know him through the lens of the camera.

Life in the Artist’s Lane

Confidence! Who has it, and who needs it? Some people are born with confidence and others fight for it. I find the majority of artists lack the self-confidence of who they are and who they are meant to be. And, of course, being an artist usually means we are the odd-man-out, and that seems to be emphasized.

Well, it sure makes life a lot easier when you have confidence. You’re not driven by every little whim or idea and tossed to and fro, double minded and restless. And of course, you are easier to live with because you do not need reaffirming all the time.

I have a friend who was just born with self assurance. She is bold and seems to have a knowing of who she is. I used to ask her, “How did you get to be that way?” Her answer was always,“I don’t know, I’m just that way.” That did not appease me; I needed to know more.

So how do we get it? I heard it put this way: “You’ve got to get it before you get it. Once you get it, you’ll get it. Once you get it, you’ll act like you’ve got it.”

Today, and many years later, I asked the same friend who has lived through many trials and she now knows where confidence comes from.

“Confidence! Well, it comes with a price,” she said. “In a world where people fear the truth there can be no confidence and they walk around in the rudiments of life never really living. There is a quality of confidence which leads one to stand, endure, and undertake anything. I know, how could I have endured the last five years without it? It is not the same confidence that I started with.”

What brought about this new confidence? As she put it, “One day I was apprehended by the Lord.” She was stopped short by a personal catastrophe. “Truth came to light to where I could no longer excuse my way of living and doing what everyone else was doing, and then I began to know that I was not living, I was just riding a merry-go-round. I stepped off that merry-go-round that day.”

Another artist put it this way: “False confidence, or ego, needs approval from people. They are trying to put an image on it, proving who they are on the outside rather than being confident about themselves on the inside.”

The dictionary says it is trust, assurance and an unquestionable belief in the integrity, strength or ability of a person or thing. You would think that confidence would come from possessions, riches, companionship, popularity, approval or admiration from others. It doesn’t. I know, because I have sought those things and they did not produce confidence. Nothing under the sun can bring this to you. We can not conjure it up. We can not give confidence to ourselves.

In those days, because I was asking, I did not have it and didn’t know how to get it, but when I finally came full circle I began to get it. I quit looking for other things to build my life on. I quit comparing myself and my talent with others, I quit fighting for what I perceived to be the life I wanted, and began to accept and trust and enjoy the life I was given. I finally admitted that I hadn’t arrived, and that’s okay because now I am on the way.

The Final Brushstroke: My friend was right, confidence comes with a price, and it’s well worth it!

Quote for the Week: “There is no must in art because art is free.” — Wassily Kandinsky.

Photo courtesy Betty Slade
The work of noted Durango photographer Claude Steelman is currently on display at the Pagosa Artisans’ Co-op, 150 Pagosa St. in downtown Pagosa Springs.