Artist Spotlight: Elizabeth Black
2011's Best of Show painter in the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art
Elizabeth Black, looking every bit the part of a retired river guide in sandals, khaki shorts, red fleece, and baseball hat, leads me through her garden to a trailer turned painting studio. Here, perched on a stool and surrounded by her breathtaking paintings of sunlit canyons and roaring rivers, Black recalls her first artistic efforts, back when she was invited to join a 30-day rafting trip down the Grand Canyon at the age of 25. “I was trying to find something easy to pack that would amuse me during the trip. I settled on a pad of paper and a little watercolor set, even though I hadn’t picked up a brush since elementary school. After a month on the river, I gradually got better and I was hooked.”
Thirty-six years later, Black’s persistence has paid off. In 2011, she won Best of Show in the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art. “That show has been an amazing ride for me,” she says. “The first year I got third place. The second year I got second place. The third year I got first place. It’s a very intimidating show because I’m competing against all the big boys, including Curt Walters and Peter Nisbet. It really blew me away to be recognized.” Black’s award-winning paintings capture the radiant ruby reds, salmon pinks, and sage greens of the canyon walls. Yet it’s her eye for the intricacies of water that sets this artist apart. “Being a river guide and reading water for so many years has helped me understand what I see when I paint water.”
Although Black currently paints primarily in oils, she plans to return to watercolors in July when she and her husband, landscape photographer Chris Brown, will be artists-in-residence at the Grand Canyon, staying in a cabin on the North Rim and following in the footsteps of Swedish watercolorist Gunnar Widforss. “I’ll be doing paintings of my own in the same locations he used and seeing what I can learn from Gunnar — a lot, I hope!”
ABOVE: Downstream from Saddle Canyon, 9 a.m., oil on panel, 30 x 30.
GALLERIES: Blue Heron Gallery & Gifts, Ashland, Oregon, 800.864.2949, www.blueherongalleryandgifts.com. Elizabeth Black Art, Boulder, Colorado, 303.449.7532, www.elizabethblackart.com. Mary Williams Fine Arts, Boulder, Colorado, 303.938.1588, www.marywilliamsfinearts.com.