by Kathleen Duhamel

Reprinted from the Denver News, Aug. 28, 2013

By P L. Harlow, staff writer

Denver Painter Joins Art Festival Lineup

This week we’re profiling Denver landscape painter Claire Martin, 58, one of only five Colorado artists chosen for the annual Denver Art Festival, a world-class juried show held over Labor Day weekend in Civic Center Park. We caught up with Martin recently in her modest Berkeley Park studio.

How did you feel when you found out you’d been picked as one of only 200 exhibitors selected from thousands of applicants across the country?

I jumped up and down and did a little happy dance when I got the email. Of course it felt great to have the jury recognize my art, especially after some of the harsh comments I’ve received from local critics. They haven’t exactly been kind. I’ve worked very hard over the past several years to get to this point in my career. And I’m honored to be representing my home state of Colorado.

How would you describe your style of painting?

Initially, I was inspired by the European Impressionists, Van Gogh in particular. I work mostly in oils and acrylics. I describe my style as contemporary, very colorful and highly stylized. My work isn’t something that most people walk up to and “get” immediately. You have to look closely before the painting begins to reveal itself.

You’re a rare Colorado native. Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in Denver when it was little more than a cow town (laughs}. Now it’s a thriving metropolis that still retains some of its Western character and charm, although I really hate to see many of the old buildings being torn down in the way of progress.

I went to East High School and CU Boulder where I received my M.F.A. Aside from a couple of years in New Mexico, I’ve lived in Colorado all my life. I spent many years working as a graphic designer for some of Denver’s larger advertising agencies before going out on my own a few years ago.

You started your business in the midst of a severe economic recession.

Yeah (more laughter). I’m sure several people, including my immediate family, thought I had lost my mind. But I believed I could make it work, and I’ve always been a bit of a risk-taker.

You’re also a cancer survivor. How has that changed your outlook on life?

It might be more accurate to ask how has it not changed me. In my case, surviving a life-threatening illness put everything into sharp focus. Life is short, and if we don’t have the courage to go after our dreams, who’s going to do it for us?

I have a favorite quote from Goethe: ‘Nothing is worth more than this day.’ It’s become my mantra. I repeated it to myself daily when I was going through chemo and radiation and I still try to live by it. Take each day as a gift and make the most of it. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

What inspires you?

The natural world that surrounds me. I try to see the beauty in ordinary places and objects. One of my paintings, Snowfield, was purchased last year by the Denver Art Museum. It’s my version of an aerial view of a snow-covered field on Colorado’s eastern plains that I first saw on a winter flight coming home to Denver. A local art critic said it looked like a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream. But the chips are actually cows. If you look closely you can make them out, along with a water tank and bits of fencing. I was moved by the rhythm and pattern of the animals in the snow and I felt compelled to paint them.

And music. I love the soul, rock and folk music of the 1970s. My best friend and I still go to concerts to see and hear our favorites from that era–bands like Hall and Oates, Deep Blue, Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs and the great Motown groups. So much good music was being made back then. I know I’m old school but I just can’t get into rap and hip hop.

What scares you?

Like most cancer survivors, there’s always an element of fear in the back of my mind. What if my cancer reoccurred? Would I have the courage to endure what I did before? But I try not to let that fear stand in the way of moving ahead with my life. I have so much I want to accomplish with what’s left of it.

A couple of years ago you were named one of Mile High Magazine’s hottest singles over 50. Any change in your status?

{Laughter} Well, that started out as a joke. My best friend Denise Hrivnak is mildly obsessed with trying to manage my love life. She sent my photo to the magazine and the next thing I know I’m in the article.

I got a lot of Facebook friend requests from it, but at the moment, the only man in my life is my cat, Miles. I’m not sure Mr. Right is out there, and at this point I’m not willing to settle for less.

Are you and Denise still friends?

Oh, yeah. We’ve been friends since we met in eighth grade sewing class. No one on earth knows me better than she does.

What can we expect to see next weekend at your festival booth?

I’ve completed a series of ‘rainscapes,’ images of historic buildings and places around Denver that no longer exist. I painted all of them on rainy days. I love how the colors of the landscapes are reflected and distorted by falling water.

Like tears for their demise?

You certainly could say that {smiles}. I guess people will have to come out and decide for themselves. In any case, I’m looking forward to a great weekend surrounded by some fantastic artists.

Pre-orders for Deep Blue are available now on Amazon..

myBook.to/DeepBluenovel

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