Bear encounters of the clay kind at Horton Fine Art, Dec. 27-29 | VailDaily.com

Bear encounters of the clay kind at Horton Fine Art, Dec. 27-29

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BEAVER CREEK — "Creating a cartoon bear would be easy," said bronze sculptor Jesse Horton. "It would allow the freedom to hide difficult bear anatomy. The challenge is to find a balance between a bear full of whimsy and a realistic, anatomically correct bear. That's my goal."

To accomplish this balancing act, Horton makes sure he has plenty of references. As an avid backcountry adventurer, real-life encounters have been the key to the inspiration for his latest life-size sculpture.

"This past fall, I had the good fortune to observe three bears that had no idea I was nearby," Horton said. "Their antics, from the comical way they curl their nose when they catch a scent to the fascinating dexterity of their paws, provides plenty of material for the character I strive for in my art."

Have your own encounter with both Horton and his bear — the clay version he's working on — at Horton Fine Art in Beaver Creek today through Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. The gallery is located at 154 Beaver Creek Plaza. For more information, call 970-949-1660.