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Eagle County through watorcolors and words

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
HL Stockwell 2 KA 06-24-08
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Wolcott resident Sherwood Stockwell spent 50 years watching his architectural designs go from drawings on paper to completed structures ” many of them spread throughout Colorado’s resorts. After retiring 10 years ago, now the 81-year-old artist and writer prefers to work with paintbrushes and pens.

“One problem I’ve had is getting out of this detailed way of doing things and loosening up,” Stockwell said of his transition from architecture drawing to painting.

Stockwell’s latest self-published project, a coffee table book that uses his words and watercolors to tell the history of Eagle County, is aptly titled “Eagle: Portrait of a Colorado County.”

He will be at Fusion! in Eagle Tuesday to unveil the book to the public and sign copies. Fusion! owner Karin Weber said she’s excited to carry the book and host the booksigning.

“He’s a really gifted watercolorist and then on top of that, he’s a really accomplished author,” Weber said.

The inspiration for the book came from Stockwell’s many paintings of landscapes and structures located across Eagle County and what he considers a lack of material focused on the county’s history. However, Stockwell said this is not necessarily a history book, but a visual and literary journey through an area of Colorado that just happens to be rich in history.

Each chapter of the book focuses on an individual town in Eagle County. Stockwell’s watercolor paintings illustrate each section along with various photos, charts and maps. Red Cliff is represented by a painting of a church on Eagle Street in 1890, while a painting of a river and bridge is used to show the town of Sherwood (yes, there was really a town in Eagle County called Sherwood).

Even Stockwell was surprised by what he learned about the county in which he lives, such as the way coke (a byproduct of coal) was used in the smelters in Carbondale during the late 1800’s.

Weber was equally surprised by some of what she read.

“I found out about some areas that I’d never heard of before,” Weber said. “It’s not just a narrative so it’s really approachable. You can pick it up and look at a photo and say ‘I never heard of Pando.'”

Stockwell spent six months researching and fact checking the information for the book at the Eagle Public Library. He was aided in his quest by Jaci Spuhler, local history librarian and archivist for the Eagle Valley Library District. Spuhler helped him find materials for his research.

“There are so many abandoned buildings and older buildings that people drive by every day without realizing the history behind it so I really appreciated the fact that he took the time to do the research to make his book even more spectacular,” Spuhler said.

Researching such a book is a very time consuming and tedious undertaking Spuhler said, comparing it to detective work.

And as for Stockwell’s completed book, Spuhler said it will end up on the shelves of the Eagle Valley Public Libraries.

“Part of what we do is collect those things that are published about Eagle County,” Spuhler said.

Stockwell hopes his new book will help others understand Eagle County more fully, he said. Perhaps more important than book sales, Stockwell enjoys the ability to express himself artistically, one of the most satisfying things about where he’s at in life.

“In all my work … there’s a great joy because you can’t believe sometimes it’s inside you,” Stockwell said.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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