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Two studios, two mediums, one artist

Wren Wertin
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A little over a decade ago, Nancy Rondeau knew she had to jump into painting with both feet – or hands – or she had to stop thinking about it. Rondeau jumped.

Proof positive of her leap is hanging in the Vail Library’s community room through Sept. 15. She will be present at an artist reception Saturday from 4-7 p.m. The public is welcome.

“I had always promised myself that I’d go back to painting,” she said. “However, life gives you so many diversions – raising my daughter, traveling, following my husband Paul’s career, living in London. … I could not find time or space for painting.”

Rondeau taught art classes for about five years before the rest of her life started happening. After bumping around the globe in search of adventures, she and her husband moved to Vail from the East Coast in 1988. A few years later, she took up her brushes in earnest.

“It took a while to get the paint the brushes, the eye and the hand to work together,” she said.

She works in both oils and watercolors, but never simultaneously. In fact, she’s got two in-house studios, one dedicated exclusively to each medium.

She’s just coming out of a year of working in watercolors, and will switch to oils next year.

“I like both disciplines, but don’t like to work back and forth,” said the artist. “The segregation of tasks really works for me.”

The library exhibition consists of 18 watercolor paintings, a combination of still lifes and landscapes. In 2000, her first library show was oils, done in the plein air approach.

Painting with watercolors is a challenge for her – and she welcomes a good challenge.

“It’s a difficult medium and very different than oil,” said Rondeau. “In oil, if you make a mistake, you have a variety of choices … to remove the offending brushstroke. Watercolor is a transparent medium, and it’s harder to cover your tracks.”

She doesn’t try to cover her tracks on the mountain. The former world traveler is quite content to remain in Colorado, as it, including the Four Corners area, offers the opportunity to pursue everything she enjoys. In the winter, she’s skiing downhill and cross country, in addition to snowshoeing. In the summer, when not in her garden she’s hiking with the Colorado Mountain Club Gore Range chapter.

“Hiking with that crew has led me to many extraordinary views that work their way into my paintings,” she said.

Though she does have a backpack stuffed with watercolor supplies, her oils keep her close to the car – another way the two mediums are different.

“Painting is a wonderful means of expression, and I’ve always dreamed of filling my home with my own painting,” she said. “Now I have a home with endless wall space.”

Other folks have her work hanging in their own homes. During last summer’s studio tour, she sold her first paintings.

“That was a real thrill,” she admitted with a smile in her voice.

Though Rondeau has returned to art, the paintings she produces bear little to no resemblance to her previous work. Her paintings are filled with

“I was very avant garde and abstract in those days,” she said. “If I’d painted the way I do today in school I would have flunked. Nobody painted realism then, they don’t really now, either.”

But the world around her is intriguing, beautiful and exciting enough to keep her interested in re-creating it.

“Painting plein air is an attempt to capture light, color and air,” she said.

Though sitting down at a blank space and attempting to fill it with color is a grand challenge, starting is not the most difficult part for the artist.

“Finishing is the hardest,” she said. “So many paintings are overworked, and you really have to be cautious with that.”

For more information on Nancy Rondeau, visit her exhibition at the Vail Library during regular library hours.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.


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