Rekindling A Passion for Painting in Breckenridge Art Scene

Breckenridge is a town synonymous with some of Colorado’s best skiing during the winter season and elite luxury living year-round. Now, a burgeoning art scene is making its mark in the mountains — fueled by the beautiful natural surroundings and an affluent population able to act as both patrons and participants.

A growing Breckenridge Arts District now sets amidst the ski shops, restaurants and coffee shops, offering gallery space for local artists and educational spaces for locals and travelers to try their hand at different art forms. 

While there are private galleries along the city’s pedestrian-stocked streets and more opening soon, the artistic HQ for Breckenridge is what was once the Old Masonic Hall and is now the home of BreckCreate or BCA (Breckenridge Creative Arts) — the city’s effort to promote creative development in the city.

To sample the energy of Breckenridge art, this reporter headed to that Old Masonic Hall to take one of the scheduled arts classes BreckCreate offers throughout the year. Today, I was trying my hand at watercolor painting.

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Taught by experience local watercolor artist Emily Wahl, the watercolor class for beginners welcomed 10 students  to the delicate and challenging art form. I was eager to give it a try because I lost the calling for painting some years ago.

I have a Master of Fine Arts and filled many a canvas before focusing on career necessities. While I was on the scene to test out the BreckCreate experience, I wasn’t prepared for how powerful the experience of reconnecting with painting would be.

Wahl welcomed 10 students to the painting classroom — a converted livery stable build more than a century ago. For a per class fee, BreckCreate provides all materials. About 10 students settled in to carry one watercolor project from conception through to completion.

I selected a photo of the snowy, wind-swept mountain surrounding the town that I took earlier in the morning. The photo (above) needed to be rendered in sketch form before I broke out the paints.

As Wahl explained, the process of watercolor painting is as much about what you allow to happen as opposed to what you make happen. The use of water to diffuse pigment allows colors to cloud and blend with each other on their own. A light touch comes in handy as the diaphanous nature of the diluted paint creates a subtle palette if you allow the water to do its work.

The results of my rusty skills aside, the class was a success as each student came away with a small finished painting by the end of class.  That spirit of community and the sense of accomplishment seems to be what the Breckenridge art scene is about as it gathers momentum. Rather than focus only on big name artists from outside the region, BreckCreate wants to feature and develop local artists while training new ones to enter their ranks.

As for me, I left wondering why I ever got away from the experience of sitting down with paints and creating. I’ve restocked my supplies and reopened my studio, thanks to this day in Breckenridge.