This continuing series of blog posts brings me to the Colorado Springs Studio of painter Deb Komitor. Deb is one of only 3 local artists in the gallery, including myself. Her work truly pushes the boundaries of landscape paintings and I think really represents the idea of Art of the NEW WEST succinctly.
Her studio is located in the historic Midland School,located on the west side of Colorado Springs, just a few minutes from my gallery. Her large, light and airy studio is in an old classroom! It is well suited to her large format paintings, which are becoming more and more of her focus these days.
Deb was born and spent her formative years in Ohio. Her earliest memories of artistic talent start with her grandmother, who was very encouraging and urged her parents to sign her up for art classes at the Cincinnati Art Museum at the young age of 6. She was told she always had a vivid imagination. She also remembers her 3 older brothers (yep, she’s the baby of the family and the only girl) were really into sports and she wanted to take a less painful path. After moving to Michigan around the age of 10, her mother wanted her to either take up ballet or art, she chose art. She remembers her first recognition of her talent being a,linoleum block print that made it into her junior high art show.
When it came to graduate high school and attend college, she remembers her parents were supportive but worried about a major in art and if Deb could support herself with it. So she tried a teaching degree and illustration, but the siren call of fine art was too strong, and so that is what got. After graduation, she supported herself managing a pet store. One of her brothers became a veterinarian and was out here in Colorado. She came to visit and fell in love with the mountains and everything Colorado ad to offer. She applied to CSU in Fort Collins where she earned her Masters in Fine Art. Shortly after, she married her husband Steve and they both went back to Ohio for 13 years, While there Deb was active in the Columbus Art League, taught art at OSU Continuing Ed and discovered her love of working in clay. But the pull of Colorado was strong and she and Steve moved back here in 1997 when an opportunity opened up for a job for Steve.
At first, Deb had her studio in her home, where her animal and landscape clay works were made. But she started to feel isolated and not wanting the distractions of the phone, computer or even the laundry, drove her to seek a studio at Cottonwood Center for the Arts in it’s earlier location near America the Beautiful Park in downtown Colorado Springs. There her work flourished. She says being around the other artists brought out the best in her work. She stayed with Cottonwood for 6 years, including a move to it’s current location off Wahsatch Street, just east of downtown.
By now Deb had decided to give up her clay art for her first love, oil painting. The progression of her artworks during this time period and the need for a larger space to accommodate monumental sized paintings was instrumental in her decision to leave Cottonwood and relocate to her studio in the Midland School. She feels this change has resulted in her taking herself and her work more seriously and also feels that others have a perception of a more professional level of work that is being produced. This is her dream space come true. And it’s paying off as her list of corporate collections is growing including:
Banner Ft. Collins Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital Denver, Colorado Business Bank, HGST and the Conover Building
Deb’s paintings continue to evolve also. First she painted animals in a very personal and spiritual interpretation. Often, they were in the foreground of landscapes that people noticed and eventually many commented that it would be great to just see the landscape. Inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s floral paintings, Deb embarked on a series of a large floral in the foreground and eventually dropped those in favor of sweeping landscapes, starting with Colorado and using an intense red under painting that she allowed to pop through her brushwork. After a visit to Taos and the inspiring Rio Grande Canyon, she embarked on an entire series on canyons inspired by a road trip through Canyon de Chelly. She says her hands were shaking with excitement and anticipation of getting back to the studio to look through the hundreds and hundreds of photographs she took for inspiration. This was also the time when Deb switched from the red under painting to a black one which greatly shifted the look of her work. Deb says that a demo she watched of Tim Deibler (also one of the gallery’s artists) do on black was the inspiration for giving it a try.
Taking a brief break from landscapes, Deb returned to her beloved animals, painting them as Icons, complete with a gold halo behind their heads. Then a simple study of Shooks Run throughout the four seasons as well as a trip to Boulder Creek for the same observation, as well as the memory of the woods of her childhood home in Ohio began a new series of paintings of streams and woods. This was a contemplative and serene grouping with the color palette taking a shift from the warm desert reds of canyons to the blues and greens of the forest and water. After a collector remarked that she should visit the Redwoods of California, it was a done deal. She and Steve embarked on a vacation to the Golden State where the majesty of the trees made Deb feel as if she found the spiritual mother ship. She feels part of er purpose on this planet is to represent them because they are part of the delicate balance of our ecosystem and need to protected and treasured.
I’m excited for Deb to have her first solo show at Abend Gallery in Denver this coming September. She hopes that people who walk into the show to feel as if they are walking in a forest and surrounded by the beautiful dappled light that the trees let through.
Over the next 10 years, Deb would love to do an Artist Residency at one of our National Parks, get gallery representation in California and other parts of the country and participate in a Museum show or two, all while creating work that transfers positive energy to people. I think she’s off to an excellent start and see nothing but success for her! Enjoy all the photos below of her amazing studio!