Working alongside people in your field can create a competitive atmosphere. Or you could take a different view: It can be opportunity for collaboration and each person’s betterment.
The latter attitude is prevalent among Alaprima, a group of watercolor painters that meet weekly in Carbondale. The eight artists bring their materials and snacks to the Third Street Center each Thursday. After they share current work and discuss challenges, the painters turn their attention to the canvas and work for about five hours. Many members knew each other from other groups and classes prior to Alaprima’s formation three years ago.
Beginning Friday, the results of that labor will be on display at The Launchpad. The show will include four paintings from each Alaprima artist, and it is dedicated to Aspen native Sarah Peterson. Alaprima co-founder Judy Milne credits Peterson with her love of wet-on-wet watercolor painting. The Post Independent spoke to the exhibit’s co-curators, Carla Reed and Milne, about the organization and the show itself.
Post Independent: How did the group come together?
Judy Milne: I think almost everyone in the group had at one time been a student of Sarah Peterson. We would take her classes every six months or whatever. It would be a week-long class, and we would always say, oh, if only we would paint in between these classes. We had just been thinking about how great it would be on a reg basis to make a commitment and get together and paint.
It’s become a very wonderful opportunity for us — I feel like everybody’s grown in that time. We were there for support, critique and the personality, you know how that can be in groups. We couldn’t ask for a more congenial group. We laugh a lot. We all just really respect and enjoy each other. It’s really so helpful because if you get to a point where you’re stuck, somebody has always got an idea.
Carla Reed: It’s just a great group and it’s really relaxed. We don’t ever have an agenda. The only thing we do is try to show our work as often as we can. Judy has been really good at setting up different shows for us. She’s very involved with arts in the valley. … (But ) we’re not in it for that reason. We really are in it because we want to paint, we want to paint together, we want to learn from one another and we want to be inspired by each other’s ideas. That’s really the hallmark of the group.
We’ve become really good friends, not just with painting but with other parts of life.
Post Independent: What’s the atmosphere of the weekly painting gatherings?
CR: We usually begin by looking at what we’ve been working on at home. We have a couple easels in there and someone will put their work on an easel and say, ‘I’m stuck, where do I go from here?’ Or, ‘I tried something new, look at this.’
Then we get down to biz and we go from being terribly chatty to dead quiet and everything in between. We work and chat and we usually stop to eat around 12:30 or so. … At that time, too, we’ll talk about what we’re working on and maybe do some critiquing of each other’s work.
JM: There’s a lot of times it gets so it’s totally quiet and everyone’s immersed in their work. A lot of times there’s a lot of giggles. It’s a very supportive group. … We share paints and things too. Sometimes somebody has got a color that somebody else wants. Everybody is really into sharing their knowledge and their materials and everything.
PI: What benefit comes from working alongside each other?
CR: We really try to support one another, but we also realize that we just want, too, to have the time to work. It’s not all just social. … It’s just really helpful to have somebody there to help you look at your work through different eyes.
JM: It’s amazing, I was looking at the show this morning and there are newer painters who have come in who are just shining. It’s very humbling to see the work that is being produced. I really feel honored to be part of it.
PI: In helping curate this show, what did you look for?
CR: Well, one thing we did not have to do was go out and look for artists the way some people have to. The whole package was complete.
Also, Judy and I came up with the idea that we anted to dedicate the show to Sarah Peterson who was a mentor and friend and inspiration to all of us. Her inspiration shows in all of our work. She really is a wonderful person and we love her so much. She’s recently been ill, and we thought, this is the time to recognize someone who has been important to everyone in the group. What better way to do it than dedicate the show to her?
I don’t know of another group quite like it in the valley. There may be another but not one that shows as much.
JM: Since we work together so often as a group, we knew all of the work that people were thinking of putting in. Actually, we all asked the opinion of each other about which ones to include.
… Sarah has been such an inspiration to all of us, but personally, she changed my way of thinking about watercolor completely. It was (Alaprima co-founder) Joan Engler who got me to come to one of Sarah’s classes, and that was it. Sarah’s just become a very, very dear friend. Her classes are like going to a retreat for a week or something. It’s so special and exciting and the people in her classes are so wonderful.
If you go
The Alaprima Painters: Watercolorists of the Roaring Fork Valley
Reception 6-8 p.m. Friday; exhibit continues through April 14
The Launchpad’s R2 Gallery, 76 S. Fourth St., Carbondale
Info: 963-1680 and carbondalearts.com
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