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A breath of plein-air

Stina Sieg
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Stina Sieg Post Independent
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” How does an artist feel when she steps outside to paint?

“One with nature,” replied Tamar Mattorano. “Including the bugs sticking to the canvas.”

Hey, just because she loves it doesn’t mean she has to whitewash it.



An artist all her life, Mattorano, 50, has been exploring the backwoods of the Carbondale area for nearly that long. She spent a lot of her childhood there outdoors, thanks to her mother, Beverly Hendrickson Brewer. Brewer taught her seven kids what plants were edible and how to avoid bears. She showed them how to draw with charcoal from dead fires and make rudimentary ceramics from mud. To Mattorano, even to this day, nature and creativity are permanently linked.

For nearly a decade, she’s been going the plein-air route ” venturing into the local wilds to paint, that is. Her watercolor and oil images of dark, ominous cloudscapes and folksy visions of the Crystal River and such are gentle, softer than reality. Thanks to a two-inch brush, her skies have a loose and free feel ” more “open spirit-y,” as she put it. Her mountains and trees are vibrant. She doesn’t know what genre to put her pieces in or how to describe them. She just keeps painting them.



“It’s a calling. It’s this weird calling,” she explained. “It’s just this need to express what I’m seeing.”

She doesn’t know why she first took to this whole art trend, either. It’s just always been there for her. Her father, Robert Hendrickson, gave her her first oil paint set

when she was 7. It’s not as though she ever gave it up. Though now she does all kinds of mediums, from beadwork to stained glass to block carving, it’s drawing and painting that lends itself so well to being outdoors. Her paints might sometimes harden in the cold. Her canvas might get caught in a downpour. She might even encounter a bear. But simply being out there, surrounded by the Colorado wilderness, makes it worth all that.

“It’s just the desire to paint and preserve it somehow, to preserve it on canvas,” she said, explaining what keeps her going. “It’s just rewarding.”

Amazingly, it’s always different, too. Thanks to shifting light, weather and seasons, Mattorano can paint her favorites spots, like Thompson Creek, Coal Basin and Ruedi Reservoir, countless times and still find something new. That’s all the better for her, as she isn’t into traveling far and wide. Except for occasional trips to Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, she likes to stay nestled in her home mountains for the most part. She has yet to see the ocean ” and doesn’t sound a bit worried about it.

In her words, “I get all the water, scenery and water I want right here.”

When it comes to the subject of change in the valley, she’s upbeat. Though she’s seen an influx of people come here in her 42 years in Carbondale, she seems confident the area can keep its beauty. The key, she explained, is getting people to understand the importance of the natural surroundings. The more awake locals are to their environment, the more likely it is to stay pristine.

With her impressionist freeze-frames of nearby nature, Mattorano feels she might be doing her part to help all this. After all, she won’t be leaving this valley ” or its rivers or mountains or trees ” any time soon.

“It’s home,” she said, with absolute comfort in her voice. “This is home.”


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