Artist Ernest Delto uses travels to fuel creativity |

Artist Ernest Delto uses travels to fuel creativity

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Oregon’s rain-drenched coast feels a world away from the dusty beauty of Utah. But for Glenwood Springs artist Ernest Delto, they are forever linked.

For the past two years, he and his wife, Carol, have pulled their pop-up trailer into state and national parks in these areas, where Ernest has painted under the title of “artist in residence.” Last year, the couple lived near the famous rock formations in Arches National Park for two weeks. This year, they’ve just returned from three weeks at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park, near Florence, Ore., an area known for its ocean views and sanddunes.

Despite their differences, both places gave Delto what he was searching for: a chance to slow down and create.

“I’ve always considered landscapes a celebration of creation,” he said. “I’m looking for unique and interesting places to paint.”

Though Delto has been painting and drawing all his life, these residencies represent a creative shift. A career carpenter, he was encouraged into the profession by his father, who, after seeing Delto’s doodlings, thought he “might as well try to make money at it.”

And so Delto has, for decades ” first in his hometown of Boulder and then in the Aspen area, where he moved 1969. Though he said he’s enjoyed his work, he’s always kept up his art as well. As an architect, his job is to meet the desires of his clients, but as an artist, he only has to please himself.

“When it comes to painting, if I want to paint yellow trees, I can paint yellow trees,” he said, with a chuckle.

It was the desire to express himself, combined with his love of camping that lead him to the residency idea. While several large and well-known parks offer such programs, they required lengthy application processes (“I’m interested in painting, not writing six page letters and resumes,” he explained.) He decided, instead, to seek out smaller parks, ones that may have never before had an artist on-site. In exchange for a few paintings, he was given a place to camp and “free run” of the grounds. In his words: “a free vacation, except for the gas.”

Though he may not have expected it, he also found himself surrounded by encouragement. He said that so many onlookers, from park rangers to visitors, took notice of his work.

“I met, I dare say, hundreds of people in Arches from all over the world,” he said. “And they all seemed to be interested in what I was doing.”

He spoke of one of his favorite pieces from Oregon, a loose, simple lighthouse seascape. He mentioned the “drama” of its bright blue sky and how much that meant to him. As he moves forward with his work, he said, it’s that vitality, that impression of the natural environment that he wants to convey.

“Photography is for photographers,” he said. “I’m looking to express a feeling of a place.”

Now, back in the grind of his “real,” life, he’s itching to go return to the parks. Though he still has two years before retirement, he’s already planning his next trip. This time, instead of camping in one spot, he and Carol plan to travel from New Mexico to,Oregon, and stop at parks along the way.

And though he’s been in the working world for 46 years, Delto didn’t sound a bit nervous about the shift. Instead, his voice was full of possibility.

“We’re just going to live in our trailer for six months and paint,” he said. “I can’t hardly wait.”

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