The art of feeling
Betsy Blackard’s grandmother used to give her three seconds to scribble on a piece of piece of paper.”She would make the neatest cartoons out of those scribbles,” Blackard said. “I was always so amazed by that. I’ve always loved to draw.”Now Blackard sells her pastel paintings at Wendll’s in downtown Rifle, to friends at the occasional art show and to businesses that want something special to represent their companies.”I dream of waking up, getting a cup of coffee and coming in here to my studio, thinking ‘What am I going to paint today?'” Blackard said. She has a traveling box for her art supplies and imagines herself driving to some beautiful spot and sitting in her car to draw.”I love this country. It’s so beautiful. When I get in my car, I go like this with my hands, tracing the mountains,” Blackard said as she waved her outstretched arm along imaginary rolling terrain. “I’m drawing with my hands.”Blackard, like many people who live in Rifle, has plenty of time in her car each day. She drives upvalley most days to clean houses in Glenwood Springs. Blackard has been cleaning houses for more than 15 years. It started when she cleaned empty places for a friend who was a real estate agent.
Through word of mouth, Blackard ended up with 12 clients, who are some of her greatest friends. Blackard cleans homes while her clients are there.”Most people who clean don’t like to do while someone is there,” Blackard said. “I like cleaning houses because I like helping people. If all someone wanted was their house cleaned, I wouldn’t do it. When I’m there, we solve all the world’s problems.”Blackard and her husband Jerry have two sons, Stretch, 26, and Scott, who is 24. Stretch, who is 6 feet and 1 inch tall, has never gone by any other name, though it’s not the one on his birth certificate.”We just really liked that name and we wanted to call him that,” Blackard said. “He had to be tall.”Stretch and his wife are expecting a baby in March, which will make Blackard a grandmother at 53.In addition to cleaning houses and painting, Blackard has just started a new business, offering in-home spa treatments and facials. She has only had two clients so far, both were women she cleans for.”Some people can’t get out for this sort of thing and it makes them feel so good,” Blackard said. “I just love to bring everything, set it up, make them feel good, clean it all up and then leave them there to sleep on the couch or relax, whatever they want to do.”
One of Blackard’s painting instructors told her that she was a colorist, one who has an eye for colors and how to use them. Most of the time Blackard paints from pictures. She finds a “moving target” like the ocean a hard thing to capture. Blackard’s favorite painting is called “Feel It.” She used pastels to paint herself on a rocky ocean shore in Hawaii, where she went on a vacation three years ago.Retreating to the kitchen to pull the small framed painting off of the wall, Blackard said, “I called this one ‘Feel It’ because I want people to feel what I felt. And I love it. I want them to smell what I smelled and I want them to feel the moisture on their skin.”Blackard loves Hawaii and said she would spend infinite amounts of time there if she could afford it.Blackard found her way to Rifle from Angel’s Camp, Calif., through the same wanderlust that causes her to yearn for a chance to set her easel up in Florence or Rome or Venice or Hawaii again.She was working three jobs, as she is now, when she was 25. She worked at the local asbestos plant, a dentist office and an accounting office. She would also help out at her aunt’s auto-repair shop. That’s how she met her husband Jerry.Shortly after they met, Blackard set off on the trip around North America she had been saving her money for. She didn’t expect Jerry to meet her in Florida.
“I was ready to tell him, ‘Look, bub, I’ve traveled all around the country and Canada and I don’t need you.’ But that’s not how it happened.”Blackard and Jerry traveled together until they were married in New Mexico and then migrated to this part of Colorado.Since she moved here, Blackard has learned to fly, but decided that it was too much responsibility. “But I loved being in the air,” Blackard said. “I loved the sound of takeoff. I loved it. But I’ll never forget the instructor telling me that I was having too much fun to be a serious pilot.”Blackard and Jerry have lived in Glenwood, New Castle and now Rifle for the last 14 years.”There are some people who are just meant to serve and I’m one of those people,” Blackard said. “I serve people by cleaning their houses. I serve people by painting because I know it makes them feel good. I like to serve people.”
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Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.