Waltsak mounts first art show | PostIndependent.com

Waltsak mounts first art show

Donna Daniels
Post Independent Staff

Rich Waltsak’s little piece of paradise hard by the Roaring Fork River commands a spectacular view of Mount Sopris. This heavenly spot has been the inspiration for the large-scale oil paintings he creates in his studio south of Glenwood Springs.

Waltsak has lived and made his art in the valley for 25 years. Tonight, Friday, May 16, from 6-8 p.m., he will open his newly renovated studio gallery at 4843 County Road 154.

It’s his first art show.

“Here I am 53 and finally having my first show,” he laughed. “I’ve had to live my life, I guess.”

Waltsak has made a living not through his art but as a bricklayer, cabinetmaker and stone mason.

“Painting is just a part of my art,” he said. “I love designing, I love building.”

Besides painting his beloved Roaring Fork landscapes, Waltsak also travels back to his native New England to capture the fishing fleets in such ports as Annapolis, Md., and Glouster, Mass.

Waltsak was born and raised in northern New Jersey in the town of Pompton Lakes, not far from New York City but a country apart.

“I grew up surrounded by water. The seashore was one hour away,” he said. “I go back to my roots, to the beach and the docks.”

He studied art at the University of Maryland and was drafted in 1971. He joined the Navy and managed to avoid Vietnam.

“That ended my art schooling,” he said. “But I’ve always kept art in my life.”

Over the years he’s remained a faithful student of Glenwood Springs artist Dan Sprick, taking his weekly figure drawing class.

“It just kept me alive,” he said. But his style couldn’t be farther from Sprick’s highly developed realism.

“Dan and I were never on the same page. He does it as his living. But after working all day, I just want to enjoy painting and relax,” he said.

Waltsak’s work has an energy and muscularity that can be heard in his salt-of-the-earth New Jersey accent.

His love of the outdoors prompts him to paint there. His plein air work takes about three hours for a finished piece, he explained.

“It’s fast and spontaneous,” he said.

He’s also prolific. About 40 paintings and drawings hang on the gallery walls. He’s got another 150 or 160 in the loft.

Although he’s had his work carried in galleries in the past, he’d rather sell his work on his own.

Galleries “double the price,” he said. “I want a regular family be able to afford my paintings.”

His work ranges from “bargain bin” work for about $100 to the larger paintings that go for thousands.

Whether or not he makes a go of the gallery, Waltsak has big plans for the future. He’d like to offer art classes for kids. He wants to be able to hire 20-somethings to help him transform his funky compound into “Monet’s garden.”

“I want to help neglected children, society’s child,” he said.

Waltsak’s gallery is open by appointment, 945-6745.

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