Winter Park Art – Elizabeth Kurtak Paints Joy In Color

Elizabeth Kurtak is a lifelong Colorado resident and formally trained fine artist specializing in watercolor. She developed a love of fine art when she was 5 years old by checking out books on Michelangelo at the local library in the small town of Grand Lake, Colorado and then by taking some private drawing lessons with Donna Lyons, a local instructor and seasoned painter.

Elizabeth received her bachelor of fine arts degree from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado in 1998 under the tutelage of artist instructors most notably, Harry Heil, Pat Julio, and Lee Johnson.  After college, she began entering competitions, showing in galleries, and producing showings for herself and other artists. Elizabeth opened her own gallery in 2000 in downtown Winter Park.  She moved the gallery to Fraser in 2003 and has remained in her current location in the Fraser Mercantile Building ever since.  

Elizabeth Kurtak at work in her garden.

Many people think of an artist as a person who does not work. I think it must be very hard work.

I have been really stubborn being an artist.  It’s an addiction, and times that I’ve had to put art on hold I’ve felt really lost and empty without it so I keep coming back to it.  I have failed at so many ventures, but I tried enough things that some of them worked out so I kept pursuing those things that worked, and that I enjoyed.  I love making art, so I have always put time into that.  I also like participating in formal shows and competitions because people are there to support you and are genuinely interested in the work.  I like hosting formal shows, too, but it is so much work I can only do one or two a year or I have no time to make art to put in the show.

You have so many beautiful paintings of flowers is this your passion?

I have to fall in love with a subject to paint it but have little trouble finding inspiration.  I am interested in so many things that I will never finish my work in this lifetime. Currently, I’m really into flowers, architecture, and skiing.  Past works include women and body image, industrialized development of the natural world, cubism, and symbolism in everyday subjects.  My work always seems to have bright positive leanings, as do I.

Why did you choose live in Fraser?

I grew up in Grand County and had a love-hate relationship with it likemost kids probably do until they are old enough to know better.  I moved to San Diego after high school just for something different.  It was good because in a small town you live with all your mistakes every day.  I gained confidence, figured out who I was and what I like without accountability to people that had known me since grade school. I wanted college, and did a semester of school in Alaska eventually coming home and obtaining a BFA at Western State College in Gunnison,.  I had planned to move back to San Diego after graduation but…life.  My dad had heart surgery, I stayed around, kept making art after college, pursued it hard, met a man, settled down.  Grand County is such a special place.  I am grateful to have married someone that has shared the experience of growing up here and who understands the seasonal rhythms and gifts of this place.  I have always felt this is my “home”.

Your garden is amazing, I hear you even rent it out for weddings and special events?

We built the garden for our wedding in 2003.  Twelve years later, some of the original members are still thriving, and it brings me such joy to see old friends emerge in the spring.  The saplings my best friend gave me when I got married are now big enough to house birds. The raspberry bushes from my mom are now a legitimate patch.  Pyrethrum and Delphinium have been easy and reliable allies, unlike the Columbines and Lupine who are subject to worms and aphids. 

People are obsessed with my garden.  We finally had to buy chains and locks for the gates a couple of years ago after my poor husband caught some 60 somethings getting frisky in our gazebo one summer afternoon. We took this measure after forgiving many trespasses, including photographers with tripods and $1000 cameras, kids smoking weed/drinking beers and laying around on the lawn, and children picking bouquets of hard-won Columbines.  It’s actually pretty funny, and I understand the attraction.  The garden is my heaven on earth.

Yes, it is.

Photos and Imagery Courtesy of Elizabeth Kurtak

Story by Holly Battista-Resignolo

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