Susan Matteson remembers the moment she found her love of art. She was taking art in sixth grade, and the teacher showed students how they could add highlights into a charcoal drawing using just an eraser.
“I was hooked after that,” she said.
Now Matteson is a full-time artist, living and painting on a 40-acre farm near Dolores. Her work will be featured at the Kilgore American Indian Art gallery in Mancos at the end of this week.
“I hope my work will share my appreciation for the area we live in here in Southwest Colorado,” she said of the upcoming show. “The beautiful landscape, people, places that make this area so special for me here in the Four Corners region.”
After her sixth grade charcoal foray, Matteson, who grew up in Greenville, Illinois, threw herself into the craft, studying art in high school and then college, where she majored in drawing and painting and was exposed to oils, her preferred medium.
“After graduating with a fine arts degree, I flipped burgers for a summer and decided I really didn’t want to do that, so I went back to school and got a degree in graphic design and illustration, where I could earn a living,” she said.
She spent more than 15 years in design and illustration, including some freelance illustration work for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, where she did illustrations for state symbols and their salmon and trout stamps. She moved to this area around 2001.
When her father and brother died, though, she realized she wanted to return to painting. So in 2010, she began painting full time.
She enjoys painting humans and animals, and when she’s not in a studio, she practices “en plein air” painting, or painting outdoors.
“Snowy scenes have been a muse of mine since childhood, the softness and quietness appeals to me,” she said. “I loved riding my horse in snowstorms or moonlit nights when I was young. I still love standing out in a snowstorm to paint.”
Matteson has won several national awards since 2010, including a recent award of excellence from the Women Artists of the West. She is now signature member of that group.
Her show at the Kilgore American Indian Art gallery opens from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday. Refreshments will be served.
It’s also part of a larger holiday celebration happening in Mancos that evening: Ye Olde Fashioned Christmas celebration, hosted by the Mancos Creative District, will be from 5-7 p.m. It kicks off at 5 p.m. with the Rudolph Run, followed at 5:45 p.m. by carolers from the Mancos Valley Chorus and a tree lighting at 6 p.m. at Pioneer Park.
Throughout the event, visitors can also drop by an “old-timey” holiday photo booth at Artisans of Mancos or enjoy hot chocolate, cider and cookies with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Mancos Community Center.
To finish off the festivities, attendees are invited at 7 p.m. to watch a Christmas movie at the Mancos Public Library.