Fine Artist Lorenzo Chavez Captures His Beloved Western Landscapes with Passion for Nature

It’s sunny but a brisk 27 degrees on this late December day at the 17 Mile House Farm Park, just outside Parker. Western artist Lorenzo Chavez is lugging his painting equipment a half mile to get to one of his favorite spots on Cherry Creek.

He’s wearing a stocking cap and paint-stained coveralls, two sets of gloves. Surely there’s a more convenient way to paint landscapes? Wearing a warm smile despite the cold, Lorenzo admits that, yes, there is a more convenient way. But being outside—experiencing the biting whip of wind, the subtleties of changing colors and shadows, the sensory overload of nature —is the best way to paint landscapes.

It’s the difference, Lorenzo says, “between taking a picture of someone holding a baby and actually holding the baby yourself.”

En plein air, or painting landscapes outdoors, is Lorenzo’s specialty. Lorenzo spends several weekends a year teaching en plein air workshops around the West. He also teaches landscape painting classes through the Art Students League of Denver at the PACE Center in Parker.

Born and raised in Albuquerque, N.M., Lorenzo, 59, has lived in Parker for the past 15 years. He’s been working as a fine artist and art teacher, in his signature American West genre, since shortly after he graduated from the Colorado Institute of Art in 1983.

Creating art has “lots of thorns,” Lorenzo says. It’s hard work keeping the work relevant and coming up with fresh ideas, but it’s also invigorating.

“It never feels complacent, and the market always changes,” he says.

In your website bio, you state, “My art reflects my deep passion for the landscape of the American West.” What is it about the American West—particularly your home state of New Mexico and current home of Parker—that inspires such creativity for you? 

I love the deep blue of the vaulting sky, clouds that float and dance, rabbitbrush, fragrant sage, chamisa, piñon pine and juniper, the willows that line the stream banks, the granite in the mountain ranges, aspens and the endless seas of grasses are all subjects for my ever-exploring eyes. I want the emotion I feel to come through in the surface textures of the art. 

What do you love about en plein air? What are the challenges? 

From the simple but timeless approach to painting landscapes, I have grown in my love for and need to commune with the natural world and to enjoy painting the effects of natural light in all seasons. A lot of challenges are mostly sitting outdoors with the weather issues, taking the proper gear, wearing the proper attire. Painting a subject that is constantly moving, the shadows never stay consistent, so one must learn to grasp and not worry too much about the detail. With cell phones being a current distraction, you have to unplug, and it adds to the quality of the painting because they derail the thought process. 

You teach workshops around the West, as well as painting classes at the PACE Center. What excites you about teaching? 

I love to see others expand their knowledge and to witness them grow to appreciate nature with the eyes and heart of an artist. After living in Parker for 15 years, one of the joys as a teacher is being able to show my favorite places to paint outdoors —a hidden spot on the Cherry Creek, for instance—and share those spots with my students and tell them when it’s most beautiful so they can paint and get their own feeling from it. When you know a spot well, you can get deeper into teaching.

What makes someone a good artist? Is it talent or practice? Education or curiosity? 

All the above, but first it stems from a passion and desire to paint for long periods of time. You have to stay within the painting field, practice consistently to achieve quality and develop a knowledge of the subject. But first comes the love of doing it.