Painter's art to benefit 'Strings'

— Selling a successful veterinary practice to pursue a career as an artist may seem far fetched and unconventional, but that's exactly what John Fawcett represents. A man with dreams who is willing to sacrifice a salary for a vision.

After 20 years of poking and prodding animals, Fawcett realized his passion for art and his love for animals could pave the way for a new career.

"I've always had animals. I kind of have a bond with them I think," Fawcett said.

During his tenure as a veterinarian, Fawcett said it was the longest anatomy lesson he's ever had, but it revealed the close bond or relationship that people have with their animals.

As Western watercolors and oils of dogs, horses, Native American Indians and women depict his motif, Fawcett said he would like viewers to "smell the horse, hear the hoof beats and have all their senses be taken in by the painting."

As eyes move over a recent watercolor, "Steamboatin," the structure of a horse's body and the fields in which it stands give the viewer a sense of reality. The wind that whips the horse's tail can almost be felt on your face as you stare deeply into the painted scene.

Fawcett's depiction of Western or ranch lifestyles inspired Kay Clagett, president of Strings in the Mountains, to choose him as the representative artist for the Strings' annual fund raiser.

"I told them I was not painting a landscape. I gave them some preliminary sketches and they worked with me with what they preferred," Fawcett said.

Every year Strings chooses a different artist to represent their signature for the summer. Last year, David Taylor and Madeleine Vail sewed a quilt representative of Steamboat and the Yampa Valley, which sold for $25,000. Although none have been accepted yet, bids for "Steamboatin" will start at $5,000.

"(Fawcett's) work typifies our ranching heritage, a real Steamboat lifestyle," Clagett said. "His work is really extraordinary. It's so crisp and so pure."

Clagett said the bidding gets heavy and becomes tense toward the end of the summer when the piece reaches its highest value. She said she hopes the artists get great notoriety for donating their work.

"I think it's a wonderful organization for the community and it draws people from all over the country and the world. It's the least I could do to strengthen the organization," Fawcett said of giving a piece of his work to Strings for their fund raiser.

While Fawcett's work can be seen in the Two Rivers Gallery in Steamboat and in Wyoming, Arizona and Pennsylvania, the cowboy lifestyle has taken hold of his soul.

Traveling back and forth from Pennsylvania to Colorado every six months, Fawcett said he's never uninspired, even after working 12- to 14-hour days sketching and painting.

Douglas Kenyon, owner of Two Rivers Gallery for seven years, said he saw Fawcett's paintings in Cody, Wyo., five years ago and had to have him.

"The quality was so superior," Kenyon said of many local artists that didn't appeal to him.

After owning an upscale, 19th century art gallery in Chicago for over 20 years, Kenyon said he didn't feel museum-style art would appeal to many of those in Steamboat. He wasn't taking on young or local artists to represent in his gallery, but he found the artist he was looking for in Fawcett, who happened to have a residence near Steamboat.

"It's phenomenal. Every time we've had a show, we've had a sell out. That's indicative of his entire career. It's very strong," Fawcett said of Fawcett and the success of having his work in the gallery.

For Fawcett, a growing interest in different mediums and experimenting with oils helps better capture a night scene, versus the more transparent affect of watercolors.

"I'm kind of doing it backward. Usually you start with oil," Fawcett said. "I look at what I plan on painting then decide which medium to use. There are disadvantages and advantages to each medium."

This self-taught artist has yet to attend a conventional art class, but drawing and painting in his younger days probably led his current career, he said. And after finding a schedule that fit with his veterinary practice, painting animals inevitably was his life.

"I never thought it was possible making a living being an artist," Fawcett said. "It really was a hard decision, but it came easily. I just followed my heart."

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