Westmont Magazine Working in Watercolor
Outside the weathered wood of her century-old Colorado cabin, Carmel Walden ’93 finds inspiration for her watercolors. Two rugged peaks rise in the distance, dominating the grasslands and woods of the White River National Forest. Three creeks cross the family ranch near Gypsum Creek where she spent part of her childhood and lives six months of the year. When she’s not painting, she’s out fishing, hiking or horseback riding. Her portraits of birds, fish, flowers and mountains capture the glory of the natural world she calls home.
The daughter of a sculptor, Carmel grew up with parents who nurtured her creativity. But their greatest gift was a passion for nature. “They encouraged me to notice natural beauty,” she says.
Carmel got the itch for watercolors at Westmont, where she transferred from the University of Northern Colorado. Professor Tony Askew introduced her to the medium. But intent on being a teacher, she decided to dabble in all kinds of art to get a broad foundation. She earned a teaching credential and taught elementary school in Colorado for three years. Then she took a sabbatical and joined her sister Crystal Walden Roney ’89, a doctor on a Navajo reservation in Arizona.
“I did volunteer work and painted every day to master watercolors,” she says. At the same time, she worked on a master’s degree in psychology at Regis College in Denver. Initially, she wanted to become a school counselor or a better teacher. But she became interested in the use of art in therapy. “It really changed my perspective on art and gave me a lot of affirmation that it’s a valuable thing in everyone’s life whether they admit it or not,” she says.
“I believe art is a way to connect to nature and to God,” she adds. “God is the creator of nature and the creator of us. We are meant to be creative — and to enjoy nature and learn from it. I see this in scripture and in certain artists, theologians and writers. I love the verse in Job 12, ‘All nature seems to speak.’ As an artist, I take the time to slow down and really look at and listen to creation. I see that as part of my spiritual growth — embracing the natural world. Helping people appreciate creation is a spiritual endeavor.”
Carmel now supports herself by painting. She spends half her time on commissions — she’s booked six months in advance — and also sells through galleries and art shows. Her Web site, www.waldenwatercolors.com, features examples of her work. She describes herself as a watercolor portrait artist.
“Painting is a hard career,” she says. “People who major in art generally aren’t business minded. I went to a conference and talked to a lot of artists to find out how to operate a business. My concern was to paint what is important to me and make a living without compromising my art.”
Her work is representational and highly expressive. “I try to capture what is physically unique in my subjects as well as their spirit,” she says. “At the same time I try to leave a portion of the painting that is mysterious. It represents what my heart feels, what the subjects speak to me.”