Artist Studio | Curt Walters

Curt Walters' studio

By Wolf Schneider

Photos by Tom Alexander

You’re based in Sedona, a gorgeous spot. What do you think of the power of crystals and energy vortexes there? I think if you’re into that belief system, it’s here. Do I get it? No. For me it’s not so much the power of the vortexes as the sheer beauty of Sedona.

How long have you been there? Since 1979.

You were born in Las Cruces, NM, in 1950. Did you grow up on a ranch? I did, but in Farmington, NM, where my family moved when I was 5. My dad was a dentist, but he wanted to be a farmer.

And you were a rancher but wanted to be an artist. You got it. And now I don’t even have a dog! I travel too much. I want to be able to bounce out of here at a moment’s notice.

You’re a plein-air landscapist, known for your depictions of the Grand Canyon, which you’ve been painting for 30 years, and how many paintings? Oh, hundreds.

Have you ever ridden a mule or taken a helicopter into the heart of the Canyon? No mules, but I’ve rafted the Grand Canyon several times and hiked almost all the trails.

What times of the year can you be found perched there on some dangerous precipice with your easel? All times. Maybe not so much in the summer.

Curt WaltersWhat about the Grand Canyon keeps you so transfixed? It’s just the most breathtaking, awesome, terrifying place.

What’s your favorite lodging there? El Tovar, of course.

Your collectors include Kareem Abdul Jabar, the estate of Robert Urich, and Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford—have you gotten to know any of them? No, however I just saw Kareem on TV being interviewed and there was my painting behind him. He bought a huge painting, like 5 feet by 6 feet.

Oh, perfect scale for him. So you won the Frederic Remington Painting Award at the Prix de West show back in June—does that mean your prices go up 10 percent? [Laughs] I don’t think so, but they are considerably more than they were 20 years ago.

Your studio is in your house, and it’s 20 feet by 20 feet with a vaulted ceiling, skylights, and a wall of windowed French doors? It is. The studio space has evolved from a double-car garage. The house is 3,600 square feet. It’s an added-on ranch house with a bit of stone thrown in.

Your studio’s dominant feature is its big easel, capable of holding a 60-by-90-inch canvas—do you typically work that big? Two or three times a year, I do.

You’ve got northern light and a view of Grayback—a famous Sedona mountain that’s known for what? Grayback is known for a terrific hike, and it sort of dominates west Sedona.

How much of your painting is en plein air, and how much is in the studio? Right now, I’d say studio painting is 80 percent of my time. But I’ve done a lot of plein-air work—a lot of 36-by-36 canvases, and 48-by-48s.

You’ve traveled to Bali, Budapest, Hawaii, and Paris—where would you be tempted to live if you ever left Sedona? I wouldn’t leave Sedona. I would have a second home in Carmel or Santa Fe. Or maybe France.

Oil, acrylic, or watercolor? Oil.

What astrological sign are you, and do you relate to it? Leo. I love the sun. Am I a show-off? I don’t know about that, but I like to do showy paintings!

That sounds like a Leo. What trait has served you best in your career, and what trait do you deplore in yourself? My best attribute is being persistent. What I deplore in myself is being influenced by others.

Which artist, living or dead, would you most like to trade a piece of art with? Omigosh, Monet! His work in the early years brings me to tears.

Which artist would you most like an hour of advice from? Albert Bierstadt. He was a real genius with large landscapes.

What’s the range that your work sells for? From $3,000 for the smallest up to $150,000 for the largest.

What does an artist need most: a good accountant, a good truck, or a good red wine? I think what an artist needs most is somebody to be honest with them, to say, “You were just a jerk today” if necessary.

When your time comes to kick the bucket, what sentence would accurately sum it up for your life? “He did a lot and died a happy man.”

Walters is represented by Trailside Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson, WY, and Claggett/Rey Gallery, Vail, CO.

Featured in “My World” October 2005