Sparky LeBold grew up in San Diego, Calif., often spending time talking to fishermen at a local harbor. Salt water crept into his blood, occasionally calling him home to the sea.
Five years ago on a day trip near Lisbon, he stumbled upon Sesimbra, Portugal. After descending from a hill into the fishing village to paint, then sitting at a bar around 10 a.m., he says he realized, "this is it ... this is where I want to be."
And so LeBold spends roughly half of each year in the south of Portugal and other European painting destinations. And even when he's spending his other six months here in Colorado Springs, where he moved 15 years ago, Portugal is never far away and neither, for that matter, are Italy, France, Scotland, Greece and Mexico. Orly's Art Gallery features land- and seascapes from all those places captured en plein air fashion (outdoors, on site) by Colorado artists.
Each time LeBold returns to the downtown gallery, he brings fresh images. Beginning next month, he'll begin shuttling images in reverse order, to a new Orly's Gallery opening in Cascais, Portugal.
"[Orly's] has a real international flair," says the painter and curator. "There's a nice local connection to these works through the artists."
The artists LeBold refers to are Denver's Desmond O'Hagan
and Michael Ome Untiedt, Black Forest's Thomas J. Owen and Walsenburg's Tim Diebler all of whom are recognized by Who's Who in American Art (more prestigious than the overpriced high school book, it should be noted). Orly's owner Tomas Martinez displays the artists' images alongside the frames he sells. He may soon display Portuguese artists as well; he and LeBold have not made final decisions on those plans just yet.
Before moving full-time into painting and hosting international workshop programs, LeBold owned the Cottonwood Gallery, which he'd started in '97. But he's found a nice fit in a life split between family and work here in town and paint and passion abroad.
"There's tons of romance (overseas)," he says. "It's not how we live over here."
LeBold describes his and his colleagues' traditional paint style as "honest painting," implying a "natural, stylistic interpretation" of given subject matter and locale. He doesn't make a green tree blue for surrealist or symbolic purposes. Rather, he stays on site for a couple hours and captures simply what he's observing.
"I want [viewers] to feel where I was, not just to document a place," he explains. "I just interpret the landscape ... just trying to get people to see what I saw."
When LeBold arrives in Portugal at month's end, he's set to be named a Portuguese National Artist for his ties to the country an award on par, he says, with being named to Who's Who in the U.S.
All Gallery Art Show
Orly's Art Gallery & Custom Framing, 730 S. Tejon St.
Rotating works from various artists on continuous display.
Hours: Open Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday. Call 630-3371 for more information.