Artist no longer seeking ‘fall-back’ job

       Since age 12 in Silver City, N.M., Chris Alvarez has always liked to draw.

Chris Alvarez stands in his studio, with some of his paintings on the wall.
Westside Pioneer photo

       But it was many years before he looked on it as a career. “I listened to all the little voices saying, 'You can't make money doing that,' ” he recalled.
       Today, Alvarez is a respected regional painter, renting a large space for his work and the classes he teaches in the Second Floor Studios above the Garman Building.
       One of Alvarez' latest projects is an original oil painting that was released exclusively on Page 1 of this edition of the Westside Pioneer. This is in keeping with a Pioneer tradition going back to its first year (2004), which features a local artist with a brand-new work based on the Old West celebration theme that's at the heart of the annual Old Colorado City Territory Days.
       Starting from a historical photo he found of people riding in a wagon, Alvarez developed a painting (including ribbons on the reins and a flower on the burro's ear) that suggests a moment in which parents and kids are travelling to a festive occasion. Adding Pikes Peak in the background localizes the setting, and a person could even imagine the family heading to Territory Days (if indeed the event had been held in the late 1800s).
       Talking about his background and experience, Alvarez summed up a lot of his younger adult years as learning job skills he could “fall back on” if he was unable to make it as an artist. “I spent more time doing that than being an artist,” he laughed, ruefully.
       Part of that time frame was his Army enlistment at Fort Carson, starting in 1988, in which he studied to be an eye technician.
       Staying in the region after being discharged four years later, “I did different jobs,” he said, including five years working with at-risk youth. But eventually, as Alvarez put it, he began listening to that “voice in my head that wanted to be an artist.” He took classes for several years at Cottonwood Art Academy (as it was then called) and earned an art degree from UCCS. These efforts opened other doors - he got work as a drawing instructor at UCCS and as a teacher at Cottonwood. Later, he moved his studio to Second Floor, where about a dozen artists rent space. “I like the energy here,” he said.
       Spicing up his life in recent years has been starting a family. He has two children, born in 2003 and 2006. With his wife Martha working full-time, Alvarez has been a stay-at-home dad in addition to his art endeavors. As part of that, he provides regular volunteer art support for Buena Vista Elementary, a Westside public Montessori school where his children go.
       He sells his art through the Internet, Old Colorado City ArtWalks (in which Second Floor Studios is a participant), two out-of-town galleries and shows that he enters.
       “I feel like I'm starting to get a reputation,” Alvarez said proudly.
       And no more little voices saying otherwise.

Westside Pioneer article