In the striking wildlife paintings of Colorado-based artist Debra Sindt, the first thing you will notice is the eyes. There, a compelling sense of the animal's individual personality and emotion is powerfully expressed. Then your gaze will be drawn to the creature's bearing and stance-its quiet alertness, its interaction with others of its kind. It all tells a story, set within the gorgeous hues and often soft-focus surroundings of the animal's natural world. Beyond this, the other story Debra's paintings invariably tell is of the artist's lifelong deep connection with-and intimate understanding of- the subjects she paints.

Raised on an Iowa farm, Debra remembers countless hours of wandering and exploring on horseback or foot, through pastures, woods, and creek-side trails, encountering and observing the many forms of wildlife she came across. By the time she was six a sketchpad was her constant companion, and plein air sketches became another means of learning about the creatures that shared her life. Frequently that sharing took the form of caring for orphaned or injured animals-among them, lambs, foals, kittens, baby raccoon, ducks, and geese. "There's hardly a childhood memory that doesn't involve caring for or drawing animals," she says.

Today Debra' home and studio in the mountain foothills are surrounded by aspens and pines and visited frequently by mule deer, elk, coyote, fox and occasionally moose. Within a 10 minute drive the artist can reach the habitat of bighorn sheep. While her first works on returning to painting reflected her childhood intimacy with animals through a focus on close-up wildlife portraits-especially capturing the animal's essence in it's eyes-recently Debra has begun incorporating more of the landscape into her art. In either case, her time at the easel is unequivocally joyous, her brush moving quickly and seemingly effortlessly across the canvas.

Debra Sindt