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Colorado artist painting world's largest watercolor

An artist in Craig, commissioned by the Museum of Northwest Colorado, is painting the largest watercolor in the world.

CRAIG, Colo. — The Museum of Northwest Colorado is home to artifacts and exhibits that most smaller museums have a hard time keeping from bigger institutions. 

Paul Knowles is the museum's assistant director and he describes the museum as Craig, Colorado's handshake.

"The museum is arguably the number one attraction in Craig that brings people here from various states around the entire nation actually," Knowles said.

The museum's crown jewel is its Cowboy and Gunfighter exhibit. It's a complete collection of Old West guns, saddles, spurs and other artifacts essential to the cowboy way-of-life.

"The collection itself has definitely gotten us a lot of notoriety and brings people into the museum," Knowles said. 

Despite its popularity, the museum went through a funding drought as its former owner, Moffat County, was dealing with economic struggles. The city of Craig picked the museum up, though, and Knowles and company wanted to show their thanks by adding another must-see item to the museum's collection.

"The only time it’s really made the news in the past is when it’s talking about the coal and the power plant and it’s kind of been used as a political football, but there’s so much more to this community than that," Knowles said. 

To put Craig back on the map in a positive light, Knowles enlisted the help of local artist Israel Holloway.

"We’re painting what will be the world’s largest watercolor," Holloway said. 

The idea came to Knowles not too long after the city took over the museum. The back of the museum was covered by a massive mural, and Knowles wanted to see if there was a way to use that space for something even more impressive.

"I wasn’t sure if watercolor was a medium you could do in the size of a mural, and I looked it up and it turns out it’s not, it’s not really something many people have ever done," Knowles said. 

According to the Smithsonian, the current largest watercolor painting in the world is at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. 

"I discovered that the largest one ever done was actually 15-foot by eight-foot," Knowles said. "I ran out here and measured our mural. It was 16-foot by 10-foot and I realized if we did pursue it, that it would be a world record painting in addition to just an amazing piece of art to kind of represent the West and this area as well."

Holloway spent his childhood in town, and remembered when the museum used to be a community center.

"I went to dances here when I was younger, I used to roller skate in here. I’d love to have a piece in this building, so I jumped right on it," he said.

His painting depicts a local rancher riding his horse through a river.

"In a current sense, I wanted to represent the lifestyle here. It’s, 'we have a harsh climate, we get some hard winters, but there’s very resilient people here,'" Holloway said. "It’s a hard lifestyle but it is rewarding and that’s what I like about this piece is he’s taking a moment to pause from his work, really look down."

The artist hopes to have the painting finished in early December. Until then you can watch his progress on a live feed through the museum's Facebook page

"Our mission is to make sure going forward that people fully recognize that this is a great place in Colorado to be," Knowles said.

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