When Audrey Gray started gathering pigment from the earth to create her paintings, they reflected her last name - they ended up mostly gray and brown, because she didn't know where to look for variations in color.
But after paying closer attention to the land's coloring on road trips throughout the Southwest, she began to discover red, orange and even green and "cool purple" coloring within the earth. Now, she paints solely with all-natural pigments, which she collects and grinds up mostly from the Four Corners region.
"It's really organic," she said. "It's calming and it's grounding for me to do it, and my hope is it's grounding for people to look at. We don't pay attention to what color the earth is, and then we see a bright green."
While she's at the Tin Shop this month, she'll experiment with adding birds made of mica to her paintings. She also enhances her pieces with sticks and gold leaf.
"Audrey's work is simply beautiful. Her use of organic materials is intriguing," said Jenn Cram, administrator of the Arts District.
Gray earned her degree in fine arts (in painting) from Southwestern University in Texas. She began using natural material toward the end of her education, and then took a break from artwork for a couple years, in order to differentiate her style from that of the professors' expectations.
The natural world drew her in, with its "calmer" tones, as well as its nontoxic qualities (as opposed to commercial paints).
Now two Colorado galleries, one in Canon City and one in Manitou Springs, showcase her work.
March 15, she leads a workshop for kids ages 6 to 11, using the natural paints and mica. She chose the younger folks not only because they're "fun to work with," but also because she believes it's important for kids to have access to creative outlets while they're still young.