Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Colorado love -- and Shaw Nielsen's amazing cover art

For "Rocky Mountain High," Westword writers scattered around the state on Colorado Day, August 1, and returned with reports on why, even in this very tough summer, there are plenty of reasons to love Colorado. And Shaw Nielsen gave us one more: his wonderful cover art.

Here's how Nielsen explains the assignment on his website:

Being a Colorado kid, I've always loved reading the Westword and admired their bold covers. So, to get the chance to do a cover for the Westword, for of all subjects, why Colorado is awesome, was pretty exciting for me personally. When I first graduated from art school dead set on being an illustrator, I was fixated on getting to do work for the Westword. I hassled Jay Vollmar, their art director, relentlessly -- with often ill-advised promos -- so it was also nice to see that Jay didn't hold any grudges for those early, crummy promos, and hired me. Thanks, Jay.

On his site, Nielsen also offers a fascinating account of the process of creating a cover, complete with sketches, the repro of a first attempt that could have collided with a trademark issue, and "one final tweak (that I can't say I agreed with).... I switched up the mouth and eyes of the sun and bam! We're done."

Here's the end result.

Response to the cover has been strong. The Denver Egotist shared Nielsen's story, and readers have been requesting a poster. Would you buy one? Post your thoughts in the comments section below. And remember, there's a lot to love about Colorado -- including our fabulous artists.

As part of the "Rocky Mountain High" project, we also updated our 2011 list of why this is the greatest state. Read the "Fifty latest reasons why Colorado is the best state in the country" here.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun