Sketching Longmont in plein air

Observations into the business of art with Coy Ink


When you need directions, you look for a map. For Longmont artist Amanda Maldonado, the direction of her life and business as an artist started with a map. Only Maldonado didn’t read the map, she drew it.

Working as a graphic designer, Maldonado spent a lot of time doing ink sketches of critters. At a time when she was focused on nurturing herself and her art, the animal drawings were something that brought her joy without the worry of whether she was a good artist or not.

Maldonado sold the critter sketches as watercolor paint kits, postcards and more, but found herself growing a little weary of it.

“After about a year and a half, I stopped wanting to draw from photos. It felt like I was just turning things out to make money and I didn’t really feel connected to it anymore,” Maldonado explains.

She turned her attention and artistic talents to en plein air, painting or drawing outdoors rather than off references in a studio. It stemmed from a need for connection with the community and other artists, Maldonado says, and she found herself sketching her companions more than the nature surrounding them.

One of Amanda Maldonado’s sketches.

That observational drawing took root in her, leading her to sketch buildings and people, eventually inspiring a whole map of downtown Longmont.

“I decided to do it for Inktober and it turned out to be something way more detailed than could ever be a tourist map,” she says. “I was excited to make it happen, it was a project I started and didn’t give up on.”

The map takes notes from both Where’s Waldo and Eye Spy, packed full of little details and recurring themes for the observer to spot while looking over some of the businesses and landmarks that populate Longmont’s Main Street environs. 

The map gained some popularity, while also helping Maldonado find a new sense of direction in herself.

During the time it took to make the map, Maldonado made the decision to quit her day job as a designer and pursue art full-time. Already working as a liaison to Longmont’s Creative District, Maldonado harnessed her business experience as a graphic designer to share her experiences with the local art community at large.

“These are some of the things I had to figure out on my own and want to make it easier for others,” Maldonado says. “But it’s also a lot of encouragement in a community space, where by being in these workshops you’re not alone. You can create your own community of collaborators. It’s a combination support group and lessons on how to thrive.”

Maldonado’s creative classes, under her Coy Ink Studios brand, offer lessons for aspiring artists on a range of subjects. Some are practical—registering a business, marketing basics and social media—or art focused, like en plein air nature journaling in one of Longmont’s open spaces. Others bring into light the struggles of any entrepreneur, like “How to Avoid Burnout & Stay Organized,” a valuable life skill most people struggle with.

“People get excited, they have that sparkle in their eye when they know where to go next,” she says. 

Her classes and workshops are held throughout Longmont, at the Firehouse Art Center, the media makerspace Longmont Public Media, even coworking spaces like the Times Collaborative—coincidentally, all spaces Maldonado frequently haunts while sketching.

Classes aside, Maldonado still finds the time to sit and sketch around town, honing her skills and practice as an artist. Working en plein air has encouraged her to work faster to keep up her focus and stamina as an artist.

“I enjoyed it so much, I decided to stop drawing finished paintings and just use my sketchbook to draw everything,” Maldonado says. “It allows me to be present and stay calm in a space, so I can listen better and capture a moment of time in my sketches.”   


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