Rich Galusha's eyes start shining, and a huge smile breaks out on his face as he contemplates the next chapter of his life. At the end of this school year, Galusha will retire from his position as the art instructor at Steamboat Springs High School after 19 years.
He will be 50 years old and more than ready to dedicate the rest of his life to painting full time.
Galusha was 31 when he took the job.
He had been struggling as an abstract painter in Boulder.
"I didn't plan to stay this long, but things were pretty lean back then, and I sure was glad to have the job," he said. "And I thought the breaks, holidays and summers would give me time to paint.
"Everything I've done in my life has been toward an art career, but it's hard to create when you can't pay the bills."
At the time, Galusha was single and living with a "we'll see" attitude.
"I didn't like the direction I was going with my art," he said. So he took his first Plein Air class and completely shifted his artistic focus. It also opened his eyes to the limitations of his art education in college, where realism was not taught.
Galusha always teaches his students in the classical style -- drawing from life, plaster casts and models as a way to study shapes, values, edges and color.
"In my retirement letter, I wrote that it's imperative to teach a classical background," Galusha said. "That's a life-long learning they can take away from this school."
In those early years as an art teacher, Galusha would wake up at 4 a.m. to paint and go to his job at the high school at about 7 a.m.; in the evenings, he would head to Colorado Mountain College, where he also taught painting.
"I was much younger then," he said.
His art career grew with his life as a teacher. Galusha's work recently was accepted into the annual Governor's Invitational Art Show, which opens this weekend in Loveland. This is his second year in the prestigious show.
"I always tell my students that it's possible to be an artist," he said. "If you have good work and have something to offer, you can make it. Everyone else is telling them not to do it. It's not an easy road, but it's a possible road."
Now at the end of 19 years in the classroom, Galusha is looking forward to painting all over the world. This year, he has trips planned to Maine, Switzerland and Spain.
Galusha and his wife, Shirley Stocks, will stay in Steamboat and continue to grow their business, the Wild Horse Gallery.
"We've worked hard to get to this point," he said.
"It's a wonderful place to be right now.
"A lot of retiring people don't know what they are going to do with their retirement. I know I'll never retire from painting."