Monday, April 22, 2013

Janet Nunn Workshop: Landscapes in Watercolor

New techniques, new materials, a structured class and a finished painting – Janet Nunn’s workshop, Landscapes in Watercolor, offered a very enjoyable way to spend a Friday.
Janet’s enthusiasm and enjoyment of her craft is evident from the beginning – immediately  learning all the students’ names and showing confidence that we can all complete a landscape painting by following the steps outlined in her handout.

First, she showed us the finished version, a scene of Bear Creek Lake painted with Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus liquid watercolors, which we were all anxious to try out. These allow for very vivid colors and ease of mixing.  Now being manufactured close to home, in Golden, Colorado, the company started out in 1935 with inks for coloring cartoon cels.  Thirty or so years later, the company expanded into fine art supplies which resulted in the Hydrus watercolors.
Janet mentioned a few other products she is partial to: Pebeo Drawing Gum and Fabriano watercolor paper.  She prefers Pebeo brand masking fluid because of its fluidity – it goes on like paint and doesn’t gum up, and Fabriano paper because it is a plant based paper – even Leonardo DaVinci used it.  Past problems with grease marks on other paper brands that use animal fat in their production led her to become loyal to Fabriano.
With our quarter sheets of watercolor paper Scotch taped (yes, Scotch tape!) to our boards, we drew in basic contour shapes of the scene then began masking certain areas as designated in her diagram.  Happy to share all her products, I tried the Pebeo and found it to be much more pleasant to use than my gummy old standby.

Breaking out the new paints, a few drops (Dr. Martin’s comes with eyedroppers in the bottles) on the palette were more than enough to paint in a glowing sky area.  While that dried, Janet demonstrated the next step, then sent us back to work.  She is a very “efficient” painter, for whom the convenience of Dr. Martin’s speeds up the painting process.  She doesn’t give her students time to “overthink” while painting, so the results end up fresh and clean.

On to the water next – three glazes of gorgeous color that give a glow to the water, like there’s gold to be found in that thar river!  What fun brushing on these intense colors, watching them exploding onto the paper, mixing together to achieve an impression of a secluded creek.

Janet continued to demo the steps outlined in her handout, giving individual attention to each student.  Along the way in her painting career, she has also picked up many handy tips, which she freely passed on to us. For instance, an easy mask pickup is a strip of masking tape, leaving the masked area much cleaner than rubbing with a crepe pick-up square.  And for applying masking fluid, a pastel color shaper is the ideal tool, and cleans up so easily.

Details were added to complete our masterpieces, then it was time for a critique.  With all of us having painted the same scene, it’s interesting to compare the similarities and differences of each.  But all had a soft glow in the sky and a serene feeling of water running by.

 Thank you Janet Nunn, for a fun and educational journey to Bear Creek Lake!  Janet Nunn’s watercolors can be viewed at  A live stream broadcast of her painting “Poppies, Bold and Bright” can be seen at

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stefan Begej's "Fragmentation Series"

Artist in the Spotlight: Stefan Begej

By now, if you've visited the Lakewood Arts Council Gallery and viewed the Ken Caryl Art Guild exhibit upstairs in the loft gallery, you've probably wondered, Who is this Stefan Begej?  and What's with his installation of musical instruments blown to bits?  There's even Buzz Lightyear who definitely hit infinity and beyond.  

Well, Stefan Begej is one of the newer members of the Ken Caryl Art Guild, and he has suddenly exploded onto the art scene with a series of artworks he call his “Fragmentation Series”.
                                       Stefan Begej

His artwork involves mixed-media sculpture in which found objects are modified to achieve a desired purpose and visual effect.  For example, he says, “a musical instrument or baseball bat might be fragmented to portray the effect of excessive exuberance, or a clock crushed to portray emotions of anger or exasperation.” 

                                  "Exuberance #7"

When first viewed, a reaction to an “exploded” musical instrument might be one of shock.  But gleaning insight from the title leads to an understanding that the instruments are actually portrayed in “moments of extreme musicality and were simply unable to withstand such exuberance.”
                                 Exuberance #5

                               Exuberance #1

This unique idea got its start in a class he taught for home-schooled kids called “Mechanism Workshop” where mechanical devices were disassembled and studied.  Stefan’s background is in engineering, computer science and robotics, but this hands-on work, more practical and functional than purely artistic, turned, two years ago, to a “desire to make things meant to evoke feeling and emotions rather than satisfy a utilitarian end,” he says.  After exploring photography, painting and quilting (his mother was a seamstress and insisted he learn how to sew), he settled on his current interest.  His future plans are to create pieces with specific venues in mind – fragmented musical instruments associated with jazz clubs, hard rock events or classical music concerts, or, as he says, “any other absurdities that might pop involuntarily to mind.”

In creating these quite large sculptures, Stefan first unscrews or pries open his preferred object, then begins to employ other tools such as a hammer, jeweler’s saw, knife, chisels and even an axe, which he confesses is not the most pleasant process to watch or perform!  He then organizes, photographs and studies the arrangement of the pieces to create the most visually arresting composition.  Pieces are arranged on a black canvas covered panel and mounted with screws or silicone adhesive. 

 Stefan’s artwork can be seen at Rox Bar & Grill and The Antler Café at Deer Creek Golf Course in Littleton, and at the Lakewood Arts Council Gallery.  For more information and photos, see his website at or contact him at or 303 973-5042.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April Receptions photo blog

The April 11 reception for the Ken Caryl Art Guild's open themed show, Dan Fyles' solo exhibit and the open themed show in the LAC Members' Gallery was well attended. Enjoy the photos.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Perspective on Drawing

 A work in progress, "Csikos", graphite

They say you don’t really learn something until you have to teach it.  Maybe that’s the case with some things, but I just seem to have a learning block with regard to perspective!  I was asked to teach a basic drawing class for the City of Lakewood Adult Continuing Education Classes, and of course, this would include a lesson on perspective.  Yes, I managed to convey a basic understanding of one-point perspective, scale and proportion.  I even made up plastic picture planes with cross-hairs to help understand foreshortening: representing a three dimensional object on a two dimensional plane, just like the Albrecht Durer contraption shown at the recent Van Gogh exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. But I still don’t quite get the whole perspective thing myself.  I blame it on my dad, a mechanical engineer, and perfectionist, I might add.  He is the critical father figure, who points out my mistakes to be corrected before (if I’m lucky) stating any positive aspects of a work of mine.  And of course, perspective should be painstakingly exact to please an engineer.  Am I still acting like a rebellious teenager by refusing to learn how to render a mechanically correct, architecturally sound illustration?  Maybe so. 
"Santa Fe Boots", graphite.  Hanging in the LAC Gallery

Drawing: The Art of Seeing consisted of eight, two-hour sessions on Monday nights.  Make the classes fun, but educational, and be sure the students complete a project they can take home, the director specified.  So I spent many hours pouring over drawing books (thanks Gene Smith – many were yours and I’m happy to share the knowledge found in those pages), flipping through art magazines for fun exercises and illustrative examples of principles of design.  Not having a formal art education and being primarily self-taught made this research especially rewarding for me.  I devised each class to consist of a fun warm-up exercise (one-minute drawings anyone?) then demonstrate a concept – tone, texture, mark-making, composition etc, show examples of such, then have the students work on a project incorporating that principle.  And you know what – you really do learn something well when you have to teach it.  Just don’t ask me about perspective!
"The Dropped Note", graphite