STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Durango is an artistic community bursting at the seams with talented artists, but there’s always room for more.
And thanks to some of those artists’ penchant for sharing their talent, there have never been more chances to join. Artists and artists-in-waiting have a slew of choices this month to learn a new hobby and chances to hone their skills.
Workshops and classes are nothing new for the Durango Arts Center, which has evolved into a de facto art school under the guidance of education coordinator Sandra Butler. Last weekend, Ilze Aviks taught a sold-out workshop on textile art in advance of the April exhibit at the Arts Center. This weekend, Karen Aldrich will be teaching basket weaving. On Feb. 11, a special Valentines Day class will be taught by Pat Senecal.
On to the unexpected. Also on Feb. 11, local painter extraordinaire Elizabeth Kinahan will teach a one-day class at the Rochester Hotel, cosponsored by Sutcliffe Vineyards. Not only will newbie painters leave with finished works – Kinahan and her students will paint an art nouveau peacock – and they’ll have a bottle of wine to help them along.
“Painting can be intimidating, and people have a lot of excuses for why they’ve never painted,” said Kinahan, who typically teaches three or more workshops a year to students of varying ability.
“This is mostly for people who’ve never done it – and if you don’t like what you paint you still had a fun day,” she said, alluding to the bonus provided by a winery-supported event.
But the newest and most serious player in the art workshop game is Sorrel Sky Gallery, where owner Shanan Campbell Wells kicked off a series of winter workshops in January with a weekend of classes taught by Durango artist Sharon Abshagen. Next is a three-day workshop on painting animals by Edward Aldrich.
“Education is so important to the endurance of the arts,” Wells said.
Not many galleries can clear a room to make space for easels, paint, dirty brushes and canvases. Usually only finished products are displayed in them. But Abshagen’s workshop was full, and considering Aldrich’s talent and reputation, his will probably sell out as well. He’s also just a really nice guy.
“Teaching is good. Whatever I say to the students, it’s good for me to keep rehearing it, too,” Aldrich said from his home near Golden.
“Things like composition, color and form are critical issues, so that helps my artwork. It’s good to get out of the studio and get a fresh perspective on my painting.”
Aldrich has been represented in Durango for many years. Wells met him when she worked at Toh-Atin Gallery and Aldrich followed her when she opened Sorrel Sky 10 years ago. His specialty is animals, and oil paintings of wildlife will be the focus of next week’s workshop. He’ll bring mounted birds so students have the opportunity to paint from three-dimensional models instead of photographs. That presents a challenge for many artists, especially those just starting out, but that’s the point.
“When you have a group where some are proficient, and some haven’t picked up a paintbrush you have to speak at a basic level – it’s a balance,” Aldrich said.
“I get a consensus of the experience level so I can gear the class. A long time ago, I figured out that not everyone is a great painter. Others start out bad, but with patience and persistence, they improve dramatically, and some just have that innate something. Those people are the minority. The majority is people who may have drawn or painted, and my job is to hone those skills and give some direction to produce more effective artwork.”
A recurring theme among all of the workshops being offered this winter is a sense of inclusion. While all of the classes at the Arts Center, Sorrel Sky, the Rochester and others are taught by professional artists, the instructors display a collective sense of patience and inclusion that’s intended to welcome uncertain students into the world of art. Aldrich said that’s why he takes the time to teach several classes every year.
“I don’t expect anyone to come out a great artist, but if I can affect them, I’m very happy,” he said.
“If you love what you’re doing and producing what you enjoy, that’s just as valid as somebody who’s doing it professionally.”