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feathered seed jar pottery dennis zupan artist teacher

Teacher, Potter, Advocate — Dennis Zupan Uses His (Right) Brain

feathered seed jar pottery dennis zupan artist teacher

Feathered Seed Jar, Carbon Imprint by lifetime pottery teacher and artist, Dennis Zupan

Dennis Zupan was on the exam table for an endoscopy, when the doctor glanced at the chart.

“He was pulling on his gloves before my lights went out when I heard, ‘Ah . . . Mr. Zupan. I have been waiting for this.'”

pottery pot abstract glaze teacher dennis zupan artist

Abstract, pottery by lifetime artist and teacher Dennis Zupan

It wasn’t the first time that the retired teacher of pottery and jewelry ran into a former student. Another time Zupan was pulled over by security in the parking lot at the community college where he was teaching.

“With red lights flashing and a uniformed officer at my window, I heard, ‘Hi, Mr. Zupan. It’s me, Jonathan. I thought that was you. I just wanted to say hi.'”

Saying Hi to the Teacher

That’s what students wanted to do: just say hi and thank you to a man who not only taught them about an ancient and enduring art form, but who also believed that students have a right to learn in an environment best suited to their way of thinking. For Zupan, this comes down to right brain (creative) versus left brain (analytical) thinking. The latter, he feels, has overwhelmed the school system. It’s to the point that there is no refuge for those who are interested, and excel, in the arts.

“According to all the left-brained people in charge of our education needs, right brained thinking is wrong,” Zupan, who taught arts for 30 years Provo High school, says.

green raku pottery fired dennis zupan artist teacher

Green Raku, Fired, by lifetime pottery teacher and artist Dennis Zupan

“All the process and results that make a right brained person function needed to be sanitized into a left-brain format so it could be understood and validated in their left-brain world.”

Instead of actually learning to draw or make a pot, Zupan continues, students are channeled into classes on art theory, history, appreciation, aesthetics, critique, and analysis — all elements that come naturally to a right-brained artist over time as they strive to perfect their art. The result, Zupan mourns, is that “the refuge class for right brained students is gone, replaced by another list of left-brain tasks.”

Right-brain Teacher

Promoting art is a lifestyle for Zupan, who now lives and creates both pottery and jewelry in Richland. While in Utah he taught art at community education classes in the evenings, during summer school, at workshops with Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H. He conducted university and college classes. And he participated in some unique opportunities to work with ancient pottery techniques.

pit fired pottery feathers dennis zupan teacher artist

Pit Fired Pot with Feathers by retired teacher and lifetime artist Dennis Zupan

One of these opportunities was through the Colorado Archeologist Group, National Geographic Magazine, and Mesa Verde National Park. They joined together to replicate Anasazi (Southwest Pueblo people) pottery making and kiln firing. Zupan was one of 20 potters asked to replicate pieces, with each step documented as if were being done 1300 years ago.

Another time he partnered with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in creating a series of Bible-based films on the New Testament era.

“At that time in history, a potter’s work was essential and found in every aspect of everyday living,” Zupan says. “Cooking, serving, lamps, and storage containers all came from the potter’s shed.” With three other potters, Zupan created hundreds of pieces for the films.

A recipient of numerous state and national teaching awards, Zupan says he approached teaching art as an artist and not an educator.

Teaching Future Artists

“I was sharing art methods and marketing to potential future artists,” he explains.

Because, when it comes to art, it’s not the theory, it’s not the analysis, it’s not the endless talking about it that matters: it’s the finished work of art. And achieving a beautiful finished work of art takes the hands, the soul, and the skill of an artist.

“I enjoy the challenges of working with a piece of clay because there are no limits to the possibilities,” Zupan says. “I often push clay to its edge of failure.

“There is always an air of excitement opening a kiln — the patterns on the pottery are created in the kilns. Raku glazes always have a bit of chance happenings to them; the same is true in a pit fire.

“They cannot be totally controlled or replicated. They can be truly exhilarating.”

Exhilarating. That’s a worthwhile goal to aspire to, and it is one Zupan has spent his life teaching students to reach for, and to find.

Which is probably why they go out of their way — wherever they are — to say, “Mr. Zupan, hi. Do you remember me?”

Wenaha GalleryDennis Zupan is the Featured Art Event from Monday, May 20 through Saturday, June 15 at Wenaha Gallery.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.

 

Dancing Coneflowers, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Meredith Dedman

Creating Art Is Such a Joy — The Watercolor Art of Meredith Dedman

Dancing Coneflowers, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Meredith Dedman

Dancing Coneflowers, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Meredith Dedman

So often, it is the small, inconsequential things that make lasting effects on our lives. For watercolor painter Meredith Dedman, her feet were instrumental in choosing the medium of her art.

Hibiscus Blossom, original watercolor painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Meredith Dedman

Hibiscus Blossom, original watercolor painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Meredith Dedman

“About 15 years ago, I decided to learn more about art and began taking regular classes,” the Dayton painter remembers. “These classes happened in the evening, after work, and rather than painting with the oils that I had dabbled with a few years back, I chose watercolor.

“Watercolorists sat down to paint, and I was too tired from working all day to think about standing for two hours at an easel.

“Turned out to be a good decision regardless of how silly the reasons were.”

In pursuit of mastery, Dedman took one to two evening classes in the Florida area for 10 years, haunted the local watercolor society, built up a library of how-to and fine art books, and attended workshops by nationally acclaimed artists like Sue Archer, Ann Pember, Tom Jones, Pat Weaver, Diane Maxey, and Karlyn Holman. By the time she moved to the Pacific Northwest 10 years ago, she was confident enough to instruct others, and takes in local students at her studio, a “happy space” with triple French doors, east facing windows, and a generous amount of cupboards to store supplies.

Tangles, by Meredith Dedman

Tangles, by Meredith Dedman

Dedman is generous about passing on what she has learned and is still learning, and one of her major messages is that of encouragement.

“Since I have been using watercolor almost exclusively for the past few years I can tell you that watercolor is not as unforgiving as most people think,” Dedman says. For little “mistakes,” gently scrubbing with a damp dry brush often does the trick, but some techniques are more forceful:

“I have seen people take a garden hose and wash most of the paint off the paper.” Not inside the studio, by the way.

Peacock, mixed media original painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Meredith Dedman

Peacock, mixed media original painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Meredith Dedman

While watercolor is and remains a true love, Dedman is continually exploring, and the last few years has forayed into acrylic, colored pencil, and pastel, in this latter endeavor seeking out the expertise of former Walla Walla artist, Bonnie Griffith. When it comes to subject matter, Dedman embraces it all, as enthusiastic about still life as she is landscapes, ready to tackle animals immediately after focusing on houses, or florals, or collage.

“Creating art is such a joy,” she says. “To have an idea, devise a plan, attack a piece of paper or canvas with brush and paint — then you watch magic happen as the paint colors mingle and begin to tell the story you imagined.”

Ideas for the next painting join a mental queue while she is working on the current one, and as the co-founder, with Vivian McCauley, of the area’s Blue Mountain Artists’ Guild, Dedman produces a work each month in line with the group’s theme — a color (red, say, for Valentine’s Day), concept (patriotism, for July 4), or material object (vintage cars, celebrated during Dayton’s All Wheels Weekend). Lately, influenced by workshops given by Karlyn Holman, an internationally recognized artist, instructor, and author, Dedman has been incorporating textured papers, pencil, and crayon into multi-media creations.

Heart of the Woods, original watercolor by Meredith Dedman

Heart of the Woods, original watercolor by Meredith Dedman

“When I first began painting, I felt I had to stick to one medium in order to be successful,” Dedman reflects.

“As a result, I was very rigid in my ideas about art and good painting. But fortunately, I was shown that art can and should be fun, as long as a person doesn’t take themselves too seriously.”

One is serious, yet not too serious: the idea is to pursue excellence, yet cut oneself some slack when things don’t happen the way expected or envisioned, which describes a lot of life, actually.

“The process can be as simple as making marks on paper that are pleasing to a viewer,” Dedman says.

“I simply try to capture the beauty and color in the world around me and capture a moment in time with the filters of my eyes, rather than the lens of a camera.”

Wenaha GalleryMeredith Dedman is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, February 8 through Saturday, March 12. There will be an artist’s reception Saturday, February 20, from 1-4 p.m. at the gallery, during which time we invite you to meet and greet the artist, as well as enjoy free refreshments.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Crazy about Art — The Eclectic Paintings of the Blue Mountain Artist Guild

An eclectic show of various media, subject matter, and art styles by the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, at Wenaha Gallery

An eclectic show of various media, subject matter, and art styles by the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, at Wenaha Gallery

There are so many misconceptions about artists, the most pronounced being that they are solitary creatures, reluctant to appear in daylight, preferring instead to lurk like hermits in their attic-loft studios.

Chickens, original watercolor by Sylvia Beuhler of the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, Dayton, WA, showing at the Wenaha Gallery.

Chickens, original watercolor by Sylvia Beuhler of the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, Dayton, WA, showing at the Wenaha Gallery.

Outside of mass media interpretation, however, artists are people like any other, and many of them enjoy assembling to socialize and encourage. One such group is The Blue Mountain Artist Guild of Dayton, WA, consisting of some dozen painters, who gather monthly to provide new artwork for the community — which they hang at the Delaney Building near the library and the Dayton General Hospital lobby.

“Our meetings are generally informal, sometimes a program is presented, and we always discuss the inspiration for our latest work and any special technique or process used in its creation,” according to Meredith Dedman, current president of the group, who, with  longtime area resident Vivian McCauley, co-created the BMAG in 2008.

Number 500, original watercolor by Meredith Dedman of the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, at Wenaha Gallery.

Number 500, original watercolor by Meredith Dedman of the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, at Wenaha Gallery.

“We had both belonged to art associations in Arizona and Florida, and we missed the camaraderie and inspiration when a group of artists get together,” Dedman explains.

That camaraderie these days revolves around the challenge of painting to a monthly theme, which the group decides upon and schedules up to a year in advance. This year’s challenges range from Something Red — to be shown in February — to Collage in April, Caricatures in October, and Toys in December. Summer’s challenge, in July and August, requires each artist to paint from the same reference.

Evening Meal, original acrylic painting by Brenda North of the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, at the Wenaha Gallery.

Evening Meal, original acrylic painting by Brenda North of the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, at the Wenaha Gallery.

“I was excited when I joined the Guild to find that they had a ‘theme’ for each month’s display of paintings,” member Brenda North says. “It was good to have fresh ideas and feedback from other artists.”

Co-member Sylvia Beuhler, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and taught art in public school, initially was not as enthusiastic about the concept.

“At first, I didn’t like the theme idea,” she says, “but after about a year, I really started to enjoy playing with the theme to see what I could come up with.”

The Conversation, original watercolor painting by Michele McIntire-Smith of the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, at the Wenaha Gallery.

The Conversation, original watercolor painting by Michele McIntire-Smith of the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, at the Wenaha Gallery.

Beuhler and North join Dedman, along with Kris Takemura and Michele McIntyre-Smith, to present a guild showing of their work at Wenaha Gallery, Dayton, WA, through March 7. A reception is scheduled Saturday, February 21, from 1 – 4 p.m., with all five artists in attendance, reflecting a subject matter ranging from seascapes to chickens, in acrylic and watercolor media, the latter the preferred medium of the exhibitors.

“Watercolors can produce beautiful and sometimes unforeseen results because of the difficulty of control,” Takemura, a retired early childhood and elementary teacher, observes.

Ballerina, original watercolor by Blue Mountain Artist Guild member Kris Takemura, for the Wenaha Gallery

Ballerina, original watercolor by Blue Mountain Artist Guild member Kris Takemura, for the Wenaha Gallery

Dedman thrives on the medium, having studied under well known watercolorists such as Sue Archer, Ann Pember, Tom Jones, Pat Weaver, Diane Maxey, and Karlyn Holman. In the spirit of learning and sharing, Dedman offers watercolor classes of her own, and several guild members take advantage of the opportunity..

As is the situation with many artists, guild members paint where they can, some in designated studios, others in spaces that become studios by virtue of being made to function as one. North turned a spare bedroom into a space to create; Takemura expropriated a table in her Rec room; McIntire-Smith chose a room in her home where she looks out at, and is inspired by, the deer-filled, bird habitat adjacent to the Touchet River.

“There is never a shortage of beauty in nature where we live,” North says. “And it’s good to have fresh ideas and feedback from other artists.”

McIntire-Smith agrees, echoing the sentiments of others in the group:

“I am grateful to the other members,” she says, “for their insights and encouragement.”

So, the next time you see the crazy artist, in the movies, mumbling and muttering to himself, and plucking at his ear, remember that they’re not all that way.

Wenaha GalleryThe Blue Mountain Artist Guild is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest Feature at Wenaha Gallery from February 9, 2015 through March 7, 2015 at Wenaha Gallery’s historic Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street. There is a reception with the artists present on Saturday, February 21, from 1 to 4 p.m. Free refreshments provided.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.