Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Breaking ground

Valley tour gives upcoming artists a forum

Express Staff Writer

“San Juan Dusk” acrylic painting by Kristen Kaiser on panel.
Image by Kristen Kaiser

    Remember that friend in class who always had the most spectacular doodling? The one you asked to draw you a … Somewhere in that exchange, the artist lost control of the art. And for many artists, turning that generosity of talent into a bankable career is forever elusive.
    That’s one of the myriad reasons that Brooke Bonner and Suzanne Hazlett partnered to form an organization and open studios event to bridge the gap between artist and art owner and build a better understanding of how art is more than just a creative hobby, but a way of life.
    Now entering its second year, the Wood River Valley Studio Tour has selected more than 50 artists to participate in the upcoming tour on Sept. 27 and 28.
    As their mission states, “We envision a community recognized nationally for the quality of its local artists, in which people from all walks of life are able to appreciate, learn about and collect art.”
    The nonprofit organization showcases the creative community within the Wood River Valley and invites visitors to experience first-hand the quality of locally produced art, the community, and the beauty of the valley.
    Among the new artists this year is Kristen Kaiser, who came to the valley a few years ago with a bachelor’s degree in fine art painting from the University of Massachusetts. Since graduating, she’s had a lot of day jobs, some of them in graphic arts, and some commissioned art.
    The 2D artist likes to paint in acrylics, but dabbles in pen and ink, pastels, graphite, scratch board and sign lettering. She currently works at the Idaho Mountain Express as a graphic designer.
    “I know I make for a very poor boss,” she says. “Too dreamy-eyed to stay on top of a project when there’s no outside pressure. A regular paycheck from the job I’ve been hired to do would allow me later to afford the space and supplies to create and self-promote.”
    But it can be hard to be motivated, “and to come home and want to be creative for my heart’s sake after working it for someone else’s whims for eight-plus hours.”
    She’s learning the long, slow way how to—and how not to—market herself.
    “Unfortunately, a lot of pro-bono work throughout the years. Pro bono is slow in getting the word out. Remember me saying that I’m a horrible boss?
    “I finally began to understand that my training, studies, supplies, skill, technique and time has a very real monetary value.”
     The day job as an artist at the Mountain Express has given her exposure with illustration assignments and winning awards for them.
    “Now, I’m putting money down to make money,” she says. “I’m taking a serious pride in my work. In the past year, I’m making a point to paint what makes my heart sing. Nature scenes, horses, trout, storm clouds. I’m posting them on Facebook, my website, with quality prints for sale.
    And, she took a chance and applied for an opportunity to be a part of the tour.
    “It was a bit daunting. The artists in the Wood River Valley are no slouches. They are polished professionals and easy to admire,” she admits. “I’m still getting the ball rolling for myself, and searching for my stride. Maybe I couldn’t hang with the big dogs yet.  But I believe I can. I really enjoy my evolving work, and I know there’s folks who will connect with it.”
    Kaiser likes the format of the studio tour.
    “A weekend devoted to appreciating our valley’s visual talent is quite important. As a patron of the tour, you’re invited into the artist’s scared space. One can see where and how the art they appreciate is created. Also, meet the artist they’ve been following or find a new fave.”
    The Bellevue resident said she has been working hard to get ready, relying on nature’s muse for inspiration.
    “Open fields, moody skies, raging whitewater and still quiet winterscapes. A dabbler in fly fishing, I found that salmonids are gorgeous subjects. I’m also a horse-crazy girl and a wanna-be zoologist, so wildlife and equines are regulars in the mix.”
     She’s currently working on a large presentation of a band of horses on a stretch of land she saw outside of Challis.
    “I think there is a very good support network for artists in Ketchum, but it thins out in the south valley. This tour is a great step in including the wider range. I encourage students to hit the tour, and have artists and children seek each other out, myself included.
    “As a youth, my idea of an artist was Michelangelo and Monet, the heavy hitters in art history. But I think if I had met a local artist, that was making beautiful work, and spoke to my heart, I would have worked harder because it’s real and here.”
    For more information on the Wood River Valley Studio Tour

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