Paintings by local artists George Sierakowski and Pam Mikeworth will be featured this month in the Owatonna Arts Center gallery, and the public can learn more about these works — and the artists behind them — during a special reception Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
On Sunday, Mikeworth will be “happy to talk to anyone about how I got started, or how they can get started,” she said. She actually teaches beginner watercolor classes, and students “are so amazed by what they can do.”
Watercolor usually “turns out to be easier than they thought,” she said. “I’m so proud of them.”
Mikeworth got her start in art by taking a class led by Karlyn Holman, a Wisconsin watercolor artist who has made multiple appearances at the OAC over the years to teach workshops and become a “mentor” to Mikeworth, she said. Holman is “an absolutely wonderful artist and teacher.”
Mikeworth first took Holman’s class in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2005 — when Mikeworth joined Holman and other artists on a painting trip to Italy — that “my painting really took off,” she said. Since then, Mikeworth has traveled to such countries as Spain, New Zealand, Greece, France, and — twice more — Italy.
“I’ve been so fortunate, because it’s fabulous,” she said. “I’m humbled when I see all the other artists, and I’m in awe of what they do.”
“The architecture and living style over (in Europe) is so different than here,” she added. For example, “there are flower pots everywhere” to decorate homes.
And flowers are Mikeworth’s favorite.
“I love flowers everywhere, but my favorite flower is the rose,” she said. “I always wanted to learn how to paint a rose.”
And roses are the most challenging of all flowers, she said. “All the twists, turns, folds, and bends” require exceptional attention.
She’s strictly a watercolorist, because “it does so many things, from loose and free to very controlled and precise,” she said. Personally, Mikeworth leans toward the latter school.
Although she does have “more whimsical” paintings, “I don’t mind spending the hours it takes” to create a detailed piece, she said. Her buildings, for example, “are very intricate,” while her flowers “look like photos.”
Mikeworth works off of photographs for her paintings.
“My camera doesn’t leave my side,” especially when she travels internationally, she said. “I’m constantly taking photos.”
Though she’s a regular participant in the Steele County Art Exhibition, as well as one of the fine arts superintendents at the Steele County Free Fair, this month marks Mikeworth’s first featured exhibit in the OAC, and several of her friends and relatives are eager to see the show, she said. “Some of my friends are coming from Wisconsin.”
Mikeworth’s very first painting is among the selections in this exhibition, as are commissioned Marilyn Monroe pieces, watercolors that lean abstract, churches, still lifes, and — of course — a healthy helping of florals. Her favorite work in this exhibit is “Reflection,” a still life with tulips, persimmon fruit, and a scene across the room reflected in a pitcher.
With her watercolors, “I try to use a glazing technique, with layers of color on top of color to build up the painting,” but art isn’t always about adding color, she said. Instead, sometimes, “it’s about lifting color away.”
In addition to Holman, Mikeworth has taken instruction from several other “well-known international artists,” and they’ve all helped mold her into the artist she is today, she said. “I took their techniques to develop my own style.”
“It’s been an adventure,” she said. “You lose yourself when you’re painting, not worrying about other things in your life.”
“It’s so soothing,” she added. “I’m happy.”
Sierakowski utilizes oils, acrylics, and pastels in his art, he said. “It depends on the subject matter.”
He derives inspiration for his paintings from several sources, ranging from his file of photos he’s taken through the years, to nature magazines, to his own surroundings, he said. “We live out in the country, (so) sometimes I’ll take a drive or just walk around.”
His painting, “Kids and Cattle,” which is among the pieces on exhibit this month at the OAC, once hung in the governor’s mansion during the administration of Tim Pawlenty, he said. “Kids and Cattle” was on display at the state fair, and when Sierakowski went to retrieve it, he found a note from Pawlenty’s wife, who was looking to decorate the residence with Minnesota art.
Another piece, “Charlie and Friends,” which is oil on stretch canvas, depicts Sierakowski’s grandson amid several dogs in a field. While many viewers assume Charlie is the name of the child, that’s incorrect; Charlie is Sierakowski’s dog — in the center of the painting — while his grandson’s name is Zachary.
“I did that one about four years ago,” Sierakowski said. “Like all of these, it’s a jigsaw puzzle.”
His grandson did make it into the title of another piece, however, “Protecting Zach,” which shows his grandson flanked by two dogs warning away a herd of cattle, he said. “We had a neighbor with some mean-looking cows,” and that sparked the idea for the painting.
Several other paintings demonstrate the deadly dance between predator and prey in the Minnesota wilderness. For example, one has a fox, nearly-hidden, but within range, of a hen, while another has two deer near a river while a wolf stands nearby — upon closer examination, however, two more wolves lurk dangerously in the woods, ready to pounce.
Schooled as a draftsman, Sierakowski — who moved to Owatonna in 1990 and has previously exhibited at both the arts center and Owatonna Hospital — spent years in military service, but later worked for Honeywell, he said. In his two decades at Honeywell, he rubbed elbows with graphic artists and art directors who were among “the best in the Midwest.”
Sierakowski enjoys “seeing reactions and hearing comments” about his work when he shows it publicly, he said. Praise — or even “constructive criticism”— is welcome, so long as a person can articulate “why they liked (a piece) or didn’t like it.”
Reach Reporter Ryan Anderson at 507-444-2376 or follow him on Twitter @randerson_ryan.