Creative Couples

Payson pairs add depth, flair to Art League's Spring Show

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As conventional wisdom dictates, it does indeed take two to tango, play tennis, or get a backrub.

It does not, however, take two to create art as evidenced by the creative histories of three local, longtime married couples/artists who will be sharing wall and display space this weekend at the Payson Art League's Spring 2002 Show and Sale.

Alan and Carol Snyder, for example, are both master potters; they both inspire each other; and they both consider the others' advice to be invaluable. But they rarely, if ever, collaborate on the same projects.

"She's a super detailist," Alan said of his bride of 30 years. "She can come up with these intricate designs and carve them out in a heartbeat all free-hand, with no pictures to go by. I just look at her in amazement. There's no way I can approach that stuff. She doesn't do weird stuff like I do," he added pointing to some lizard-themed stoneware pieces created by latex molds of dead lizards brought to him by his neighbor's cat.

Still, art is what brought the couple together, back in the days when she was a painter and he was an art instructor with an unusually effective pick-up line.

"He said he could teach me to be a potter, and that's all I needed to hear," Carol recalled with a laugh.

"That was the gamble of my life, and I struck it rich," Alan said, proving that all these years of working together hasn't dimmed the light of this romance. But it hasn't all hinged on mutual creative interests.

"We knew we were mates the instant we met, and that would have been true no matter what we would have been interested in," Carol said. "It was kind of scary.

"We feed off of each other all the time: ideas, concepts, problem-solving," she said. "I learned a long time ago to listen to him. He gives me the correct answer 99 percent of the time."

What about the other one percent?

"That's why I'm bald," Alan quipped. "She snatches my hair out whenever I'm wrong."

Ask the Snyders to reveal the single most important art lesson they have absorbed from each other, and both will offer the same one-word answer: Patience.

"I always want to get in there and do it right now but you have to learn some basics first. That's what we try to teach our students at Eastern Arizona College," Carol said, referring to the all-day Tuesday and Thursday summer art classes they'll be holding at EAC, as well as the classes they'll conduct from their home beginning May 14. (Call 472-8023 for more information.)

"She's about three times faster than I am," Alan countered. "She can throw three mugs to my one. But when you get into larger pieces, I can throw three to her nothing, because I make them so large she can't even lift them.

"That's the only way I can get even with her," he said.

Artistic individuality

Jay and Carol Kemp, who have been husband and wife for 49 years, take their artistic individuality even further.

"We don't work together on any projects," Carol said. "Normally, we don't even work in the same room or in the same area at the same time. I kinda like to have my solitude."

She is also reluctant to say that she and Jay inspire each other's output she specializes in mixing collage with watercolor on rice paper, and he works in sculpture, oils, acrylics, framing and matting.

"Let's just say we encourage each other to pursue the art and the mediums we individually like," Carol said. "We do critique each others' work, and we don't always agree at all. I think I'm a harsher critic than he is, by quite a bit."

Jay agrees with that last assessment.

"She doesn't like any of my stuff," he said.

But while criticism is a two-way street in this relationship, a line has been drawn.

"To pick up a brush and touch my work, or to handle any sculpture I'm doing, he doesn't dare put a hand on it," Carol said. "But that's a no-no for me, too. I wouldn't dare pick up a brush and say, 'Here, let me show you what I'm talking about.'

The Kemps have had a good long while to perfect their co-creative habits. Both were artists in elementary school, and both were artists when they met at the Kachina School of Art.

"Art is something you just don't give up," Carol said. "Or at least that you shouldn't give up. And we certainly never did."

Fred and Seena Ritchie were married in 1959 after art brought them together.

"When I was living in Escondito, Calif., I started fooling around with oils, and sold all my paintings," Seena said. "I wanted to attend a night class on watercolors and I didn't want to go alone, so Fred said, 'I'll go with you. I'll take the class, too.' We had a good teacher, we both got interested in it, and we started from there."

"I just went along with her," Fred interjected, "and I've been going along ever since."

Today, neither Ritchie has strayed from their love of watercolors which, along with acrylics, makes up the bulk of their current repertoire.

"I love the transparency and the beautiful mixtures you can make," she said. "But using them can be challenging, too. Once you make a mistake, of course, it's too bad, whereas you can fix an oil painting. But there's something about watercolors that make it really enjoyable to work with."

But again, despite this mutual medium-admiration society, the Ritchies prefer working on their own separate projects and perfecting their own styles.

"We each seem to go our own way in what we paint and what we like," Seena said, effectively summing up the working lives of most artist-couples, it would seem.

Payson Art League Spring Show

The Payson Art League's Spring 2002 Show and Sale begins Friday with an Artist's Reception at the Tonto Apache Activity Center from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday show hours are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

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