The plants were dead in Conrad Chapek’s Chicago home when he returned from vacation.
So he made fake ones — out of real ones.
Chapek’s intense fascination with all things miniature, using his hands to create beauty, has borne a new kind of art, an art in which Chapek has yet to find another being involved.
Chapek looks for branches that seduce him with their curves. He drills holes in them, and inside he glues twigs with leaves that are often from another type of tree. He varnishes the finished result, and voila — a tree that will never die. But it’s real.
“When I moved to Payson, I fell in love with the manzanita,” Chapek says. It’s “just the unique shapes of the branches, the way they twist and turn.”
Chapek, along with Ruth Overton, are October’s featured artists at the Artists of the Rim Gallery. First Friday, Oct. 3, events begin at 5 p.m. and end at 8 p.m. All Main Street galleries will be open.
In his working life, Chapek was a cosmetic reconstruction dentist. His teeth reflect his life’s earlier ambition. They are white and perfectly straight.
Nine years ago, a boulder crushed Chapek’s hand while he was landscaping. The disaster ended his dentistry career. Doctors told him to use his injured hand to prevent atrophy.
Chapek has always built miniatures — trains, planes, one could even say the intricate work of a dentist fulfills the hobby.
And now, Chapek has taken to creating dioramic scenes that unfold on tree roots. Some of the pieces featured at the gallery: a father and a son fish in a fishing hole; a group of golfers gather on the course.
“It just came to me one day when I saw the uniqueness of the roots.”
Chapek said he’s searched online for artists with similar work, but the search has only proven his singularity.
Chapek has had his own difficulties adapting to life with an injured hand. “I was right-handed all my life and my right hand got crushed,” he said. In a dentist’s life, dropping things could prove disastrous.
The artist’s life allows more room for error. “These leaves don’t break.”
a brush with FATE
Preacher’s wife led artist into painting
It was all because of a preacher’s wife.
Ruth Overton and her friend, Bettie Wilson, were living in Kansas City, Mo., when Wilson asked Overton along to a drawing class.
Overton thought, “I can’t draw a straight line.”
Wilson, the preacher’s wife, said, “Balderdash. Just come along.”
And who can argue with a preacher’s wife?
“So we went,” Overton recalled. During the first class, the teacher presented a series of white bowls and told Overton to draw the lights and the darks.
“I said there aren’t any lights or darks. It’s all white.”
Today, Overton’s floral and landscape paintings deeply consider shades, with hues fading in and out, resulting in images that sometimes resemble photographs.
Overton, along with Conrad Chapek, is October’s featured artist at the Artists of the Rim Gallery. First Friday, Oct. 3, events begin at 5 p.m. and end at 8 p.m. All Main Street galleries will be open.
Overton took drawing classes for a year, then moved into watercolor for several years before moving into oil.
After 13 years of taking classes, Overton took several workshops from a well-known artist. “It was like starting all over,” Overton recalled.
Classes started at hello — “this is a brush.”
“I had started in the middle,” Overton said. The class taught her how to mix color, brighten colors, and make them stand out.
Today, Overton takes pictures and files them away in one of her four or five file cabinets that she uses to organize her pictures.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” Overton said about picking elements from photos she wants to combine in a painting. “Very rarely do I just take one photo and that will be it.”
When taking photographs, Overton emphasizes capturing the areas of light and dark more than she does color. Colors are more easily altered than shades, she says.
“I’m more of a colorist than anything else,” she says.