Between teaching a weekly class, conducting periodic workshops, and organizing art exhibitions, it’s no surprise that Dani Tupper’s biggest challenge is finding time to devote to her own artwork.
“I’m a little bit overtaxed,” she confessed, as she talked about an upcoming workshop she’ll be leading in Phoenix, a trip to Mexico she’s taking with three of her students, and a national exhibition she’s co-chairing for the Western Colorado Watercolor Society.
An artist for most of her life, she says she’s never been able to maintain regular studio hours, despite the fact that her studio is built right into her Delta home.
“A lot of artists say you need to get up and consider it an 8-5 job to really accomplish anything,” she said. “My world doesn’t work that way. When I’m really working, I get up in the mornings and before I do anything else I paint in my PJs for a couple of hours. If I’m really wanting to experiment, I might paint day and night.”
She recalls an art instructor in Australia who once told her, “No matter how long you’ve painted, you’ll have your highs and your lows. When you’re on a high, you’ll paint day and night for weeks.”
Dani says her mood doesn’t fluctuate that dramatically, but there are days at a time when she doesn’t go into her studio. When she needs to buckle down and get ready for an upcoming workshop or art exhibition, though, she has no problem meeting her deadline.
Even with her busy schedule, plus the time she willingly devotes to family and church activities, she says she’s semi-retired.
“The retired part is I don’t really market my work any more. They tell you you need to spend as much time marketing your work as you do painting.”
Her work is hung at the Creamery Art Center in Hotchkiss, AppleShed Gallery in Cedaredge, the Edward Jones office at 2nd and Main, and in other locations in Delta through Delta Fine Arts’ “Art in Public Places” program. She also maintains a website, www.danitupper.com, which features her artwork and lists upcoming classes and workshops.
Early in her career, Dani used oils, but she now works primarily with watercolors. Within that realm, she enjoys experimenting with a variety of techniques, including watercolor batiks and poured paint. She likes to see the effect different surfaces, such as rice paper or a synthetic paper called yupo, can create when paint is applied. Notes about an abstract painting on her website illustrate her enthusiasm for experimentation: “After applying wet in wet paint, I threw the watercolor out in the snow, sprinkled snow and sand on it and let it freeze. Neat texture! Warmed it up and finished painting.”
Subjects vary with the season — florals when they’re in full bloom in her garden; winter scenes when snow covers the ground.
Although she doesn’t use pastels very often, she says she keeps a set she bought 30 or 35 years ago simply because it would cost hundreds of dollars to replace them.
In many ways, though, Dani feels she’s a better teacher than she is an artist — although she has many outstanding examples to attest to her artistic skill.
“I’ve taken workshops from a lot of nationally known artists, who sometimes let their egos get in the way of teaching,” Dani said.
By contrast, she tries to offer encouragement and support. “I can feel the beginner’s pain because I can remember struggling myself. Maybe that’s why some people think I’m a good teacher.”
“I think you’re able to break it down and see where they’re at and lead them on from there,” said her daughter Julie. “I’m not an artist, but I can sit down and work with my mom and I can make something pretty because she’s coaching me.”
Dani clearly has a following, because many of her students have stayed with her during moves from Denver to Pueblo, where she and her husband lived after his retirement, and finally to Delta. In the intervening years, those students have scattered to Florida, Arizona, Texas, Michigan and all parts of Colorado but they still try to make the occasional workshop or join Dani on a trip abroad.
During the two- and three-day workshops, up to 10 participants stay, play and eat with Dani. After a day in the studio, they recharge with a bowl of savory soup and a slice of homemade bread. “I’ve accused my students of coming to eat, rather than paint,” Dani said. “We paint, laugh, eat and sleep art!”
The camaraderie extends to week-long explorations of Europe. Every other spring she takes a small group of artists to Italy, England, Scotland or Spain. The women sightsee, visit world-renowned art galleries, take lots of pictures and paint on location.
Who would have guessed that the young Nebraska girl who whiled away hours drawing women with long flowing hair, beautiful gowns and high heels, would end up touring Europe with her watercolors in hand and several students in tow.
Her husband’s job as a consultant for General Dynamics necessitated frequent moves. Dani can boast she’s lived in 10 states and several different countries. Her trips are chronicled in a journal; she’s also taken hundreds of photos. Between the two she has enough material to keep her busy in her studio for years to come.
“You know it really amazes me that my students will come to class and waste the first hour wondering what to paint. I have so many ideas that I’ll never, ever paint them all.”
Today, her work hangs in many corporate and private collections. Some of her original watercolors and giclee prints are part of the permanent collection in the new wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. Her work has appeared in three art books published by Northlight Publishing — “The Best of Flower Painting,” “Splash VIII” and “Splash XI.”
She is a signature member of the Colorado Watercolor Society and Western Colorado Watercolor Society. The founding president of Southwest Colorado Watercolor Society in Pueblo, she helped start the annual Aquarius exhibition which this year becomes a national show to be held at the Sangre de Cristo Art Center in Pueblo. She is a lifetime member of Transparent Watercolor Society, Aurora Artist Guild and Southwest Colorado Watercolor Society (honorary) A few years ago she was named outstanding artist by the Pueblo Art Commission. She is also an associate member of the National Watercolor Society and International Society of Experimental Artists. She is a member of Delta Fine Arts and edited the newsletter for several years.
Dani modestly says her artwork is 10 percent talent and 90 percent hard work, but maybe that actually reflects the amount of time this hard-working supporter of the arts has left to pursue her own creative expressions.
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