Friends display art together at Bixby's

By Liz Strawn Circles of students gather in the corners of Bixby's speaking Spanish.  They practice having conversations with one another, often giggling from nervousness.  A man quietly sits next to the fireplace reading his book.  He looks up from time to time in response to the laughter.  The dinner rush comes and goes, just as quickly as it started.  The Bixby's employees chatter quietly as they re-stock and clean.  Everyone is seemingly in there own world, but what I found out is I am not the only one who often sits here to observe.

Michelle Wegler comes to Bixby’s to take note and to sketch for practice. She also comes to see how people react to her paintings.

“I like to come here and watch others and hear people's reactions, to see if they get that 'ahh' or that 'wow' factor from my work,” Wegler said.  “I like to watch people respond to the paintings.”

Michelle Wegler and Lisa Stauffer are painters. They share a studio and currently have paintings displayed at Bixby’s until the end of May.  While they both have been some form of an artist all their life, they are different.

The two of them often go to a spot outside and paint together, along with another friend.  Even though they are witnessing the same scene, their final paintings all incorporate their own style and feelings.

Michelle uses pastels for paintings, which resemble crayons. She enjoys capturing landscapes, pets, clouds and the moon. She brings along a box full of colors that correspond with the season when she goes outdoors.  Her summer box includes an array of bright colors ranging from purple to red to blue.

During Duluth's cold winter months, she wears fingerless mittens with hot packs inside to keep warm.  She sits in one spot no longer than two hours and brings her paintings back to her studio to finish if need be.

Michelle finds inspiration everywhere but has found Lester Park to be a favorite spot.

“I could go to Lester Park and paint for the rest of my life and never get bored,” Michelle said.

Michelle, a part-time occupational therapist, relates art and colors to other aspects of her life such as gardening and knitting.

“Knitting is textural, same as art,” Michelle said.  “You can play with colors.”

Lisa says she received her mother's, “defective art gene” leaving her with no choice but to spend her life being an artist.

After paying her way through college and working hard, Lisa was able to become a full-time professional artist. She does pottery and stained-glass windows on the side, but has found a career in painting.

“Art is not magic. It is a lot of hard work and practice,” Lisa said.

And practice, practice, practice is what has brought her success.

Lisa lit up as she told a story about her late dog, Casey, and her Pacific parrotlet, Tico, teasing each other each morning over breakfast.

“Painting animals is fun,” Lisa said.  “It shows the personality of the animals, a slice of the life.”

Both Michelle and Lisa want to convey something with their art.

Lisa hopes to communicate a feeling when she paints.

“When music makes you stop and listen, that’s what I want to communicate emotionally with art,” Lisa said.

Michelle admits that she has no idea what kind of paintings people are going to like.

“There are some paintings that people walk by and I swear no one ever sees it,” Michelle said.

But her goal is for the person looking at the painting to feel something, just like Lisa.

“I have been told that my paintings are peaceful,” Michelle said.  “They’ve told me that when they look at them they feel more relaxed.”

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