Two Artists Sharing Space

These two local artists have very different methods and mediums, but the end result of their many dedicated hours of work is the same. With each piece, an intricate, unique work of art is born, and grows up right before their eyes as their hands are guided by images and ideas in their creative, talented minds.

Local artists Erwin P. Lewandowski and Mark Beins will be featured in an exhibit at Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, opening at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, titled, “Two Artists Sharing Space.”

And neither man would rather share that space with anyone else. The pair have a mutual respect for each other and the work they have produced over many years. They both have spent hundreds of hours teaching others the techniques involved in creating successful works of art. Success, however, is defined in different ways by many people, including these artists.

“I consider his artwork to be unique in style, fluid in motion, and aesthetically perfect in composition,” Lewandowski said of Beins in a press release. “Mark works in a variety of mediums, and I felt our differences in approach and styles would be a comfortable fit for this special winter exhibition.”

“The quality of his work on a national stage is unparalleled in its execution, dynamic design, and conceptual underpinnings, the natural objects taking on an almost human aspect,” Beins said of Lewandowski in the release. “His ability to present a commanding realism within an abstract field is remarkable, as though the images not only sit on the surface of the paper but also go down through a magical depth.”

Here’s a look into each of their home studios in Alpena, and some insight into their inspiration, techniques and processes.

Mark Beins

If you ask him, Beins will say he’s a sketch artist.

“I’m a drawer, not a painter,” he said on Tuesday.

But if you barge in on him in his home studio, you’re likely to find him dabbling with a lot of different paints, including oil and egg tempera. He’s trained in drawing, but he likes to play around with interesting textures, colors, and mix up his mediums, depending on his mood. He loves trying new techniques, using a variety of tools and painting on not only canvas but different types of wood panels that hold up better to thicker paint such as egg tempera.

“It is a medium that involves distilled water mixed with egg yolk and powdered pigments,” Beins said of egg tempera, which he said has been used since BC and medieval times. “The beautiful thing about it is, it’s very opaque. … That’s a good thing because mainly you use the smaller brushes and it becomes a linear work. And you build up color and you build up form by thousands and thousands of lines. It’s a very interesting medium for detail.”

It takes Beins about six or seven months to do an egg tempera piece, while an oil still life could take as little as four to five days. His drawings tend to be quite intricate, so they usually take around five months.

“I don’t keep track, because it’s fairly meaningless, except for my edification,” Beins said of the hours he puts in on each piece.

He estimated that a recent pencil drawing took him about 175 hours over five months.

Many of his pieces feature a rainbow of color, but his preference is drawing in black and white.

“Color, it’s seductive,” Beins said. “Black and white is rational or intellectual, and that’s where I like to live.”

He does most of his detailed drawings in the dark of night, when he feels most inspired.

“The pencil work is so fulfilling, that I usually do that in the quiet of night,” he said.

Snowy scenes and skeletal tree siluettes energize his creativity.

“When you see the bare bones of landscape, the skeletons of the trees, I love line, I’m attracted to line, so if I see that anywhere, then it becomes a possibility to become a drawing.”

He said “break up of space” or “break up of nature” scenes beckon him to draw them.

Beins jumps from piece to piece, often having a handful of unfinished pieces at once. This multitasker likes having options. But when he decides to focus on a piece, he devotes his full attention to listening to what the piece is trying to tell him to do next.

Of one piece he’s working on, Beins said, “It’s right in the middle of change, and I don’t know what’s going to happen here.”

While he draws and paints pieces featuring landscapes and still lifes, his favorite subject by far is the human form.

“I love the human figure,” he said. “It’s the best. It’s complex. It’s really challenging. And you can play with all of the basics of art, all the elements of art, but you’re doing it in a really challenging mode, so it offers everything.”

“Usually it comes to you while you’re working,” Beins said of naming a piece. “What I do is trust whatever words come into my head.”

He sometimes sells his work, but Beins just loves doing it, teaching others how to do it, and learning new ways to do it.

“I’m involved in process, not product,” Beins said. “So the process is the thing that keeps me going. … It’s an experimental thing. I don’t attach the commercial side to it at all.”

He’s semi-retired and he does what he wants. And that’s to draw, paint, and share his work with others.

Beins teaches art to private students and has taught classes locally at Art in the Loft. He has a Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing from Wayne State University and has taught at many colleges and universities in Ohio and throughout Michigan. His award-winning artwork is on display in at least eight states and three countries.

He will have 12 all-new pieces in the Jan. 26 show.

Erv Lewandowski

This man is business-minded, laser-focused and detail-oriented. And it shows in his artwork. He’s made a lucrative career out of his talent.

At first glance, and maybe even at second and third, many of Lewandowski’s drawings can easily be mistaken for photographs. They’re that good. He has a long list of awards to prove it, but all you have to do is get up close with one of his pieces to enter the world of hyperrealism he creates.

“I work in three circles by choice,” Lewandowski said at his home studio on Tuesday. “One is contemporary realism. The second one is hyperrealism, which is … taking an image, and basically turning it into a photo. And then, the abstract in art, or the abstract in realism, which is where … you see something that really intrigues you, something that most people won’t see. … So you capture an image of it digitally, you blow it up, and you decide whether or not you want the elements, or do you want to change the elements. So you take part of this and part of that, and you create something from nature on your own, you put it together and that’s the abstract in the realism.”

His inspiration comes from nature. He takes photos, then recreates the photo, sometimes with creative modifications or additions, using colored pencils.

His process is methodical and meticulous.

“Everything that I do is logical, and that’s the business background in my career,” he said. “And I try to apply that. Every single pencil I’ve ever had since I started in ’04 has been inventoried, to give you an idea how detailed I am.”

Lewandowski only works on one piece at a time, dedicating his concentration on that piece from start to finish. He said it’s easier to use the same color palette throughout one piece, and if he worked on more than one it would get distracting.

Most of his pieces take two to three weeks to complete, working at least four hours per day.

He has memorized the numbers on more than 180 different colored pencils.

He posts his work in progress in various stages on his website for others to follow and learn from his process and be able to use the same tools and materials he is using.

He uses Prismacolor wax-based colored pencils and Strathmore paper, for the most part, he said, although he is experimenting with some different brands of oil-based colored pencils and types of paper.

“Using waterscape and landscapes settings as a base, he is able to create stunning images that focus on particular elements, structures, movements, and shapes in nature,” a press release explained. “Artistic license is a big part of his planning and it often involves taking two or more settings and combining them to create a scene that is unique in style, meticulously rendered in detail, and visually appealing in form, content, and composition.”

Lewandowski graduated from the Fine Arts Department at Central Michigan University and also trained at Eastern Michigan University.

He began his artistic career in 2004 after spending 25 years in business development and management.

The nationally- and internationally-renowned artist is featured in 10 galleries across the United States, including Forty-Five North Art Gallery in downtown Alpena.

Lewandowski will have 31 pieces in the joint show. He said his pieces are smaller than Beins’ so that is why he has more in the show.

“This summer, I have the honor of being the host artist in Los Angeles for the Colored Pencil Society of America,” Lewandowski added. “Each year they select one or two artists from the world.”

He is a two-time recipient of Best in Drawing from International Guild of Realism, has achieved Signature Status (CPSA and CPX) with the Colored Pencil Society of America, and Masters Status with the Pencil Art Society of Canada. His artwork and articles have been featured in Drawing Magazine, Colored Pencil Magazine, American Art Collector, CP Magazine, UK Coloured Pencil Society News, Australian Coloured Pencil Society News, Pencil Art Society News, public and commercial TV, and in dozens of market publications. Each year he hosts a series of workshops based on his colored pencil and graphite work. A complete bio, awards, artwork, gallery agents, and current events can be found online at: www.erwinplewandowski.com.

The free reception on Jan. 26 at Besser Museum will include refreshments provided by the Founders Society — Friends of the Museum. For more information, call the museum at 989-356-2202 or visit www.bessermuseum.org. The museum is located at 491 Johnson St., Alpena.