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Meet the artists at ‘Winter Blues’ reception Thursday

News Photos by Darby Hinkley “Winter Blues” non-juried art exhibit opens with an artists’ reception Thursday at Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan. Above is a scene of the Rocky Mountains by first-time exhibitor Bob Cordes, painted in acrylic.

ALPENA — Neither of these two artists would say they are talented, but their work suggests otherwise.

First-time exhibitors Bob Cordes and Esther Ableidinger will be among the many artists whose work is featured in the “Winter Blues” non-juried art exhibit at Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan. A total of 83 pieces will be in the show.

Less than two years ago, Cordes and Ableidinger each started playing around with their mediums of choice after they retired. Now, both of them give away their pieces to friends and family, viewing their work as just an enjoyable hobby.

“I retired and I figured I’d grab a brush and see what happened, and that’s what happened,” Cordes said with a laugh.

The self-taught painter started at the end of last winter, and he’s painted about 15 acrylic pieces now.

Above are Esther (Hines) Ableidinger’s three pieces in encaustic medium, “Blue Herron I,” “Blue Herron II,” and “Crescent Island, Grand Lake.”

“It’s just a pastime,” he said. “I just decided to give it a shot.”

He said he painted one picture when he was about 10, then “threw it aside.”

“Now I’m retired and I don’t have a whole lot to do,” said Cordes, who lives in Maple Ridge Township with his wife Judy.

He paints places he has visited, mostly nature and landscapes. He heard about the “Winter Blues” exhibit, and painted a few pieces just for that.

“I really do enjoy painting winter scenes,” he said.

Here is “Lonely Shore,” by Harriet Travis. All pieces that were selected for this exhibit were to have primarily blue hues.

He has two pieces in the show — a winter cabin scene and a scene of the Rocky Mountains. He said the cabin painting took him about 35 to 40 minutes, and the mountain painting took about three hours.

He added that painting “Winter Blues” is the perfect way to spend the cold winter days right now.

Ableidinger is just as humble as Cordes, enjoying every minute of what she does.

“I really don’t consider myself an artist,” Ableidinger said. “I’ve just always loved art.”

She is self-taught, learning how to use a unique technique called encaustic painting, just by reading a book about it and studying the method. It involves “using pigments mixed with hot wax that are burned in as an inlay,” as defined by the Oxford Dictionary.

Here is “Mackinaw Rocks,” by Linda Drean.

“The wax is really forgiving, so if you don’t like it you just heat it up and scrape it off,” she noted. “I just do a pencil drawing, four to five layers of wax … use paint pigments that are powdered, and each layer you fuse it. Then you put on another layer. It really gives it a lot of depth.”

She said the technique has been used for thousands of years, and the pieces last “forever.”

Three of her pieces are in the show — “Blue Herron I,” “Blue Herron II,” and “Crescent Island, Grand Lake.”

“There are just so many ways to do encaustic,” said the Grand Lake resident. “That’s what makes it so much fun. I just get so excited when I go down and start playing.”

Originally from Alpena, she was in Seattle for many years, and worked for Amazon for Jeff Bezos himself after returning home in 2002, when she met her husband, Mike Ableidinger. She worked as a counselor at Alpena Community College before retiring in 2013. They built a home on Grand Lake, finishing it in 2016, and since she likes to stay busy, she found a new love in the encaustic medium.

“That stuff just stirs my soul,” she said.

She’s done about 30 pieces since she started last winter.

“I’m someone who is more driven,” she said. “I can’t sit around.”

She has always loved photography, the humanities and museums, so she is happy to have her work on display at Besser Museum.

“I don’t consider myself talented,” she said. “I just love to create.”

A free public reception for the opening of the “Winter Blues” non-juried art exhibit will be at 6 p.m. Thursday. The exhibit runs through April 14.

For more information, call the museuam at 989-356-2202, or visit bessermuseum.org.

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