Room for inspiration

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 1, 2003

The stark white walls of a room at Riverland Community College have been transformed by splashes of color from a paint brush, dark strokes of charcoal and shadings of pencil.

In the middle of the once-empty room now lie sculptures of different sizes and shapes.

Art students at Riverland Community College have been given the opportunity to share their artwork with area residents in the newly-opened Riverland Community College Art Gallery.

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Its first exhibit features artwork from first semester classes and gives visitors a glimpse into what each artist feels and enjoys about creating something original.

Ryan Heath

Spectators can see a lot of first-year student Ryan Heath in his artwork -- his a self portrait is on display. In fact, there are two self portraits, one he drew of a photograph of himself and another drawn to look like the negative of that photo.

The dark hair and eyes of the young man pop out at gallery visitors as they enter the room and their eyes wander to the contrasting lighter image of the same picture.

The work was part of an assignment in his Drawing I class, where each student drew their self-portraits, Heath said. He chose this photo of himself, taken near Anaheim, Calif., because of the photo's detail.

"I liked the expression and I knew it would be challenging," Heath said. "I thrive on detail so I knew this was going to be a lot of detail."

In the drawing, Heath's lips are pursed and his hair, then styled in dread locks, frames his face. Heath used charcoal for the first portrait. Then he reversed that image on another canvas using pen.

"That was harder than I thought, actually," Heath said of using pen.

With charcoal, he can adjust the way the drawing turns out, but with pen, once it's on paper, it can't be changed.

This semester Heath is taking 3-D Design, but says he prefers drawing. He has designed tattoos for some of his friends and up until this past year, mostly drew objects. Since taking Drawing I, however, he has become interested in drawing people. The class, taught by Tim Jones, has helped him challenge himself.

"He's kind of hard, but that helps you do more," Heath said.

When Heath found out about the gallery opening, he hoped he would be able to display some of his work. Despite the compliments he has received on the drawings, he remains partly dissatisfied with his work. He points to a small gray streak in the background of the charcoal drawing, which he said may have gotten smudged by lying up against something.

"I'm very critical of my stuff," Heath said.

Heath has been drawing since he was about 10 years old. His father did oil paintings and Heath thinks his artistic talent comes from him.

Heath, who lives in Albert Lea, decided to go back to school this past fall and plans to enroll in the University of Minnesota architecture program.

But the more he draws, the more he thinks he would prefer creating art for a living.

"Everybody says, don't do just art. You have to make a living," Heath said.

So far the plan is to do architecture and art on the side, but Heath will see what works out best for him.

"The U has a good art program," he said.

Heath enjoys the creativity of art the most. He revels in that he alone creates something unlike anything else.

"It's your own personal work," he said. "There's nothing else in the world like it."

Stephanie Petersen

Two years ago, a few weeks before her son was born, Stephanie Petersen had a body cast made of her upper body. Her plan was to paint it and save it for her son.

Her newborn took up most of her time and Petersen finally decided to finish the project in her art class at Riverland this past semester.

The finished work hangs in the gallery. An abstract painting of a tidal wave in the ocean and a sunny sky covers the cast.

"I had seen it done before," Petersen said of the body cast. "I always just envisioned a tidal wave kind of thing."

Petersen, of Albert Lea, is in her last semester at Riverland and plans to get her master's degree in art and cultural studies at Minnesota State University at Mankato. She owns Dreams Photography in Albert Lea, but would like to teach art at the college level after she completes her masters.

Petersen has been interested in photography and drawing for a long time, but only recently started painting. She is currently taking an acrylic painting course.

"This is my first painting class so I'm still learning quite a bit," Petersen said. "I think eventually I will be painting quite a bit. There's so many things you can do with it."

Petersen said she enjoyed the opening night of the gallery. She was happy with the turnout and was eager to hear what others thought of her work.

"I heard someone say, 'Well, that's really interesting,'" Petersen said. "I was like, 'yeah!'"

Petersen is not quite comfortable with selling her artwork. She isn't sure money is equivalent to the work she's done.

"It's hard to just say this is not mine anymore," Petersen said.

But she plans to pass the painted sculpture onto her son. After it's taken down from the gallery, she hopes to find a shadow box to preserve it.

Brian Iverson

Brian Iverson pulls out a sketch book of tattoo designs, an art form he has always been interested in, but decided to seriously pursue it last year.

He was trained by a friend and began giving himself and his friends tattoos.

"I had been doing a little bit of tattooing," Iverson said. "Everyone I did was happy with the tattooing, but I wasn't."

To improve his drawing skills, Iverson enrolled in art classes at Riverland last semester, to pursue an associate's art degree. He also started an apprenticeship at Aliens Images 'n Skin, a tattoo shop in Owatonna.

In the Riverland gallery, a vertical pencil-drawing of a traditional Japanese fish hangs on the wall. Iverson said he is most interested in creating Japanese art.

"My wife wants to frame it and put in the house," Iverson said. "But it's a Victorian home and (the drawing) doesn't look too Victorian."

But it's a design Iverson hopes to have tattooed on himself one day.

Iverson's artwork can already be found in some of his nine tattoos. A tattoo of tribal flames featuring a nautical star runs along the right side of his left calf. Another smaller tattoo of red peppers sits on the other side of his leg.

Iverson recently started using acrylic paints in his art class, but prefers working with charcoal or colored pencil.

He would like to open a tattoo shop in Austin once he completes his apprenticeship. Before doing so he has to take a test to be certified by the American Tattoo Federation. He also would need to be certified by the county.

"It has to look like a dentist's office in there and that's what I plan on doing," Iverson said.

Iverson said the gallery gives residents and students a chance to see what students create in the art classes.

"It's neat to stand next to your work and hear what people say," he said.

Art work from first semester classes will be on display at Riverland for another three weeks. The gallery, located on the west campus, is open from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fridays.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at