June 12,1930 – March 3, 2018
My personal art world lost one of its giants. My first teacher and mentor, Dolores Kurily, died 03-March-2018. She is the artist who launched, guided and encouraged my artistic journey. She was my painting hero. I’m going to cry as I write this. I hope you will laugh, cry and smile as I share some of the stories from my time in “The Romeo Art Studio”
It was 1999 and I knew I needed lessons. But where? With whom? Christine, the owner of the frame shop suggested I check out the Romeo Art Studio because Dolores wouldn’t try to make me paint like her but rather she was the kind of teacher who would help me find my own brush style. I liked that idea so off I went.
I first met Dolores and Paul Kurily in their studio. I brought some of my “current” work (which must have seemed funny to such accomplished artists as they) asking if I was good enough to take lessons with them. They were so kind to me and their authenticity made me want to come back.
For the next 10 years, if I wasn’t out of town, I was in the first chair facing the window every Thursday night, Jerry was to my right, then Jill and then a cast of others who’s names escape me. Everyone was doing something different, oil, acrylics, pastels, water color…. Dolores would butterfly around the room offering suggestions and laughing as she went. It was like a small family and she was its mom. Every now and then Paul would walk through the studio and grunt as he’d look at different paintings in progress. Sometimes he’d stand there and stare at me while I was painting but he never critiqued or offered suggestions. He left that to Dolores.
After she retired and I moved out of state I decided I wanted to keep Dolores in my life and my brush. From 2010 until this year 2018, as I painted, I would snail mail her photos of my paintings and we would chat about them. She never owned a computer. Emailing her would have been so much easier but hey what’s a little struggle? We’re artists after all.
She was always so encouraging when we spoke. She’d offer suggestions, ask questions and provide encouragement:
- “Do you want to darken the focal point?”
- “Be careful, did you see the tangent there?”
- “Watch your colors.”
- “This one is fantastic. I love what you did here. Keep it up kid.”
- “You are becoming an artist Jay. I love what you are doing.”
- “Promise me you’ll never stop painting.”
Around 2015 as I was first getting into plein air painting, I would stop by the studio when I was up visiting my parents. I made time to paint with Dolores. Once, as my photo shows, a typical Michigan summer frog strangler blew into view. She would not turn around. I kept saying, uh Dolores, there’s a storm line coming. She’d laugh and say, “I’m not turning around. It will go around us, won’t it?” As her umbrella went “Mary Poppins” I somehow grabbed it out of mid air. Quite an athletic moment. At that exact moment God fully opened heaven’s spigot. We laughed all the way back to the studio. Soaked. Our paintings ruined. Best plein air day I’ve had.
Along the way, I learned a few things from her:
- Always look forward.
Another new day is coming. Learn something new today and when tomorrow gets here you’ll be in a position to build on it and learn another new thing. Dolores encouraged me to keep trying. Keep learning. Keep exploring. Painting never gets old. Even your worst painting will teach you something. So have a go. Try. Why not paint larger? Why not paint outside? Why not paint a still life?
- As an instructor, authenticity is king.
If one of my paintings stunk, she’d tell me but in such a graceful way I wanted to try again. I’ve met other instructors who were less than encouraging and I have always been struck by how kind she was with her students. Be gentle. Be authentic. She was so good at what she did, she didn’t need to prove herself. She encouraged me to become an instructor. Which is why I wrote my Plein Air 101 course which I hope to teach again this summer. More details to come.
- Laugh whenever you have the chance.
We laughed on Thursday nights. We laughed together on the phone. My opening line was, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” and our conversation would go sideways from there. The puns, the one liners and the poignant. As urban legend had it, she never owned an alarm clock or understood the concept of stress. At least that’s how I remember what she said. I could be wrong.
Let me hold up a mirror to you and myself in the process.
Time. We are allotted so very little of it. What are you doing with yours? Are you waiting for the right moment to paint? Are you waiting for the weather to warm up? Are you waiting for the weather to cool down? Are you waiting until after the next workshop? Are you waiting for the perfect conditions to get started on your artist journey? Tick tock.
I hear it all the time, “I don’t have the time” or “I can’t draw a straight line.” Dolores would say, you didn’t have the priority of time and you probably didn’t want to draw a straight line anyways. (Unless you were an architect, then a straight line would come in handy.)
Get out there and sling some paint.
If you’re a singer, dancer, musician, or songwriter, pick up your artistic mantle and get busy moving your personal art forward. Tick tock says the clock. Don’t waste your time. Dolores wouldn’t want you to waste the gift. Learn something new today.