Dewey at top of his game

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November 24, 2012 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — “I’m doing the best work of my life,” Wes Dewey said during a break in his painting at Works of Art Gallery on the east side of Humboldt’s downtown square.
Dewey is artist in residence at the gallery. He works from a studio open to view for people who come to browse. Currently he is completing a painting of two gray wolves, an image of nearly photographic quality.
He considers himself a “bird artist,” but even the most critical eye would have difficulty finding flaws with the wolves.
“I’ve been working on the wolves quite a while,” Dewey said, noting he had changed brushes several times. “I think I’ve finally found the right one,” a common flat brush that gives warmth to their heavy coats.
Dewey has painted all of his life, professionally the past 30 years and all but the last two from his home studio in Petrolia.
When Joe and Jane Works decided to convert an old store to an art gallery, they had no question who would be featured.
All but a handful of paintings on display in the gallery are Dewey’s. Other area artists are featured on a monthly basis. This month it is Norma Petri, Garnett. In December, Micah Guenther, formerly of Humboldt now living in Girard, will have paintings displayed. Also, Dirk Sorenson, Yates Center, has sculptures in the gallery.
“Some of the paintings on permanent display were done by Melissa (Burke, his daughter),” who manages the gallery, Dewey said.
Dewey is there daily. “Some days I paint eight or nine hours,” he said. “It isn’t unusual for me to come in early in the morning and I often paint into the evening.”
“I enjoy having people watch me work,” Dewey added, and he isn’t adverse to giving tips, particularly to youngsters. “I have an idea that if people watch what I’m doing they may become interested in painting. We’ve had more then 30 people sign up for classes,” which may be among the gallery’s offerings in 2013.
He also wants to bring a Kansas Junior Duck Stamp Workshop to the Humboldt gallery.
“There are 800 kids in the program and I think it would be nice to have one here,” Dewey said, indicating the area has a wealth of budding artists.
The gallery will expand into a building to the south early next year. Dewey hopes to use the additional space to give other artists an opportunity to have their works seen, as well as to provide space for classes.

RHEUMATIC FEVER forced a rambunctious young Wes Dewey to spend his time indoors, resting.
“We didn’t have TV or video games,” Dewey said of the 1950s. “I spent a lot of time drawing and fell in love with it,” he said.
Before and after his bout with the debilitating illness, Dewey liked to roam the woods and countryside around Chanute, his hometown. He enjoyed watching wildlife, squirrels scampering through tree branches, birds of all kinds and colors and marveled at waterfowl breaking from a pond’s surface to wing away.
Age 17 was memorable, he said.
“I graduated from (Chanute) high school, went to work for Hallmark and got married,” he said.
During the next 20 years he painted recreationally, after leaving Hallmark to work for Custom Electronics in Chanute and Road Electronics in Fort Scott, before deciding to pursue art professionally in the mid-1980s.
In 1989 he entered the Kansas Duck Stamp competition and placed fourth. The next year his entry was the winner.
That sparked a passion to win the federal duck stamp competition.
“I’ve been in the top 10 twice and 11th another time,” he said. “The competition is terrific. Last year there were 245 entries and all of them were good enough to win.”
Federal stamp entries finishing in the top 10 are part of a nationwide tour display, which has given Dewey national exposure.
Dewey, 68, said he intended to continue working toward winning the federal competition, although he knows age and physical problems may work against him in the years ahead.
“I have macular degeneration in my left eye, but it doesn’t affect me too much when I’m working up close” to a canvas, he said. Back problems and Type II diabetes also affect his stamina.
Stamp competitions aren’t his only pursuit. Awards have come his way often. He was a Kansas Ducks Unlimited Sponsor Print Artist in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and has had paintings win and finish high many times in juried shows throughout the nation.

WORKS of Art Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information call 473-5052.
“I think we’ll have a Christmas open house on Dec. 1 and have people sign up throughout December for a print we’ll give away a couple of days before Christmas,” Dewey said.
The gallery has become a popular destination for art lovers.
A guest book lists hometowns from throughout Kansas and several states.
“We’re trying to promote the gallery through advertising, including Kansas Magazine,” he said. “And we have a Web site,” wesdeweywildlife.com.

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