Collaboration and inspiration come together at Lake Dillon Art Festival |

Collaboration and inspiration come together at Lake Dillon Art Festival

Krista Driscoll
Husband and wife duo Kevin D. Miles and Wendy Schaefer-Miles are rather unique in the art world: two artists working
Special to the Daily |

If you go

What: Lake Dillon Art Festival

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, July 17; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 18; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 19; a $500 shopping spree drawing will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, and a $1,000 drawing will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Downtown Lake Dillon at Lake Dillon Drive and Teller Street

Cost: Admission is free

More information: Shopping spree tickets are available from artists on Friday and Saturday or at; must be present to win

By accident, Kevin Miles and Wendy Schaefer-Miles began their collaborative painting career in Florida, shortly after Kevin was hospitalized with appendicitis. As two fledgling artists working for less than minimum wage at a graphics company, they were faced with a pile of hospital bills and no clue how to pay them.

“The hospital wanted $5,000 up front,” Kevin said. “We weren’t even married yet, and she’s crying. Wendy said, ‘We’re artists, we have a portfolio.’ … They said ‘Well, we have a designer on retainer, we’re re-doing the hospital, let’s give her a call’ as I’m sitting in the emergency room with my appendix ready to burst.”

With Kevin held hostage in a hospital bed, Wendy worked out a deal to trade a commissioned mural and various other paintings in return for his care. Months later, when the couple was preparing to move to Wendy’s family farm in Wisconsin, the hospital called in the debt, and the two scrambled to complete the pieces before heading north.

“We did this 4-foot-by-12-foot piece in three days between the two of us,” he said. “We didn’t know that we could work together at all. I had an ego issue at first. She was fast and loose and would go over something and obliterate something that was three hours of my work.”

Kevin came from a more formal, East Coast education in the arts, having studied the masters and learned technique through immersing himself in 3-inch-thick art books and emulating the classical styles. Wendy’s exposure to art was minimal, and, as Kevin taught her painting rhetoric, she taught him how to loosen up.

“She was a natural-born painter; it was just in her,” he said. “I needed to learn how the old guys made that stuff. … So, it was two different perspectives on things — mine being highly technical and Wendy’s being totally instinctual. Somehow, between the two of us, it just came together.”

Now, 28 years and about 3,000 paintings later, the duo’s collection reflects a more deliberate process, with Wendy using brilliant colors with flittering brush strokes to develop the basic painting and Kevin adding the light, atmospheric color and detail to bring each piece to completion.

“We’re kind of pop-art oriented,” Kevin said. “It’s bold and vivid — realism, but it’s all about the light and color. People respond to that. They like the realism aspect to it and the pop of the colors and the light, and we’ve been able to do this a long time and keep the farm paid for. We try to step up our game all the time and get a little better at it.”

Painting to carving

Wendy and Kevin will show their paintings and demonstrate their process at this weekend’s Lake Dillon Art Festival in downtown Dillon. Their booth will be planted alongside more than 80 other artists from Colorado and beyond — working in mediums from watercolor and pastel to bronze, stone, ceramics and jewelry — including nationally-renowned woodcarver Bruce Taylor, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Taylor began drawing and painting fish when he was a boy growing up in Boulder, eventually leveraging his skills into his own taxidermy business. He spent years honing his craft, moving to Albuquerque and painting pieces for the aquarium and awards for the New Mexico Game and Fish department — always focusing his attention on fish, he said, as weird as that might have been in the middle of the New Mexico desert.

“One day, I had noticed a wood-carved fish in one of the fly-fishing shops up in Colorado,” he said. “I had a good 20 years under my belt of painting and knowing what the fish was supposed to look like. I saw these and they were absolutely terrible. I said, ‘Wow, I need to do that.’ That started my career.”

After some research into woodcarving, he began creating his pieces, and, now, there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with the demand for his work. The artist tailors his traveling collection to each show he attends and plans to bring to Dillon carvings that reflect our area.

“When I go to Texas, I do bass; up here in the Rocky Mountains, I do trout; I go to the Northwest, I do salmon,” he said. “So, I’m bringing mostly your trout species — rainbows, browns, cutthroats — all pedestal mounted, some have a hook and a line in the mouth, with water droplets, which I call the sportsman’s pose.”

He said that if you sat in his booth for an hour, you would hear people talk about how unique his craft is, with its attention to anatomic detail and workmanship, and he never gets tired of hearing people say how much they love it.

“Nobody does what I do, and they don’t do it at the level that I do,” he said. “It’s my little niche corner of the art world, and that really, really works for me.”

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