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Friday, 05 August 2016 10:41

Beloit Fine Arts Incubator: Finishing what he started

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Rockton painter Dan Wuthrich leans on the canvas of one of his paintings. His work is on display this month at the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator. At the age of 81, Wuthrich is considering retirement. Rockton painter Dan Wuthrich leans on the canvas of one of his paintings. His work is on display this month at the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator. At the age of 81, Wuthrich is considering retirement. Dennis Hines/staff

ROCKTON -- Dan Wuthrich could be putting the final brush strokes on his art career.

    Wuthrich, 81, of Rockton is hosting "The End of a Journey" art exhibit at the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator, 520 E. Grand Ave. in Beloit, through Aug. 25, 2016. Wuthrich said this could be his final art exhibit as he contemplates retirement.

"It’s not because I’m out of ideas, because I’m not," Wuthrich said. "There’s always a new direction to travel. I’m 81, and when you hit 81 you don’t know how much time you have to do the other things you want to do."

Wuthrich’s art has been featured in galleries throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida and Arizona. About 1,000 of Wuthrich’s original paintings have been sold at the Merrill Chase Galleries in Chicago, and an art collector in Chicago has been purchasing his paintings since 1976.

Wuthrich’s paintings mostly feature birds, butterflies, whales and wildlife.

"I have a grandson who’s in the Dominican Republic, and he studies birds. I think that’s part of the reason why I do paintings of them ..." Wuthrich said. "When I do whales or dolphins, I do them more in an atmosphere than in the water. I kind of like to have whales floating in space."

Wuthrich also does paintings of wizards, mythological characters and celestial objects. He currently is working on a painting called "Boys Will Be Boys," which depicts two boy angels tying two kites together that are coming up above the clouds.

"Needless to say, the people below the clouds are going to wonder how that’s happening," Wuthrich said.

Wuthrich said developing as an artist has been a lifelong process.

"People will ask, ‘How long did it take you to do that painting?’ and I will tell them all my life, because that’s how long it’s taken me to gain the ability to do something like that," Wuthrich said. "If you go in for brain surgery and the doctor charges you a $100,000 and you say, ‘Hey, it only took him an hour.’ No, it didn’t take an hour, it took years. It’s amazing the directions you end up taking."

Wuthrich shares his artistic ability by hosting an art class at the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator on Thursday evenings. He said even when he retires from showing his work, he may still offer the class.

Wuthrich discovered his love for art when he was 5 years old, when he started drawing World War II planes. Wuthrich then began drawing cartoons, animals and monsters as he developed his artistic ability.

When he was 15, Wuthrich worked at a grocery store in Beloit and would work on his drawings while waiting for the produce truck to arrive.

"After I was working there for a while, the store manager called me into the office and said, ‘Dan, I hope you don’t mind, but I sent some of your drawings to a friend of mine, and he wants to give you a job. He will start you out at $65 a week,’" Wuthrich said. "His friend was Walt Disney. Here I was living in the Midwest, 15 years old, I couldn’t ask my mom and dad to move to the West Coast so I could get a job. They certainly weren’t going to let me move by myself. Needless to say, I never worked for Disney, but that’s just one of the many directions that life takes us."

Despite his love for art, Wuthrich established a professional career as an engineer from 1965 to 1991, working for American Motors in Milwaukee and the Chrysler plant in Belvidere. Wuthrich said his artistic ability was an asset to his engineering career.

"The thing they liked about my engineering was my art background. It allowed me to illustrate a problem," Wuthrich said. "When I walked into a plant engineers’ meeting, I would have a drawing of what the problem was."

Wuthrich said now that he plans to retire from his artwork, he may develop another hobby or spend more quiet time with his family.

"I don’t know what I’m going to do next, maybe just travel," Wuthrich said. "When I worked at Chrysler, I would get home at 2 a.m. and then I would go to my studio and work on my paintings until 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., lay down for a while and then it was back to work. I short-cheated my family because I was just tired out. I thought I was doing what would be the best, but you never know about things like that."

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