By Sue Moore
Helen Kleczynski, owner of the Art House on W. Prairie Street in Vicksburg, flew off to New York City recently to accept the French Canvas Award at the Pastel Society of America Exhibit for her painting “Old Blue”.
Kleczynski was awed by the experience. She said attending the show was like walking into a room with Monet and Rembrandt – “but these artists are still alive.”
For her winning painting, Helen found an old boat at a museum in Glen Arbor and was inspired to capture its texture. It will also be featured in the December issue of the Pastel Journal, in a step by step demonstration on how to capture textures in pastel paintings.
Last year, Kleczynski won an honorable mention for her painting “Just a Vessel”, in the 16th annual Pastel Journal 100 competition. Her painting “Porch Light” will be included in the eighth edition of Strokes of Genius. Porch Light, depicting a building in Rockland Maine, was also a big award winner in the 15th Annual Pastel Journal 100 competition. The artist placed second internationally among thousands submitted, fetching her a complete line of pastel products sold by the Richeson Company.
Her painting of a battered farm house, that won the second-place prize, was a natural for this artist who started her professional life as an architect. A juror, Clark Mitchell, called the work a “delightful snapshot of architectural detail showing history, mood and time of day very confidently.”
Kleczynski didn’t stop with one prize. She earned fifth place in the Still Life and Floral division in 2014. Her pastel entitled “Rosewood Ribbons,” came from an inspiration while buying flowers at Rosewood Café, when it was still in operation. She found the many colorful ribbons hanging on the wall to have possibilities for teaching cylinders to her students. “As I worked on the painting, it became more of a challenge in creating edges, some hard and others soft. It was also the perfect opportunity to demonstrate working with different colors and surfaces,” she says.
Kleczynski opened the Art House in Vicksburg almost 11 years ago because she needed to move out of her home to teach and create art. Since then, village residents can often see her students with easels and paint brushes in hand at several venues around the area, in particular the Historic Village. “My students help me stretch and grow,” she says. “One of my senior citizen students tells me that her art class is her favorite day of the week. That feels good. I still take classes myself because I can learn something new from each teacher.”
Artistry seems to run in Helen’s family. Her mother was an artist and her daughter, Amy Garro, is making her own way in the art world. She just published a quilting book, Paper Pieced Modern, which has patterns for many beautiful quilts displayed. She lives in Indianapolis with husband and three boys under the age of five. She has been quilting since she was in third grade, explains the proud mom. Melinda Kleczynski earned a degree in math from the University of Michigan. She attended veterinary school and now is going to night school in Grand Rapids studying biological statistics. Son Peter has a degree from Hope College in English and philosophy and is now a massage therapist in Asheville, North Carolina.
Kleczynski’s students’ art works along with some of her own will be exhibited in the new Vicksburg Arts and Cultural Center at different times of the year. They can also be seen at The Vault, East End Gallery in Marshall, Synchronicity in Glen Arbor and Amy Zane’s in Kalamazoo.