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'Rural Abstractions' on display at MN West

Danielle Clouse is the director of visual arts at Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa.1 / 2
"Frontal Boundaries" is one of the paintings in Danielle Clouse's "Rural Abstractions" series currently on display in the Fine Arts Building at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Danielle Clouse has discovered that her cellphone is a handy tool for painting.

No, she doesn't actually use the phone to paint, but captures images for inspiration on its camera function.

"The wonderful thing about cellphones now is there's a wonderful application with the camera. You can get really close to the quality of a nice digital camera. So I will take snapshots while I'm driving," she explained, quickly adding, "I'm a safe driver and usually only do it when I'm a passenger."

The phone photos provide inspiration, Clouse emphasized, but she doesn't copy them literally.

"Last week I went to the Clay County Fair and took some shots on my phone," she described. "So I started a new painting, and the image stays on the phone for about 10 seconds, then I let it go off. So I just get the spontaneity of it. From my mind's eye, I take myself to that place. I start with the photo, but I revisit that time and place -- and also the weather -- and go from there."

A native of Ruthven, Iowa, Clouse has been painting for as long as she can remember. She earned an associate's degree from Iowa Lakes Community College and a bachelor's degree from Northwest Missouri State University.

"The only think I knew I should do is pursue art," she said about her career decision.

For the last three years, Clouse has been the director of visual arts at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa.

"It's incredible to work in the arts in this area, be in the part of the world I love, be around family, and also create art and have people around who appreciate it," Clouse said.

It's tough to find time for her own artwork while working full-time at the museum, but Clouse makes the time.

"I probably put in 20 to 30 hours a week in the studio after I get off my job at night," she said. "I take it seriously and make time for it year-round."

From a distance, her paintings may resemble watercolors, but Clouse prefers to work in oil.

"I probably didn't start with oil until I was in college," she explained. "Before that it was primarily acrylic. It was safer and easier to work with. ... But in college I learned the joys of oil painting -- the longer extended working time, and the final result is a bit different. I still do a variety of mediums -- watercolor, acrylic -- but for me it's oil. You can get a variety of textures and surface textures -- matte areas and shiny areas and built-up areas that are almost like velvet.

"That's something I like to capture in the paintings, that visual texture but also the actual texture with thin layers and heavy layers that come together in the composition," she added.

Landscapes are Clouse's current subject of choice.

"I've only been out of a school a few years," she noted, "and as an artist just out of school, you try to find what you're interested in. I know it's going to change, but right now it's landscapes for me. There's just an endless body of work that I can draw inspiration from, with the change of seasons around the area and different times of day. I've done some 'plein air' or open-air painting, working onsite, where I spontaneously within 30 to 40 minutes work on capturing the colors that occur at that time. The landscape around here never grows old; even though we live in a flatter area, the way the colors and the sky are affect the landscape."

Ten paintings from Danielle Clouse's "Rural Abstractions" series featuring her interpretations of the northwest Iowa landscape are currently on display in the Fine Arts Building on the Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus. An artist's reception will be from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight, and the exhibit will hang until Oct. 15.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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