Vicki Byrum Dennis is, by training and mindset, a storyteller. A long-time writer and public relations consultant, she spent many years using words to tell the stories of her clients and profile subjects. These days, Dennis uses dramatic shapes, powerful color, and the fluidity of water to build the stories in her paintings.
“The story might be found in a serene wooded landscape, a portrait, a flower, or buried more deeply in a mixed media abstract,” Dennis said. “But the story is always there. My goal as an artist is to lead viewers into the heart of the story, using shapes and color to guide them.”
Dennis is showcasing her water media work at Umpqua, 1395 E. Second Street, during March and April. She is hosting a reception tonight at the bank from 5 to 7 p.m.
She started painting more than 14 years ago while still a partner and president of a Louisville, Kentucky public relations firm.
“Painting was a stress reliever, a way to apply creativity to another part of my brain after working with clients all day,” she said.
After retiring in 2007, she turned to painting full-time.
Dennis and her husband moved from Kentucky to Benicia in 2014 where she has continued her love of painting and supporting other artists. She is a member of Gallerie Renee Marie, a Benicia co-op made up 12 regional artists. She joined the Arts Benicia board in October of last year and has become active in the organization. She has been a member of a figure drawing group in Crockett since she moved to the area which has added to her skill set.
Dennis has taken workshops with nationally-known artists at the Kentucky Watercolor Society, Mendocino Arts Center, Arts Benicia, and throughout the country. “I love the workshop environment,” she said. “I have learned so much from each instructor, new techniques and new ways of thinking about water media including the vision to see the possibilities of using very bold color.”
Dennis continues to explore the possibilities in watercolor on her own as well, often stretching beyond into other applications.
“These days, I define myself as a water-based media artist,” she said. “I work with acrylics as well as watercolor to get the strong color that I seek, that juicy fluidity that glows on the paper. But I also am exploring collage in some interesting ways, creating my own designs on papers and incorporating them into paintings.”
But at the end of the day, it is still the story that matters to Dennis.
“I have found many similarities to writing and painting,” she said. “In each, there is a fine balance between carefully constructing the story so it can be told in the best and most efficient way, and yet trusting the subject will take you where it needs to go. Water, like people and life, has a mind of its own. As an artist, I must respect the fluidity and beauty of water and color and let it go where it wants to go, creating a story that wants to be told.”
In addition to her exhibit at Umpqua, her work is available at Gallerie Renee Marie throughout the year and also can be viewed on her website, www.vickibyrumdennis.com. “I invite everyone to join me on Thursday to see my water media work,” Dennis said. “It will be a fun party and a chance to talk about art. I thank Umpqua for giving me this opportunity and my fellow artist Terry Hughes for organizing this show.”