Spring Grove artist Doris Morken’s sculpture that will be on display at Bluff Country Artist’s Gallery Syttende Mai weekend. Morken will share her inspiration for the sculpture Saturday, May 17 from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m. PHOTO: KELLEY STANAGE/SPRING GROVE HERALD
Spring Grove artist Doris Morken’s sculpture that will be on display at Bluff Country Artist’s Gallery Syttende Mai weekend. Morken will share her inspiration for the sculpture Saturday, May 17 from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m. PHOTO: KELLEY STANAGE/SPRING GROVE HERALD
Artist Doris Morken's bronze sculpture perfectly memorializes a moment during which the simple, kind gesture of a child briefly provided counterweight to an otherwise sad and somber day.

To say any more about her inspiration for the sculpture would be to give away Morken's story, best heard in her own words. She will share her story at the Bluff Country Artist's Gallery during the Syttende Mai celebration. The sculpture is currently on display at the gallery along with her own story about the inspiration for the work.

Morken said, "I was not going to bronze it, but when people saw it, they said, 'Oh, you've got to have it bronzed."' So, with the help of Craig Bergsgaard, she had it bronzed. "That will be my first and only sculpture that has been bronzed," she said.

While she doesn't plan to do more bronze sculpture, Morken does plan to do more clay work, profiles of grandchildren and people.

Morken taught at Spring Grove Elementary School for 33 years. She said, "I loved teaching...loved teaching." For the last couple of years, she taught art and science to third and fourth grade students. After retiring about 18 years ago, she began to focus on painting portraits in the style of the Old Masters.

Seven years ago, she began studying with Vermont artist, Frank Covino. Artists Magazine voted Covino's workshops among the best five in the country in 2000. Covino travels around the country and comes to Florida once each year, which is where Morken attends his workshops. "People from all over the United States came to his class. I have some really good artist friends that I don't see unless I go to that class." He offers workshops in Baudette, Minnesota annually, as well.

The workshops are intensive, "They would go from nine in the morning until about seven in the evening for ten days," Morken said, "I don't drink coffee, but I did drink coffee and Mountain Dew just to keep going."

Flesh tones are some of the most difficult to achieve when painting portraits. One of the techniques taught by Covino is to begin by painting the subject in shades of black, white and green, called "Verdaccio underpainting". Layering flesh tones on top of the green-gray layer results in more realistic skin colors.

Three of Morken's paintings on display at the gallery illustrate the Verdaccio underpainting technique. Morken used it to paint portraits of three grandsons. Morken said she plans to leave them in the pure Verdaccio coloring, and plans to do portraits of the rest of her grandchildren in it, as well.

Another, larger painting by Morken on display at the gallery illustrates the results of the entire method, from the Verdaccio layer, through the layering on of final colors.

Morken is also a quilter. She has made eight or ten queen-sized quilts over the years. She has just completed a quilt, which will also be on display during Syttende Mai. She said, "but this one is different. You know, people who are creative collect a lot of stuff, and you end up with a big mess. I had collected a lot of old woolen clothing, which people don't wear anymore."

She took the old woolen fabrics, and put them into the washer and dryer, one type of a process called wet felting. She then cut shapes from the resulting felt, and hand-sewed them onto the quilt background.

Morken's bronze sculpture and classical oil portraits will be on display at the Bluff Country Artists Gallery through Syttende Mai. She will Share her story there on Saturday, May 17 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Her quilt will be on display at the Spring Grove Public Library.