Valdosta Daily Times


September 23, 2013


VALDOSTA — Listening to Derek Schaper describe the process that he and fellow artists Ben Blanton and Dennis Rothfuss used to create the works in their exhibit, "Animalogues," opening this week at the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, it sounds more like a band creating songs and a CD than individual artists preparing for a three-man show.

Even with group shows, the artists typically work alone as individuals. They may develop a theme where all of the works are seascapes. They may work together in a studio or at some site outdoors. But visual artists traditionally work alone on their individual canvases.

Enter Blanton, Rothfuss and Schaper.

In "Animalogues," viewers will find a work that includes the talents of all three artists. In some cases, one artist may have painted the foreground composition while another artist painted the background. In this show, their individual pieces are more like solos amidst the group efforts.

Each artist brings an individual talent to the show but often in a collaborative format.

Schaper takes a graphic approach and is more illustrative in style. Blanton creates cartoon images. Rothfuss has a more painterly style.

"Our three distinct styles hold enough common ground to complement each other in a group show ...," the artists explained in the initial proposal for the Turner Center show.

In addition to creating works alone and together, the three artists combine their artistic visions under the "Animalogues" theme. Originally, the show was to be called "Angry Animals," but was changed to "Animalogues" to emphasize the concept of animals communicating between artists and viewers.

"We are not aiming to make the animals a device for expressing geopolitical views or as a commentary on habitat loss and climate change, as they easily could be," the artists note. "Our intent is instead to use the animal kingdom to personify characteristics that are found in each and every one of us: anger, humility, sadness, triumph, humor and vagueness that we all encounter in ourselves from time to time."

Tying the show closer together, the artists use wood panels as canvas, giving even the whimsical images a sturdy heft, creating an artistic forest for their animals to live and thrive.

As for the artists, some may think there is a rich vein of competition between the three, but Schaper says he wouldn't call it "competitive but motivational." Working together, they motivate and inspire one another to try new things and explore new ideas. "There's no ego involved. We critique one another and try to find what works best."

Schaper and Blanton have known each other for several years. They met Rothfuss more recently. Schaper studied art in years past. He works as a graphic designer for The Valdosta Daily Times. If you've ever enjoyed the beautiful page layouts in Valdosta Scene magazine, that's Schaper's work, but he has continued developing his artwork during his off hours. A couple of years ago, as he focused more intensely on his art, he wanted to exhibit his work. Schaper has entered Spring Into Art and enjoyed seeing his art in a professional gallery setting.

As Schaper, Blanton and Rothfuss delved deeper into their art and developed their individual and collaborative styles, they proposed a three-man show to the arts center. Turner Center approved the proposal and the show now opens Monday with other new exhibits.

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