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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane artist Valerie Woelk releases ‘Expressive Faces’ exhibit

Jennifer Larue

Valerie Woelk has always made things; she’s been drawing and coloring as long as she can remember. She also used tools at hand, including a hammer and nails at her father’s and grandfather’s contracting business jobsites.

“My job was to straighten the nails. They gave me scrap lumber to hammer little dots on with the nail head and make drawings with,” she recalled. “I spent hours drawing with my hammer, tapping to show them a dog, horse, flower or sun while we loaded up at the end of the day.”

Woelk was born in Denver and grew up in Hawaii. In high school, she painted theater sets and won awards for her art. Although she continued to make art after high school, the family business called to her; first she worked with her father and then she became a contractor specializing in concrete.

After a divorce, Woelk moved to the Spokane area, selecting it for its abundance of nature and lower cost of living. With two children to raise, she enrolled at Spokane Community College and graduated with a degree in graphic arts. She worked in the field for a number of years while doing art projects on the side. In 1999, she remarried, and had the freedom to create the art she had been fine-tuning for years.

She now lives in Elk and works out of a large art studio surrounded by acreage, often wandering through the forest to find new landscapes to paint. Her paintings – done in watercolor, oil, pencil or acrylic – capture places, people, and things realistically, with the addition of abstract or the surreal. “I’d rather use unusual color combinations and free-feeling strokes to get a little punch going, exaggerating on purpose,” she said, “There is no reason to paint boringly.”

Her résumé includes more than two dozen murals in businesses and private homes; airbrushed custom work on helmets, trucks and motorcycles; and illustration work in children’s books. For the past 10 years, she has been researching, studying, and practicing perspective. She plans to publish a book on the subject.

She joined the Spokane Watercolor Society and met someone who persuaded Woelk to join Avenue West Gallery, which she did three months ago. This month, Woelk is the featured artist at the gallery.

Her exhibit, “Expressive Faces,” will include a gamut of emotions.

“I want my art to touch the observer in the heart and remind us of the deepest feelings that we feel while we are alive,” she said.

“Life is important, totally precious, and I believe it is up to us to enjoy the time that we are given. I have worked all my life on improving my art skills and I still work on improvement every day. If I am able to recreate some of what I see and feel about our lives, then I have succeeded.”

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by email at
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