It's no small bit of irony that the two artists showing at Colburn's Gallery this month once traveled the same halls in downtown Spokane and studied under the same art teacher, but never met until years later. Darrell Sullens and Ivan Munk were only four years apart in age and both took art classes from legendary local artist Herman Keyes in the early-1950s, but oddly enough, never formally met. Keyes taught out of his studio in the erstwhile Kunz Building downtown and had been around long enough that Sullens' mother had even taken art classes from him. Years later, Munk had just returned from the Art Institute of Chicago and Sullens was opening a new art supply shop on Garland called Ratel's when the two met again and have been friends ever since.
"This is a show of two old friends," says Munk. "I'm doing this primarily to support Darrell, who's really just an incredible artist."
The show is composed primarily of paintings -- including Munk's renderings of Kirtland Cutter homes and scenes of a bygone Spokane, and Sullens' pastoral scenes inspired by his many years in Valleyford, just southeast of town. It was in Valleyford that the two artists had their first formal introduction.
"I had a friend in Valleyford and sometimes we'd be out for a walk and Darrell's dogs would come out to join us," says Munk. "I met Darrell's dogs before I met Darrell."
In addition to the rural hillsides around his home, Sullens has found ample inspiration in the Inland Northwest.
"I like painting things around the area; It's not hard to find subject matter," he says, beginning to name some of the locales for his work. "There are a few of the St. Joe River," he says. When asked what part of the river he paints, he laughs, "The middle part -- I have a friend with a boat."
While landscapes are a relatively new development for the artist -- he's preferred to work with people in his art previously -- when he talks about his landscapes, it's with the skill and voice of a true landscape artist.
"There's one little painting in the show from the real Palouse, between Dayton and Dusty, that wide vast space, and another one in Montana called First Snow. It's of the snow coming out of the sky, out of this dark cloud formation and dumping onto the bare ground. The bottom is a yellow ochre landscape that shows that it's still fall, so it really is the first snow."
Many of the works in Sullens' part of the show are recent and have not been exhibited before. Some pieces are three dimensional, including a hydrostone sculpture, and there will be some figurative work as well, such as a portrait of his grandson playing the violin. While Sullens has always been a painter, his primary responsibility for many years was running his art supply business.
"I had Ratel's on Garland for 20 years. We opened in 1979, and I spent a lot of time running the shop but I did keep painting through that whole time," he says. "It was good for me because I was able to stay with the people in the art community that I enjoyed and stay in that climate."
As for Munk, he too has managed to thrive in a community that hasn't always been supportive of the arts. He's made a life in art by finding numerous ways in which his gifts could be put to use. He's worked in publishing, in design and "every branch of the art world," including illustration, painting and even commercial art.
"I don't look at there being a distinction between commercial and fine arts," says Munk. "I've always made a living as an artist in this town."
Munk's interest in historic preservation has been a steady influence throughout his work. He's illustrated four Spokane history books, including one in comic book format, and helped put together a documentary on Kirtland Cutter in the 1980s. His appreciation for this city, both then and now, shows in many of the works included in the show at Colburn's.
"Everything is in this show," says Munk. "The Crescent window painting I did will be there, and a few Inlander covers. I'm also hoping to have a diptych of the Spokane skyline and some other things I've never shown before there."
& & & lt;i & Ivan Munk and Darrell Sullens exhibit through Nov. 30 at Colburn's Gallery, 203 W. Riverside. Artists reception: Sunday, Nov. 12, 1-4 pm. Call: 838-8412. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &