You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.
Nicole Gonzales and Michel "Mich" Velazquez met at a concert a couple of years ago. When Velazquez told Gonzales he wanted to show her some of his art at his Capitol Hill apartment, she figured it was a line. “I didn’t quite believe him,” Gonzales remembers. But when they got back to his place, Gonzales was blown away by “pieces he’d thrown together on cardboard,” she says. “It was incredible, and we hit it off from there.”
Velazquez had moved to Denver nine years ago looking for a fresh start; his father, Diego Velazquez, is still in Guadalajara, where he’s a popular artist. “Mich and his dad would paint all around Guadalajara; his dad is on national monuments and churches, and he’d drive Mich along and have him help paint,” Gonzales explains.
When Velazquez struck out on his own, he started with chalk art, working with body frames, mostly in black and white. Then Gonzales brought color into his life and his art.
At the time, Gonzales was “more into performance arts,” she says, noting that she’s even auditioned for the Denver Nuggets cheerleading team. But, she adds, “I’ve always liked artwork and had been a huge fan,” and Velazquez encouraged his new friend to start painting, too.
“I’ve become his student, and he has become my mentor,” Gonzales says.
Today Gonzales and Velazquez create urban abstract collaborations under the moniker VelArt, which pays homage to Velazquez’s father. The process of collaborative painting is “hard to explain,” admits Gonzales.
“One of us will get started painting, and then the other will grab the paintbrush. Sometimes we work together on the same canvas; other times we paint independently and are each other’s critics,” Gonzales says. Neither artist has any formal training. “It’s been a complete hobby for both of us — a result of messing around with colors,” as Gonzales puts it.
The duo is inspired by almost anything. “Colors, artists and things people say, and the music we like, and all of the really, really, really small things,” Gonzales says, listing a few of her many muses.
“We like to create from something that’s absolutely nothing and turn it into something gorgeous and beautiful,” adds Velazquez.
The result is vibrant art meant to “send a really positive vibe,” Gonzales says. VelArt pieces send a positive message, too, about environmental conservation.
“We’re from downtown, and we’re real eco-friendly,” explains Gonzales. So she and Velazquez prefer old cardboard shipping boxes to canvas. When boutiques, restaurants and bars started requesting work from VelArt on canvas, the duo began making their own “rustic canvases,” she says, using plywood and discarded fencing recovered from alleyways.
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Velazquez and Gonzales sell their art at yard sales, in conjunction with Enrique Gonzales’s handmade furniture. VelArt has also showed at the now-defunct DADA Art Bar, Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar and Adelitas Cocina y Cantina. On Sunday, May 15, the duo will hang their work at the Bistro at Stapleton.