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.
Technically, Andrew Ferdig’s real trade is classical percussion — that’s what the Morrison native is currently studying at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music. “I gig whenever I get the chance,” Ferdig says, but gigs aren't exactly plentiful for a classical percussionist when people usually think they just want to hire a drummer. So when Ferdig isn’t playing at school or the local church where he interns or brewing coffee as a barista, he picks a CD or station on Spotify and paints whatever comes to mind.
“At this point, it’s all experimentation,” says Ferdig. That’s because the musician is only just cutting his teeth in the art world.
Four years ago, a family friend asked Ferdig is he wanted to learn to paint. “Sure,” he said, “I’d love to do acrylics.” But when Ferdig showed up at his mentor’s home, she told him they’d be doing watercolors instead. “I thought watercolor was for kids,” he recalls. But he learned the technique anyway, painting alongside his friend, and he's come to love the “loose and free medium,” as he puts it.
“I’ve painted some in acrylics and oils, but there’s just something unpredictable and exciting about painting with watercolors,” Ferdig says. For starters, watercolors dry quickly.TThey're fast-paced and rhythmic, and that works just fine for a musician. “I also really enjoy the end product,” Ferdig continues. “It’s usually unfinished and raw, and something about that is really appealing to me.”
Ferdig draws inspiration from other artists. He loves portraits most, but hasn’t been able to turn out a decent-looking one yet, he says: “I usually stick to cityscapes and landscapes — maybe a stillife every now and then. I'm just trying what I can, and I see what turns out.”
Ferdig always takes his sketchbook with him when he travels. In fact, last week he sold a painting he’d sketched on a trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon — which isn't too shabby when you consider that Ferdig’s current show is also his debut exhibition, and that the Cannon Beach watercolor was the second to sell since the show premiered two weeks ago. That show was as unexpected as Ferdig’s watercolors: He contacted the owner of La Belle Rosette on a whim. “I am a regular there because it’s right next to music school, and I noticed they had a rotating selection of artists so I asked if I could put my stuff up,” Ferdig explains.
“The people who sell in coffee shops and those kinds of venues are just so passionate about what they do,” continues Ferdig, nothing that the hyper-local art community fostered through retail galleries is “just so cool.”
Right now, Ferdig’s biggest obstacle is time. “There are so many times when I want to paint and can’t,” he says. But that’s the nice thing about watercolors, Ferdig notes: They’re convenient and tidy, which means he “can do it for thirty minutes, then tuck it back behind the couch.”
Ferdig finishes undergrad next year, and his long-term goal is to be a classical musician. “The next step is to go to graduate school, and that might take me to the East Coast,” he says. “Who knows where I’ll end up: maybe in a ballet, maybe playing for operas or maybe I’ll be a teacher someday." One thing’s for sure: This artist-slash-musician intends to continue down a creative path.
Follow Jamie Siebrase on Twitter.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.