Kitty Marini's watercolors pay homage to nature in all its colorful glory

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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.

Michigan-born Kitty Marini is one cat with more than nine lives: She's done everything from dabble in tourism (she gave tours at Coors Field) to owning an independent bookstore on South Broadway to managing a local candle shop to working for the Colorado Pen Company. And now, in "retirement," she's become an artist, carving out her own niche by turning things like sticky Halloween spider webs and fallen leaves into some seriously beautiful, nature-inspired art.

See also: Sally Van Der Kamp transforms scraps of glass into fine art

Marini was raised on change. When she was nine, Marini's father, a finance teacher, quit his job, auctioned off the family home and sold most of the family's worldly possessions, and then contracted to sail around the world for five years. "We were about to head to Florida," Marini recalls, "when our ship's captain died of a heart attack." With that plan scrapped, Marini's dad was left scrambling to find another job. He accepted a position at Graland Country Day School -- which meant Marini would be starting third grade in Denver instead of at sea. She found herself just as content in Colorado as she might have been at sea. Marini is inspired by the outdoors and almost always paints outside -- though that's mostly because the technique she uses, liquid watercolor webbing, is messy. "I love going in the sunshine and painting in my back yard with the iPod," says Marini. "We have so much sunshine here." And, of course, we also have some amazing, indigenous leaves. You might walk right over these little gems without a second thought, but Marini collects the crunchy fallen foliage, then incorporates it into her work. She paints on plastic coated paper, which she can wet down and spray with liquid watercolor (she uses cheap, plastic spray bottles). The colors seep underneath the leaves -- at which point Marini pulls the plant out, and... tada! The texture you see is created with those cotton and nylon spider webs that probably drive you nuts every year at Halloween. Marini spreads the stuff across her special paper before spraying. "When you start spraying," she says, "it all sort of intermingles, and when you pull the webbing off, well, those are the lines you see." Marini, whose mom was an artist, took up art as a hobby for retirement. "I started taking art lessons, and what caught me the most was the company of these amazing women and the fact that there was so much talent all around me," she says. Marini takes classes at Judy Patti's Art Studio, where she's explored some pretty unique techniques, including cheesecloth watercolors. But while Marini's tried a gamut of techniques, watercolor is what speaks to her. "There is something about the transparency and clarity of it," says Marini. "It is an unfolding process." And the liquid webbing technique, she notes, is particularly "fun -- like coloring outside of the lines!" "I'm really quite fond of the blue work that hangs over the couch at Nixon's," Marini says when prodded to name a favorite piece. The day she painted it, nothing was going right. "I'd found some really neat flowers that made all of these neat points on the page, but everything just went wrong," the artist recalls. "The colors didn't mix right; they looked like mud." Marini took the paper into her yard and sprayed it down with the hose. Miraculously, all of the light colors she'd used came back, and the finished product looked great. Marini's watercolors are currently on display at Nixon's Coffee House, alongside Sally Van Der Kamp's glasswork. The duo met through the Littleton Fine Arts Guild, and this is their second show together. Nancy Boyson, who counsels artists on a volunteer basis, curated the show at Nixon's.

You can meet Marini and Van Der Kamp at a reception that runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 31, at Nixon's.

Marini has also hung at Solid Grounds Coffeehouse and Bemis Public Library. And a picture she donated is currently on display at Toast, where, according to Marini, "all of the art looks like it is on slices of bread." This summer, Marini will be trying her hand at landscapes at a friend's Italian vineyard -- which certainly isn't the worst place to hone one's craft. For more information, e-mail the artist at kmarini469@msn.com.

Follow Jamie Siebrase on Twitter.

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