Visual Arts

Laura Feehs’s Romantic Oils Offer a Glimpse of the Human Condition

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.

Although Laura Feehs was born in North Carolina, she almost qualifies for native status since she moved here with her family when she was two weeks old. Growing up in Centennial, she enjoyed drawing and sketching, but she didn’t get serious about art until her college soccer coach gave her a canvas and encouraged her to paint as a release outside of athletics and school. “That’s when I started taking art classes at the University of Denver,” says Feehs, who dabbled in lots of mediums and ultimately landed on oils, graduating from DU with a minor in art.

It was through DU’s lively program abroad that Feehs went to Florence last summer, when she spent six weeks observing and studying art with Studio Art Centers International. “I didn’t do any painting there, but the piece hanging in Steam was made from a picture I took while traveling around northern Italy,” Feehs says.

By day, the artist is a barista at south Denver’s posh Steam Espresso Bar, where she's currently holding her debut exhibition along with work by with fellow baristas Kristin Griffith and Alex Rowe. But the complex, slightly romantic landscape hanging at Steam isn’t indicative of Feeh’s entire collection. “Oil figure painting is my favorite; I love painting the human body and portraits,” explains Feehs. She draws inspiration from people, and tries to capture their true inner-nature. “And I love helping people figure out what they’re passionate about,” she adds.

“For a class project, I did my grandparents’ portraits, and that was my favorite piece thus far,” continues Feehs. “I think there’s so much you can learn about a person from spending that much time looking at them and focusing on bringing out their personality in a painting.” That task, she says, is both challenging and rewarding.

So is the feeling she gets from using thick, wet oils. “Oils don’t dry very well, and I like building a figure on a canvas and being able to change things,” Feehs says, adding that she doesn't consider her work realism: “I like to have my own stylized influences because it’s impossible to fully convey reality.”  

The artist is returning to DU in the fall, when she'll pursue a master’s in International Disaster Psychology — a degree that she hopes will “open doors to work in mental health domestically and internationally,” Feehs says. “I’d love to work with refugees — possibly in camps abroad.”

Feehs plans to continue painting, calling the process "freeing and so enjoyable." She's done a few commissions and hopes to grow that aspect of her art business by hanging more work in local coffee shops. “I enjoy giving somebody else a piece of art,” says Feehs, who recently did a commission for a co-worker’s husband. "He’s from South Africa, and I was able to paint a picture of a specific beach he loves,” she notes. 

For more information on her work, visit Feehs’s website

Follow Jamie Siebrase on Twitter.