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Posted May 9, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Exhibit illustrates work of musician, artist

Don Black poses recently in front of his artwork
Don Black poses recently in front of his artwork exhibited in the gallery at the Shenandoah Arts Council, in Winchester. Black, a professor of music at Shenandoah University began painting 20 years ago and says that music inspires his artwork. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Don Black straightens a painting
Don Black straightens a painting that will appear in his art show at the Shenandoah Arts Council, beginning today. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Tracy Marlattand Don Black confer
Tracy Marlatt, executive director of the Shenandoah Arts council and Don Black confer about how to display Blacks upcoming art show. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Don Black observes
Don Black observes his art show display. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Don Black explains his abstract water color paintings
Don Black explains his abstract water color paintings that will be in his upcoming show a the Shenandoah Arts Council. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University music professor Don Black took a bold step and started painting.

Now the community can see more than 20 years worth of artistic work at a retrospective exhibit that opens today at the Shenandoah Arts Council, 811 S. Loudoun St.

The opening reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibit, free and open to the public, will run through June 6, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. This event is sponsored by Winchester business Ponte Vecchio Living and GNJ Advisors, and made possible in part by the Virginia Commission of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Arts.

"When you say 'Don Black' people say 'Oh, abstracts,'" said Tracy Marlatt, the council's executive director. "People will be surprised to see a rowhouse [painting]."

The exhibit starts with his first painting and includes pieces throughout his career, culled from private collections, personal favorites and new pieces.

Black, who began teaching music at the university more than 40 years ago, didn't start painting seriously until about 25 years ago.

"The most I ever did was little doodles and stuff," Black recalled.

Then some friends showed him some paintings they made in an art class.

"So it was kinda, 'Gee, I think I can do that,'" Black added. "I didn't take any classes right away. I decided what I'd do is buy some paints and play with them awhile for about a year, and after a year I would either get tired of it or I would keep doing it, and at that point I'd probably have a million questions."

So he did start taking lessons from area art teacher Bonnie Chumley in oil paints, and stuck with the medium for about two years.

But the time needed for oils posed some difficulty as he also conducted the university's symphony orchestra. Black moved on to watercolors, and he sought the guidance of artist Joe Mayer in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

"Gradually over the years, I've gone from the more realistic things to the abstract, which is where I am now," Black said. "You do realistic things, landscapes and things like that, and then you discover that sometimes what makes it a better painting is to move things around. You start moving around trees and mountains and things because it makes a better design, a better collection of shapes."

Part of his renown may stem from his deviation from realism to abstract, he said, which can be hit or miss.

Black recalled the evolution of other artists such as Picasso, who started with realism and moved to abstract. He also compared the works of Bach and other famous, classical composers to abstract art, but in a musical sense.

His art ranges from street scenes, including one of First Night Winchester and a barn painted in oils, to a watercolor painting of musicians and then to abstract scenes titled "Emergence of Light," "Possibilities of Light," "A Winter Place" and "The Unveiling." Black's watercolors go from the opaque to more transparent, and he also has experimented with carpenters' pencils on his paintings.

Black's pieces have shown in Shepherdstown, where he and other painters gather and work, as well as in Maryland and the Washington area.

Many exhibits spotlight multiple artists. As the subject of the solo exhibit, he said people "can get a better handle on who you are and what you're doing."

Black and his wife, Nancy, live most of the year in the Shenandoah Valley and spend summers at Lac Pemichangan, Quebec, Canada, according to a press release from the council.

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