May 30, 2024

Kindred Spirits Make Art with ‘Style’

2.8 min read| Published On: May 30th, 2024|

By Roxanne Brown

Kindred Spirits Make Art with ‘Style’

2.8 min read| Published On: May 30th, 2024|

The Plantation at Leesburg residents Beverly “Bev” Cole and Carleen Belfi have a remarkable friendship and creative partnership that celebrates the transformative power of art. 

A shared journey that began with a chance encounter within their community that hosts two art shows a year has blossomed into a collaboration of creativity that has enriched their lives and the lives of those around them.

“The first time we really connected was at a fine arts festival at The Plantation,” Bev says. “We both belonged to the art club, but we really didn’t meet before that, then all of a sudden that day we ended up sitting next to each other and started talking.”

“We were doing different things and over the years it’s just evolved to the point where Bev and I found out we were kindred spirits,” Carleen adds.

 Carleen specializes in soft pastel portraits, while Beverly focuses on collage and mixed media. Both approaches reflect their unique personalities.

Over the years, they’ve come to enjoy creating collages together — particularly using pages from our very own Lake and Sumter Style Magazine. 

They both love the graphic designs and vibrant photos within Style’s pages, so they search for copies each month after the magazine is published, read it together, and then tear out pages to use for their artwork.

“Style Magazine has given us a lot to play with. It has become our go-to source for inspiration and materials,” Bev says. “We go through the magazines and we take pictures, words, maybe a heading or something and cut them out to use somehow. All these things give us an idea to start off with and then we just run with it.” 

Carleen Belfi

Bev says they then incorporate recycled materials like phone directories, road and aviation maps, tea bags, dental floss and any other things that can be recycled and glued onto their pieces to add layers of meaning and texture. 

Carleen says experimentation is key to their process. For instance, they’ll paint over words or parts of pictures, tear pieces off one layer to reveal something from underlying layers and spritz the piece with alcohol, or put cellophane wrap on top of paint, to create different textures.

They also believe in the joy of ‘play’ in their art. In fact, they host classes where participants are encouraged to create uninhibited and expressive artwork by letting loose and creating without constraints.

 “There are so many things we can do, so many techniques, but the main thing is having fun with it, because if we enjoy it, we get better results,” Bev says, explaining that she’s learned to incorporate mistakes into her artwork, which only enhances it. 

“You really can do anything with it and that’s what the fun part is,” she adds. “And if you can make somebody laugh or smile, or find some enjoyment from what you’ve created, that’s a bonus too.” 

Beverly “Bev” Cole

Carleen says they also get a kick out of explaining what went into a piece. She says people are usually surprised when they realize all the hidden little details in their work.

“When you say things to people like, ‘Do you realize there’s a map of New Jersey in there or an aviation chart in that tower? Or do you realize that the trunk of that tree is made from a cocktail napkin?’ People really get a kick out of it,” Bev says. “We can do all these different things and if you tell people where it all came from, it makes it more interesting to them because all of a sudden they can see it.” 

Carleen says all their collages are truly one-of-a-kind pieces. 

“Nobody else can duplicate what you do in a collage and that’s what’s cool about them,” she says. “Teaching that allows us to learn and inspire others to explore their creativity.”

As their journey continues to unfold, Bev and Carleen are sustained by their friendship, shared love for art and seeing people smile when they look at one of their pieces.

“We’re always bouncing ideas off each other and playing together because you don’t find ideas unless you play,” Bev says. 

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About the Author: Roxanne Brown

Originally from Nogales, Arizona, Roxanne worked in the customer service industry while writing independently for years. After moving to Florida in 1999, Roxanne eventually switched her career path to focus more on writing and went on to become an award-winning reporter for The Daily Commercial/South Lake Press newspapers for 16 years prior to coming on board with Akers Media as a staff writer in July 2020 – her dream job come true.

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