Taste of Champaign-Urbana: It's not just about the food

Taste of Champaign-Urbana: It's not just about the food

After 30 years of making art, Annatjie Els is doing her first art fair, the Taste of Champaign-Urbana.

The Champaign woman trained as a lawyer in her native South Africa but took an Urbana Park District watercolor class about 30 years ago.

The artist is now making the leap to showing and selling her own watercolors.

A friend influenced her to take a shot at an art fair. Lorene Peirce will also be at Taste on Friday and Saturday with her jewelry.

Els said she's open to the possibilities Taste of Champaign-Urbana has to offer.

"You're not in control of who shows up at an art show," she says.

Els has her physiologist husband to help out the first day, but the second she's on her own.

She has paintings, prints, giclee prints and cards for sale.

Els has studied with Parkland veteran Don Lake. For 10 years in there, she didn't paint at all.

"The American water-colorist Andrew Wyeth is a favorite of mine. Monet is an impressionist that I really like," she says.

The Champaign woman said she has been greatly influenced by the botanical paintings of Seymour's Charlotte Brady.

"Charlotte is the person who really encouraged me," Els said.

Young Els grew up near the sea and lives near a Champaign subdivision pond.

Water has always been a big part of her life, she says.

Also important in her life: her husband Willem, a daughter in London and a son in Barcelona, and tennis.

One of her few landscapes on display at her home is of the sea.

But Els said she has stayed mainly with flowers — pansies are a favorite.

Sunflowers are also a big part of her work. She said she usually brings plants inside to finish her watercolors.

She'll continue, for a while at least, with her watercolors of flora, she said.

"I haven't done people. I haven't ever tried," she says.

These picks go to 11

Paul Wood chatted with Chelsea Norton of the Champaign Park District and here are some of the things they came up with to do at Taste of Champaign-Urbana. We have 11 because this year, Taste of Champaign-Urbana runs from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.

1. Big darn fun. Living Blues said this of Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band: "The tent revival, almost punk energy of the Big Damn Band is a refreshing splash of cold water to the face." And it's free.

2. Taste is one of the best places for people watching this summer.

3. Bikers welcome. West Side Park will have a bike corral with plenty of room for those who live by pedal power.

4. Acquire new tastes, whether a spice, a band or art. They say smells are free, but you might end up chasing down your hunger.

5. Baby, you can drive their car after the Taste raffle; details are at champaignparkdistrict.com

6. Support your local brewer. There are four local breweries scheduled for Taste: JT Walker's, Blind Pig Brewery, Destihl and Triptych.

7. The Kids' Zone offers zucchini races, and Wild Style design will be doing face painting. New this year are pony rides.

8. Pie meets Pi. For the second year, Taste will host the 3.14-mile Pie Run. There are pie stops and an opportunity to get creamed at the finish.

9. The big outdoors, savoring food, adult beverages — and live music echoing through West Side Park.

10. Shop small, shop local. Besides the food, Taste offers dozens of arts and crafts vendors.

11. Experience nature's fury, or a beautiful day. You never can tell at Taste. At least moving it to August means it's less likely to have heat stroke.


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