December 08, 2022

Kabel honored as artist of the year

The Clarke Area Arts Council (CAAC) held their Golden Gala on Nov. 13 at Lakeside Hotel & Casino, celebrating their 50th year as an organization, and honoring the 2022 artist of the year Melinda Kabel.

About Kabel

Originally from Michigan, Kabel attended the Society of Arts and Crafts (now College for Creative Studies in Art & Design) while in high school, and then attended Ferris State College where she received a degree in commercial art.

“I started with learning commercial work, learned how to paint automobiles [advertisements], technical work,” said Kabel of her early days working for S.S Kresge Company in Detroit.

It was when Kabel moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1978 she was introduced to watercolor. Kabel took a watercolor class at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, under the direction of an Argentinian teacher, who also happened to be British.

“She taught me how to do watercolor in an English style, very foundational. She would throw away your white paint if she saw it,” said Kabel.

Leaving Kalamazoo in 1984, Kabel and her family settled in central Iowa, and she studied at the Des Moines Art Center, while also teaching in the basement of a church.

Kabel then went to Iowa State University, where she graduated with a teaching degree. Kabel took on employment at both the Des Moines Art Center and Des Moines public schools. At the Art Center, Kabel taught a variety of mediums, including oil painting, charcoal, surface design, and watercolor to both young and old students.

After over 30 years of teaching, Kabel retired, and now spends most of her time focusing on her own art, while still teaching classes from time to time. In 2020, Kabel became a signature member of the Iowa Watercolor Society (IWS), and helped to bring the traveling IWS exhibit to Osceola in August.


When it comes to her artwork, Kabel said that there is no particular subject matter that she does, but will choose architectural designs if she wants to “drive myself crazy.”

“Anything for me is a good subject matter,” said Kabel.

For Kabel, having fun is the most important part, and remembering not to be too technical in her work.

As far as how many pieces of work Kabel has done over the years, the amount is too many to even try to put a number on. From as early as elementary school, Kabel can recall her classmates viewing her as a “professional,” lining up to have her draw circles for them.

“[I’ve] done a lot of samples, notes…given stuff away. It’s better if it’s shared,” said Kabel

Member print and Artist of the Year

Kabel’s piece selected as the featured painting to have printed given away at the Gala is her watercolor work titled ‘Catamarans in Winter,’ and was selected by Mary Ellen Kimball. Kabel said that she and her husband had gone for a drive at Walnut Creek during the winter, and had driven down to where the catamarans were on the shore. As they turned to leave, she glanced back, and knew she needed a picture.

“I looked at that and said, I gotta get a picture of that,” said Kabel, adding that the low, winter light really added to it.

The piece, painted in 2018, has been in several juried shows.

On being chosen as the CAAC’s artist of the year, Kabel said,

“I was really honored to have [Mary Ellen] say, we want you to be the artist…it was very sweet of her, and I was really taken aback,” said Kabel.

With this year’s event being the first post-COVID, it made the honor all the more special.

“It’s their big show for the year, in this case, for three years. [I’m] glad I could accommodate,” said Kabel.

Dueling Pianos

After Kabel’s artist reception, a dinner was held followed by CAAC’s annual meeting. The Dueling Pianos of Andy & Mike provided the evening’s entertainment.