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My trip to the T.C. Steele Studio-Gallery with Gary Boring

This February during a break at our elder’s retreat in Brown County, Gary Boring and I got away to visit the T.C. Steel home and studio.

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I wanted to visit this famous Hoosier artist’s studio-gallery for two reasons. First, to enjoy his art and be immersed in this part of Indiana’s cultural history. Second, I hoped that Steele’s studio-gallery would be an inspiration for Sunnyshore Studio that I was planning to build. I was not disappointed on either front.

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Thedore Clement Steele (September 11, 1847-July 24, 1926) was “an American Impressionistic painter known for his Indiana landscapes. Steele was an innovator and leader in American Midwest painting and is considered to be the most important of Indiana’s Hoosier Group painters.” (Wikipedia)

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Steele was an Indiana boy, born near Gosport in Owen County. His family moved to Waveland, in Montgomery County where Steele “developed an interest in art and learned to draw.” (Wikipedia) As a boy, Steele was formally trained in art at the Waveland Collegiate Institute; at the age of 16 he continued his art training at Asbury College (now DePauw University).

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I first encountered Steele’s art in the halls of Indianapolis Public School #14. It turned out that many of this famous Indiana artist’s works graced the halls of many IPS schools. Back then, even before I knew of his fame, I was struck by what an amazing opportunity it was for urban kids to be walking by, day in and day out, his beautiful artwork.

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Steele married Mary Elizabeth Lakin in 1870, and they moved to Indianapolis a few years later where Steele supported the family through commissioned portraits and commercial signs. After a period of training in art in Munich, Germany, Steele returned to Indianapolis, to a home just a few blocks from where we live, the Tinker mansion on 16th and Pennsylvania street (which was eventually torn down and became the Herron Art Institue, which is now Herron High School). In 1898 the Steeles bought a home in Brookville, Indiana, which they named The Hermitage. Steele developed an extraordinary gift in painting landscapes, though he made his living painting portraits. Unfortunately, Mary died in November 1899 at the young age of forty-nine.

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In August, 1907 Steel married Selma Neubacher, “and brought her to their new summer home in Brown County. Inspired by the breezes blowing through the cottage’s screened porches, they named it the ‘House of the Singing Winds’. There Steele continued to paint his stunning landscapes, inspired by the “beautiful picturesque woods and hills and valleys.” Over time “Steel was financially able to develop the property and eventually made it a full-time residence. The property, built on 211 acres, grew to include an enlarged home surrounded by beautiful gardens, a barn-sized studio-gallery, and several other outbuildings.” (Wikipedia)

This is the home and studio-gallery that Gary and I visited.

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It was a wet, misty day. On the way to Steele’s gallery, Gary and I came across a tree that had fallen across the road. We were able to push it off the road, and felt very manly in doing so.

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The grounds of the T.C. Steele historic site were breathtaking.

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His art even more stunning.

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I was overwhelmed by the huge barn like Gallery in which Steele worked and his beautiful paintings,

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fascinated by the Arts and Crafts styled home filled with his books and art,

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and inspired by the little store/office that sells books, posters, prints and other Brown County treasures.

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I hope someday that Sunnyshore Studio will be an art destination that people will visit too.

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But by far the best part of the day was being with Gary. Driving. Talking. Laughing. Remembering. It was one of those holy moments of friendship where no matter what life brings, nothing can take that away from you.

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Celebrating Camano

The mission of Sunnyshore Studio is to share the beauty of Camano Island with the world.  So where in the world is Camano Island? And why share its beauty with the world?

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According to Wkipedia,  “Camano Island /kəˈmn/ is a large island in the Possession Sound portion of Puget Sound, located in Island County, Washington, between Whidbey Island and the mainland. The body of water separating Whidbey Island and Camano Island is called Saratoga Passage. Camano Island is separated from mainland Snohomish County by Davis Slough near the city of Stanwood. The island is reached via State Route 532 over the Camano Gateway Bridge in the northeast of the island. There were 13,358 residents on the island as of the 2000 census, but the population peaks at 17,000 during the summer months with retired “snowbirds.” The island has a total land area of 39.77 sq mi, though it was larger before the Great Slide of 1825.Camano Island is named for the Spanish explorer Jacinto CaamañoCharles Wilkes, during the Wilkes Expedition of 1838–1842, named it MacDonough Island in honor of Thomas MacDonough for his victory of the Battle of Lake Champlain during the War of 1812. Following this theme, Wilkes named the body of water between Camano and Whidbey Island after MacDonough’s flagship the Saratoga. When Henry Kellett reorganized the official British Admiralty charts in 1847, he removed Wilkes’ name MacDonough and bestowed the name Camano, which the Spanish had originally given to Admiralty Inlet in 1790. Wilkes’ name Saratoga Passage was retained.”

That is the Wikipedia definition: Geographically, historically, and demographically based.

But for me, Camano is the place of my childhood memories.

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In 1970, when I was less than a year old, my parents moved to the south end of Camano Island. My mom’s dad, Dr. Dodgson, had given them 10 acres with the shell of an old house on it. The house didn’t have indoor plumbing, but it was free, and it did have a roof! The gift enabled my parents to live their dream: dad would be a full-time, professional artist.

For a little boy, growing up on Camano was magical.

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There were forests to explore, forts to build. Imaginations to be mined. A whole world to be reveled in.

I could run through the woods to my uncle and aunt’s farm to play with cousins.

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And beaches with their treasures. Well I remember long hours at Mabana beach, building sand castles and swimming.

My sister, April, and I were companions and best friends in these dreamy days.

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I’m sure things weren’t so magical for my parents. But slowly and surely they fixed up the old house. I remember using the outhouse for many years, but finally we got indoor plumbing. And no matter how little we had, mom was always able to make our home beautiful, placing little bouquets of flowers in the nooks and crannies of the house.

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And there it was, in that little house on the south end of Camano Island, tucked among the towering fir and cedar trees, that I grew up. Learned to pick blackberries and to jam my mouth full of ripe huckleberries for that sumptuous bite; learned to fill up the long summer days playing imaginary games with my cousins; learned  to swim and build rafts, and to fish for the flounder and sole and perch at the point below our house.

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This magical Camano, this place of my youth, is the place that I am inspired to celebrate and to share with others.

Mom’s cancer: the game changer that helped me pull the trigger on building Sunnyshore Studio

I have shared in previous blogs how I dreamed of building an art studio on Camano Island that would be a place where I could showcase my family’s legacy of art and support my dad and mom in their golden years by selling their art.

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My value of caring for and supporting my parents came, I am sure, from watching mom and dad care for their parents and other friends in need. I’d watched dad be a support to his parents, seen my mom serve as one of the chief caregivers for her mother for over 15 years. Caring for my parents is deeply ingrained in me.

Thus a big part of vision for Sunnyshore Studio was to help my parents out financially through providing a venue to show and sell their art. I had a plan for the Studio. In July of 2014 I had even met with a bank lender and worked on a preliminary mortgage. But I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger to build the studio.

And then on January 8th, 2015, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

That was a game changer for me.

Besides crying a lot, the first thing I did was to buy tickets to be with mom and dad as they walked through the fears and stresses of the diagnosis. I flew to Seattle on January 10th and spent a long weekend with mom and dad.

It was so good to be with them. To talk. To cry. To walk on the beach.

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Before I left for Seattle, I had talked to my wife Jenny about my desire to make the studio happen. She had been super supportive. So when I was on Camano mom and I took a trip to County offices and filed the Water Availability Verification form.

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Mom’s cancer diagnosis helped me pull the trigger on my dream of an art studio that would be a support and celebration of mom and dad’s art. I am expecting that we will break ground on the Studio in July of 2015, have it completed for a Christmas show, and have it open on the Camano Island “Mother’s Day Art Tour” in 2016.

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To be able to support mom through showing and celebrating her art would be a dream come true!

The Gathering of Stanwood High School Class of 1987

The first party held on my Sunnyshore Studio property was in July 2014. I hosted a gathering of classmates from Stanwood High School’s class of 1987, the greatest class who ever walked the halls of SHS.

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My elders at Redeemer Presbyterian in Indy, had given me a month sabbatical to work on my writing project on Christian identity. I spent the month at my parent’s home on Camano. I spent about 6-8 hours a day writing, usually in the early morning to noon, and then again in the evening. But I did have time for some fun. One of the highlights was hosting a gathering of my classmates.

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I began planning this gathering in the spring, contacting old friends via facebook. It would stretch over two days: a BBQ on my Sunnyshore property on Friday, July 19th. Then on Saturday, 20th, dinner at a Amigos restaurant in Stanwood.

I found a lot of joy preparing the Sunnyshore Studio property for the party.

I made a sign, ordered a porta-potty,

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piled wood for the fireside,

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set up tables and a canopy,

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and bought a grill, my first Sunnyshore Studio purchase.

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Mom picked flowers from her place and brought them over to make a bouquet for each table. Heather B. was the first friend to show up and right away she went to work helping mom.

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Other friends arrived.

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It was so fun to see them after all those years, and so rich to be known and to know each other over the decade, and from the bright days of our youth.

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As we sat around the fire and talked I was struck by how much about of the lives of my friends and classmates I hadn’t known. I had only scratched the surface of knowing them during those many years of growing up together, going to class, playing on sport teams, dancing and fighting and laughing and crying together. It was sweet to catch up after all those years, getting to know each other at a deeper level.

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A special treat for me was that one of my best friends from high school, Harry Baird, and his lovely wife Maria parked their travel trailer on the property and spent the night next to my tent. Harry, Maria and I sat around the fire until the early hours of the morning talking, laughing, remembering.

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Dinner at Amigos on Saturday was great too.

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The gathering of my SHS friends was the perfect way to break in my Sunnyshore Studio property. Many more parties and gatherings will follow, but nothing will beat having old friends from olden days there to christen it.

great, Great, GREAT NEWS. “Fishing with Dad” is going to be published

I found out great news this morning. The children’s picture book that I wrote years ago, and teamed up with my dad to illustrate, is going to be published by Just Dust Publishers.

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Years ago as I was dreaming of creating Sunnyshore Studio, I imagined writing series of children’s picture books that would tell the stories and adventures of a boy growing up on an island.

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I wanted these stories to “instruct and delight.”

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The first story would be about his memories of fishing for salmon with his dad, and, in particular their salmon fishing adventures on the day of a Fishing Derby on the Island.

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I was able to persuade my dad to believe in the reality of this book enough to collaborate with me on illustrating it. On one of his and mom’s visits to Indy, he spent a week working with me on the illustrations.

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A friend of mine, Paul Baumgarten, took photos of the illustrations. And another friend, Matt Hale, put the illustrations and my text into a book form.

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As I began to share my project with professionals in the children’s book industry I discovered that the story itself took a lot more work. I attended a children’s book conference in Indy and submitted my draft to people in the industry for review. They urged me to move from just sharing memories of my fishing with dad to make it a story.

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So I worked on the text and eventually sent it to a publisher. I got great feedback on the illustrations, but was told that the story needed to have a more universal appeal. I kept working on the draft, resent it, and was told that I had made great improvements but that they weren’t going to be able to publish it at the time.

The story languished.

Then on October 23rd, 2014 I got a letter from a friend I knew from when Jenny and I attended Cascade Presbyterian in Eugune, OR, 1995-1997.

She wrote,

Hi, Jason,

I don’t know if you remember me but I “knew you when” you were in Eugene, Oregon at Cascade. I purchased one of the beautiful little watercolors that you did as a fund raiser for a pregnancy center at the time and have always cherished your work. Tonight I was trolling the Shopgoodwill.com site and found a large watercolor of yours–A Lone Goose. It is SO beautiful, and I was so happy to purchase it! A friend of mine, Gwen P., had also purchased some of your paintings in the days and she will be delighted to see this one as well. We both value them highly.

Mark, my husband and I have moved to McMInnville, Oregon–a tourist town for wine country, the space museum, and central location for touring Oregon. He’s retired and I am running a small publishing company. We also have a vacation rental house and a 100 year old craftsman that we also use for retreats for people in ministry. We would love to host you and any others you would care to bring. (We’re on AirBnB in McMinnville, but don’t book through there as there will be no  charge for you! I know you are from the NW so if you want to have your extended family come with you we would be happy to oblige….Hope you and the family are well, your position is challenging and fulfilling, and your paintings and sermons are filled with His light!

I wrote her back and shared with her that I had been working on a children’s book and would she be interested in seeing if it would be a good fit with her publishing company. She said she would.

And that brings me to the great, Great, GREAT news that the children’s book that I collaborated with dad to create will, Lord willing, be published by Just Dust Publishers.

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By the way, these pictures are from the original book that Paul Baumgarten and Matt Hale collaborated with me on.

The summer of 2014

In February 2014, the elders at Redeemer Presbyterian Church granted me a month sabbatical to write my book on Identity Mapping. I spent the month on Camano Island. The upstairs bedroom at mom and dad’s house was a perfect place to rest, retreat, reflect and write.  I spent the mornings writing.

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At noon I spent a couple of hours splitting wood. My goal was to fill up dad and mom’s woodshed.

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I also filled up my afternoon enjoying the beauty of Camano. Dad had stumbled upon the mother lode of blackberries. I picked wild blackberries with him, reminding me of the good old days when we picked blackberries together.

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Each afternoon I jogged to Mabana Beach, swam in the brisk waters, and jogged home.

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A highlight of my month on the Island was camping on my Sunnyshore Studio lot. When my brother, Jed, his wife Renae and their daughter Willow arrived on Camano for their vacation, I gladly gave up my upstairs hideaway, and set up a tent on my Sunnyshore property.

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I dug out a fire pit, put an large steel truck rim in the bottom of the pit and arranged bricks in a circle on the outside. Watching the light fade in the eastern sky and staring at the flames in the fire was a perfect way to wind down in the evenings.

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Another highlight of the summer was waking up with the rising of the sun and watching the sunrise over the Cascade Mountains to the east. It was so quiet and peaceful. Still.

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The summer of 2014 was a perfect preview of what it would be like to stay in the studio apartment of Sunnyshore Studio. I can’t wait to share this beautiful place with people I love.

Jim Spane and Spanebuildings.com

In 1988 my parents gifted me with a lot on Camano Island, WA. I dreamed of building an art studio there that would share the beauty of Camano Island with the world. Ten years later, in 2008, I had the lot cleared, graded, and planted with grass. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that I got a clear picture of what I wanted the studio to look like. Here is that story.

That summer our family spent a couple of weeks on Camano Island as part of a 3 month sabbatical I had been granted. One day Jenny and I were driving on west Camano Drive. A house that was for sale caught my eye.

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The “Manaco Beach Home” was a 2 bedroom, 1 ¾ bath home with a sunny kitchen on the first floor and vaulted ceiling on the second floor.  What caught my eye was the modern lines, the feel of a beach home, and the thought that a version of this would make a perfect studio.

It turned out the builder of the home was an old friend from Stanwood high school, Jim Spane. Jim had graduated a couple of years after me. His company, Spanebuildings www.spanebuildings.com, specializes in building high quality pole buildings, barns, and homes.

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I contacted Jim. He came out to my property and I shared the vision of the studio. Jim worked with me to design a Studio/apartment and everything was ready to go.

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But I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. My hesitation lasted for almost 5 years.

Then in the spring of 2014, I contacted Jim and told him I was “close” to being ready to move forward on my project, that I was spending the month of July on Camano, and I wanted to start moving the project forward. While I was on the Island, I visited Jim at his office. We toured one of his buildings. I was impressed with his work and felt even more excited about my project!.

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At that point the only thing stopping me was my fear. I had the highest confidence in Jim. I had a beautiful building design that I was excited about. I had thought long about the Studio’s mission, and had a plan to carry it out. But I was still too scared to pull the trigger.

Then in January of 2015 my mom was diagnosed with cancer. That was a game changer for me. I realized that I was either going to go for it or not. I pulled the trigger. That is another story.

Then in January of 2015 my mom was diagnosed with cancer. That was a game changer for me. I pulled the trigger. But that is another story.

My visit to the Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere, England

Sunnyshore Studio is modeled after the Heaton Cooper Studio is Grasmere, England. Here is the story of the day I visited the Heaton Cooper Studio.

In 2010 I applied for a sabbatical grant from the Lilly Endowment. The question I had to answer in applying for the grant was “what would make your heart sing?” My answer, among other things, was that taking my family on an epic road trip to Great Britain would make my heart sing. I was awarded a sabbatical grant. In June 2010 our family embarked on our epic road trip.

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After landing in London’s Heathrow airport we took the train to Canterbury. I wanted to begin our pilgrimage at the destination of Chaucer’s “Canterbury tale” pilgrims. Canterbury Cathedral was incredible. We also were at the White Cliffs of Dover at the anniversary of the rescue of the English Expeditionary force from France in the early days of WWII.

From Canterbury we traveled to Cambridge and spent time with dear friends from Trinity Divinity School, Julian and Deborah Hardyman. From Cambridge we traveled to York, and visited the splendid cathedral there. We continued north into Scotland, spending time with old friends from Seattle, Matt and Rachel Round, and touring Edinburgh. We traced some of the steps of my wife’s forebear, William Wallace. In Scotland we also celebrated my son Julian’s 13th birthday.

From Glasgow we went south into the Lake District of England. From our base in Windermere, I took a day trip to visit the Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere, England, a quaint town famous as the residence of the romantic poet William Wordsworth.

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The bus ride to Grasmere through the rolling, mist covered hills of the Lake District was beautiful.

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I hoped that the Heaton Cooper Studio might be a model for the studio I was designing on Camano Island, WA. I was not disappointed.

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I discovered that the Heaton Cooper Studio displays the art legacy of four generations of Coopers. Their art was breathtaking. Heaton Cooper was a gifted watercolorist. His paintings of the Lake District capture the mood, the stillness, the soft colors of the landscape.

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His children and grandchildren were also very gifted artists, each with a different artistic voice.

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At the Heaton Cooper Studio I got some great ideas about how to how to display the history of a family of artists. They also had done a great job is creating coffee table books to showcase the Lake District, something I hope to do in the future with coffee table books showcasing the beauty of Camano Island.

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I finished the day by buying a book of Wordsworth poems and sitting in a tea shop having tea and scones and reading Wordsworth. It was a day well spent.

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Photos from the Cooper Studio

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