There is an important and symbiotic relationship between art patrons, art collectors and friends of artists. In short, patrons, collectors and friends purchase artworks created by artists, and, in so doing contribute to the local economy and cultural life of a place.
This is the first of a series of articles in which we celebrate and thank Jack Dorsey’s many art patrons, collectors and friends. It is fitting that our first interview was with Melanie Serroels who is, herself, an artist. Artists support other artists, and Melanie is a significant contributor to the cultural and artistic life of the northwest.
Sunnyshore Studio: Melanie, tell us about yourself.
Melanie: I have always lived in the Pacific Northwest. I was born and raised in Portland, OR. Moved to Sammamish, WA. Built our home on Camano Island in 2004 and moved to Camano Island full time in 2006. I attended Portland Public schools: Fernwood Elementary (K – 8); U.S. Grant High School (9 – 12); and Portland Community College.
I worked at Aetna Life and Casualty Medicare Claims Administration for 7.5 years. We got married in 1975 then had Brian in July 1981 and became a full time mom. I have always volunteered and remain active in community organizations that support children, the arts, the environment and those less fortunate than me.
Sunnyshore Studio: How did you meet Jack?
Melanie: I joined Camano Arts Association in the winter of 2003. I knew of Jack through General Meetings, but didn’t actually talk to him until 2004 while enjoying the Camano Island Studio Tour with a friend.
I was thrilled to meet so many artists on the island. I was encouraged to think I might be a part of Camano’s large artistic community. I began volunteering my time for the association’s many committees right after joining, and met and worked with almost everyone on the roster.
In 2007, I rented a space and curated a large art show at Four Springs House and Lake Preserve during the Studio Tour. It was a non-juried venue. Mainly because I didn’t have time to do much but get permission from the Board and Membership to present 12 of the 50 new artists that had joined CAA that year. We also opened up to host that year’s CAA Scholarship winner.
Jack struggled greatly with my proposal and the non-juried venue for the Studio Tour and much discussion about how and why, but in the end it was allowed for one year and I did it. No negative results were ever reported, and after all was said and done, and I remained friendly with Jack, he admitted to me that we didn’t hurt his business. It’s been years and a few cups of coffee at the table in the Dorsey’s kitchen, but Jack is okay with me mostly now. Many of the artists from the Detour venue went on to become some of the most actively involved and successful Studio Tour Artist members of CAA. Thankfully many don’t even remember and we have all moved on.
The Dorsey family members are some of my favorite Camano artists. I have enjoyed getting to know each of them. I have coached, promoted, taught, supported, attended openings and workshops, and worked with every member of the family over the years. I’ve purchased work from Jack and Jed and worked with Annie and April. I even hosted out-of-town workshop attendees in my guest room, so they could attend Jack’s & Thomas William Jones’ two workshops.
I was sad when Jack and Annie dropped out of CAA, but delighted to get a call from you, Jason, and hear your plans to return to the area and build Sunnyshore Studio. I’m delighted that Jack and Annie are back working with you all on the studio tour. It’s where they belong. Jack complains about being busy, but that’s a good thing in this business.
Sunnyshore Studio: Tell me about Jack’s painting you purchased.
Melanie: We purchased Jack’s watercolor “Calm Morning” at a pre-holiday Open House that Jack and Annie held a few years ago. Randy bought it for me for Christmas.
I first noticed the painting when I attended the second Dorsey/Jones workshop. I wanted to support Jack and I was excited to help and own an original Jack Dorsey painting. It’s a nice addition to our home and I enjoy it every time I look at it.
My motivation to pick out this painting was it depicts one of my favorite views. It’s to the right, looking north towards the San Juan Islands, when you cross over Mark Clark Bridge and drive onto the island. It’s got to be during daylight hours, but this view is my “You’re almost home”.
It’s an unusual scene for Jack to paint. He has even said that he has attempted it again, but has had no luck. This view is easy to see, but hard to snap a good photo of, and very dangerous to stop or stand on the bridge to capture it. I’ve painted this scene myself. You must take a quick look to gather the details, over several trips across the bridge, get the jest of it and then just go for it. The area’s official name is Leque Island. It is described as the area under the Mark Clark Bridge, between Port Susan and Skagit Bays.
Sunnyshore Studio: What is a meaningful memory you have of Jack?
Melanie: Jack is one of the outstanding artists living out here on the Camano Island. He has served as President of the Northwest Watercolor Society and has paintings hanging in the Frye Art museum in Seattle. Jack is humble man, but it truly is an honor to know him. He is dedicated to his art and works very hard to produce and frame his fine paintings.
I truly enjoyed the workshops that he put on with Tom Jones. They are such good friends that it’s fun to be around them together. We were treated to so many fun stories, and they are always teasing each other. At the end of each day during the workshops, we would meet for a critique. One day Jack slipped a little demo paintings into the mix without Tom noticing. Tom critiqued it, rather thoroughly, before he asked who had painted it. Jack fessed up. What a fun time we had as Tom “did the backstroke” to say what he really thought about Jack’s work!
Sunnyshore Studio: How would you encourage emerging art patrons about the value, importance and meaning of purchasing original artwork?
Melanie: My business’ name is Melanie Originals. I paint and sell original watercolors. I place a great value in and encourage others to purchase original artwork. I like “Old School” hand drawn paintings in transparent watercolor. I cherish the pieces that I have been present to see painted. I have always learn best by watching, then doing.
My first purchase of original art was a painting I watched Charles Mulvey paint at a workshop in the 70’s. Charles taught me how to watercolor. The painting is a loosely painted clump of trees. The focal point is an unpainted area that helped him explain how sometimes it’s the thing you don’t paint that makes a painting work. I purchased two more Mulvey originals during the years before he passed. He was a fine professional watercolor artist and I enjoyed knowing and learning from him.
Sunnyshore Studio: You are an artist yourself. Tell us about yourself as an artist? How would you describe your art? What organizations are you a part of? And is it common for artists to support each other?
Melanie: I paint watercolors and acrylics. I started with soft pastels and from art classes I took throughout my public school education. I juried onto the Art Staff my Sophomore year of high school and was very involved in the work that we did for the Drama, Music Department productions as well as for the school’s Year Book. I was also introduced to calligraphy in the eighth grade and have shared my skills received by completing a certificate program from a Lloyd Reynolds I took in high school. I was allowed to focus on art classes from eighth grade on, and even skipped some “required subjects” to take extra art. These classes allowed me the opportunity to try many art mediums and develop skills that I still use today. I come by my artistic talent from my family too. My mom and dad were both creative, my uncle was a well-known architect and my grandmother painted china. We passed it on to our daughter who is currently a published Interior Designer in Seattle.
I paint in a realistic style. I enjoy painting landscapes and seascapes and I’ve become known on Camano Island as the artist that paints colorful flying kites. Some people say, “If it’s got water in it, it’s probably Melanie’s.”
I am on the board of the Camano Arts Association (CAA), a member of the Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild (SCAG), and the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS).
Sunnyshore Studio: Share a bit about how many artists support other artists in their careers by going to shows, purchasing works. Why is this collegiality and support important?
Melanie: I believe that most Artists are interested in other Artist’s work and attend shows and gallery openings to critique themselves and as well as others. I’ve curated shows and co-managed Member’s art shows for CAA, SCAG and the Snow Goose Festival.
Most Artists don’t have the funds to purchase other artist’s work, but the peer appreciation and acknowledgement is very important. Critique is difficult for most to accept, but it’s an exercises in peer review, and serves an important function. Entering shows, getting accepted, attending, supporting, critique is like getting an artistic massage from the whole community. Supporting an artist by purchasing their work is like the final test. This acceptance encourages the artist to keep going and trying new things not to mention pays for more art supplies helps with framing.
To be a known generally as a collected Artist is a goal. It’s in getting there that you must work past jealous feelings and inner thoughts of “I could do that!” The marketing aspect of being an artist is usually not the most favorite part, but it’s exciting and much more enjoyable to do when your art leaves with someone else… It’s finding that little red dot on your gallery tag that is exquisitely exhilarating, sometimes sad, but oh so much fun!