Camano Island is recognized as a major cultural center for the Visual Arts in the Pacific Northwest. One of the reasons for that is the sheer number of artists who call Camano Home. There are more than 1,000 artists in the Stanwood/Camano area, with a population of 20,000 that means about 5% are artists. In a ranking by the National Endowment for the Arts the highest per capital number of artists was found in New York State with 1% of the residents being artists. Compare that to the Stanwood/Camano area with a whooping 5%. The Stanwood/Camano area is home to a “colony of artists.”
More important than the numbers in this colony of artists is the presence of Master Artists, those artists who are brilliant at their work.
Last Monday, Dad and I spent time with two of these Master Artists – Jack Gunter and John Ringen.
Dad and I ran into Jack after a lunch at the Tyee Store on the south end of Camano (did you know they are serving delicious sandwiches there?). Jack is an unique mix of gifted artist, writer, filmmaker, and cultural innovator.
It was fun to get a tour of his super cool Gallery/Studio which is a cultural must-do-thing on Camano.
What struck me most was just how absolutely gifted – brilliant would not be hyperbolic – Jack is and how wonderful his work is. His birds in trees laden with snow were beautiful.
Jack is known for his symbolic egg tempera pieces. There were lots of those artworks to enjoy.
Jack shared with us the story of how some of his art had been detained in Siberia and his recent rescue of those artworks after 20 plus years of their “captivity” in Russia. You can read more about that here; there’s also a film that’s being released that tells that story.
Best of all was watching Dad and Jack Gunter shoot the breeze, tease each other, and share in the collegiality of artists who deeply respect each other’s work.
Jack Gunter says this on the back cover of Dad’s biography Jack Dorsey: Sketch of an Artist.
When I moved to Camano Island in the 1980s, I was told the only artist out here was a fellow named Jack Dorsey. I sought him out, but Jack said he didn’t paint anymore because he was working full time at Boeing. Baseball, particularly the Mariners, became our bond. When we ran into each other at the Elger Bay Grocery we talked sports. All the while I pushed, told him he was a legend and should get back to art. It worked. These days I take some credit for Jack’s re-emergence as a painter.
After talking with Jack Gunter, Dad and I decided to stop by John Ringen’s home. John Ringen is a past president of the Northwest Watercolor Society and Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters and a Master Watercolor Artist. I have gotten to know John’s wife Vicky through serving on the Camano Arts Association board with her. John welcomed us and gave us a tour of their beautiful home and his art studio.
All I can say is “wow, it is amazing!”
Perched on the cliffs at the south end of Camano, their home has a breathtaking view.
But it was the artwork – most of it John’s – that fills the walls upstairs and downstairs that I gazed at most. I took pictures of each painting. They don’t do justice to the sheer magnitude and beauty of the work. Here are a few artworks from upstairs.
Downstairs the walls were also covered with amazing art. John’s drawing desk that looks east onto the water.
Then we the building with Gallery (downstairs) and Studio (upstairs) where John works his magic.
The downstairs Gallery was full of John’s art. He’s getting ready for the upcoming Camano Island Mother’s Day Studio Tour.
Here’s a few videos I shot of the John’s upstairs working studio. What an amazing place!
Over the years I had seen John’s work in different galleries and exhibitions in the Northwest. But to see not just a few works but his artistic legacy filling his home, gallery and studio was impressive.
It was fun for me to watch Dad and John interact. I’m thankful for the collegiality and friendship shared among Camano’s artists.
John has these kind words to say on the back cover of Dad’s biography:
Jack Dorsey, I’m impressed with all parts of your life–you’re a fine family man and a very accomplished artist.
Seeing the Galleries/Studios of Jack Gunter and John Ringen reminded me of just how amazing the art culture is on Camano Island.
You can see Jack Gunter’s and John Ringen’s Galleries/Studios with your own eyes on the Camano Island Studio Tour.
- Mother’s Day Weekend: May 12th, 13th 14th
- Encore Weekend: May 20th & 21st
- 10:00am – 5:00pm
You can read more about Camano Island’s Studio tour here:
and here: http://camanostudiotour.com/
wow. John is my ex brother in law. He is an amazing person and artist.
Hi, John. I worked with Vicky at NSCC and exchange Christmas letters with you. You and Vicky hosted a retirement party for me at your home in March 1992. My husband Russ and I will be spending a few days at Bayview State Park this coming week, taking day trips by car from there. I would very, very much like to get together, but I only have a physical address, no phone number. Can you please ask Vicky to call me at 509-981-3540 or 509-280-9957 so we can arrange a time and location? Thanks! Kathy Mager. Ps. Love your watercolors!