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A Belated Thanks and Acknowledgement to Bethany Warner

A few weeks after I OK’d the proofs for I Remember Running Through the Woods, the second in my children’s book series, I realized that I had failed to thank in the “Acknowledgement” section a very important person. Now that we are picking up the books today (Jenny is in Salem, OR) from the printer, I feel a thanks and public acknowledgement is due.

A couple of years ago, when I was honing the story, I reached out on facebook for creative editing help and feedback. My friend, Bethany Warner, contacted me and said she was willing to help.

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I had the privilege of serving as Bethany’s pastor at Redeemer in Indianapolis, and the honor of doing the wedding service for her and Jeremiah.

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I thought to myself that this was a very wonderful thing for a couple of reasons: First, Bethany. is one of the widest read people I know. She recently shared her following “Reading Stats” for 2018:

85 books
20,493 pages
189.25 hours/audio

Cumulative: 1436 books (since 2002); 190,472 pages (since 2015… I didn’t start adding page counts till later!); 622.3 hours of audio (since 2015. Ditto on hours of listening.)

The second reason is that she is the Director of Development at the Indianapolis Library Foundation. In other words, she works at the library, she knows books and loves books!

The third reason is that I’ve worked with Bethany before on another editing project. I know she’s fun to work with, has high creative and verbal IQ, and I thought it would give us an opportunity to work together again. Actually, the fact of the matter is, I needed her help!

Bethany provided some real helpful editing feedback on the book, and she did it pro bono, gratis, for free!

So…Bethany, here is my belated thanks and acknowledgement.

Dear Bethany,

I’m REALLY, REALLY GRATEFUL for your generous help to me on I Remember Running Through the Woods. Your willingness to give your creative gifts freely and provide such great feedback was immensely helpful. If it ever goes to a second edition, I’ll make sure you are named in the acknowledgments.  I’m thankful for your friendship and presence in my life over the years.

Grace, Jason

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Sunnyshore Studio announces our 2019 Artistic Season

Sunnyshore Studio is thrilled to announce our 2019 Artistic Season. We hope that you are able to visit us for one – or all! – of these shows as we “share beauty with the world.”

MARCH: VINTAGE WATERCOLORISTS OF WASHINGTON

Our season begins in March with the second of five Jack Dorsey Invitational: Vintage Watercolorists of Washington shows. We’re thrilled to partner again with the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS), one of the premier watercolor society’s in the US.

We’ll showcase the art and celebrate the lives and artistic legacies of five of Washington’s top watercolorists: Jerry Stitt, Seiko Konya, Nancy Fulton, Cooper Hart and Sandy Langford. Jack Dorsey will also have five of his paintings on display. And we are excited to have on display a watercolor by Elizabeth Warhanik, one of the founding members of Women Painters of Washington.

You won’t want to miss the meet the artist reception, 3-5pm, on March 9th. We expect it to be packed with watercolor lovers, artists and friends of the art as it was last year!

Check out the poster below for information on the show featuring one of Cooper Hart’s marine paintings.

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And here’s a video preview of the artists with some fun bloopers of Jack Dorsey and the making of the video.

MAY: CAMANO ISLAND STUDIO TOUR

Sunnyshore Studio will be participating in the popular “Studio Tour” hosted by the Camano Arts Association. The tour takes place over five days in May:

  • Friday, May 10, 10am-5pm
  • Saturday, May 11, 10am-5pm
  • Sunday, May 12, 10am-5pm
  • Saturday, May 18, 10am-5pm
  • Sunday, May 19, 10am-5pm

We will feature artwork by our family of artists: Fanny Y. Cory, Jack Dorsey, Ann Cory, Jason Dorsey, April Nelson, and Jed Dorsey, as well as guest artists who we’ll reveal at a later time.

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The Studio Stour is a fun way to see beautiful Camano Island and experience the vibrant colony of artists there. Enjoy this virtual tour of some of our artists.

JACK DORSEY SILENT ART AUCTION

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Jack Dorsey, the patriarch of our family of artists, is a well known northwest artist whose artworks are collected and prized. Jack has painted for close to sixty years and has an impressive body of art that ranges watercolor landscapes to still life and western oils. Here’s your chance to see a broad collection of Jack’s works, get your hands on a Jack Dorsey original, and maybe even a great deal on it too.

The silent auction will work this way. There will be a minimum bid for each painting. If you want to take the painting today there will be a price for that too. At the end of the show we will see what painting is going to a new home.

The show will take place over three Saturdays in June:

  • Saturday, June 15, 10am-5pm
  • Saturday, June 22, 10am-5pm
  • Saturday, June 29, 10am-5pm

OCTOBER: JED DORSEY SOLO SHOW

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A highlight of our artistic season each year is Jed Dorsey’s solo show. Jed usually sells his shows out, and typically there are people waiting at the door to get in before the show opens!

Jed’s show will run on two Saturdays in October:

  • October 5th, 10am-5pm
  • October 12th, 10am-5pm

This year we’ll plan to host the show online as we did last October so Jed’s friends and fans across the US and world (remarkably, but it is true) can purchase his beautiful acrylic paintings.

If you want to learn more about Jed, or are interested in taking an online course in acrylics through his Acrylic University check out his web site:

www.jeddorseyart.com

DECEMBER CHRISTMAS SHOW

Each year we do a themed Christmas show. Last year’s show was “Christmas in Miniature”. We haven’t settled on a theme for our 2019 Christmas show. Maybe we’ll stick with the Christmas in miniature theme. Maybe we’ll branch out with something new.

But for sure we’ll have a wonderful time sharing new original art, and affordable prints, books we’ve published, and lots of delicious food and drinks. We’ll also have fun inviting guests artists who help us make this an especially festive show packed with friends!

Our family looks forward to welcoming you in to our creative studio-gallery as we share the beauty of Camano with the world!

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  • December 7th, 10am-5pm
  • December 14th, 10am-5pm

ART LIVES ON CAMANO!

Meet Vintage Watercolorist Nancy Fulton: For the Love of Art

Nancy Fulton was born in Ballard. Her dad was born in Ballard, too, and the Hoefers are well integrated there to this day. Nancy was living in Ballard with her husband David and two children when she took her first serious step in becoming a watercolor artist. But her love affair with art began many years before that.

As a child, Nancy always wanted to color, draw, and was attracted to any kind of art. She loved her art classes at school. Her first success with art was in kindergarten class. In those days, students were given real clay to mold with. She made a dog. It was taken down to Frederick and Nelson and put on display with some kind of ribbon. Though she was young at the time, Nancy remembers that her mother didn’t take her to where it was showcased. Laughing she recalls, “I was really curious to see why they had taken my clay piece. It was used as a door stop. It was pretty heavy. And it broke.”

Nancy traces her artistic bent to her mother’s side of the family. Nancy’s aunt – her mother’s sister – is the mother of well-known Washington watercolorist Glen Oberg. Like Nancy, art was something Glen, who is nine years older, just always did. There was some artistic talent on Nancy’s dad’s side too. If you asked him draw a cow, he could do that. He worked at the post office when she was young, then got a job as a real estate agent until his brother bought a fuel business. He asked Nancy’s dad to sell accounts; so they became business partners. It’s been a family business ever since. Nancy’s husband, brother, sister and kids have all worked there.

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JOURNEY INTO ART

Nancy wanted to go to the University of Washington. Knowing she was artistic, her folks sent here there. She declared as an art major, took art classes, and loved it. But after that first year her parents told her that was all they could afford. She remembers her mother saying, “You’re just going to get married anyway.” Nancy said, “OK”. “That was just the way it was,” She reflects.

She got a job at a bank, and worked for Virginia Mason for a while. And she did get married, to a young man named David Fulton. During those years she wanted to get involved with some kind of art. But it took a call from a friend to push her over the edge to act on her intuition. She was caring for their two young children when the phone rang. It was her friend Gretchen. She said, “You’re in your bathrobe, right?” And Nancy said, “Uh, Yeah.” Gretchen said, “It’s two o’clock. You need to get out. You draw or something don’t you?” Nancy answered, “Yeah.” Gretchen continued, “Take an art class, then.” So Nancy went to Shoreline Community College and got a degree in Visual Communications Technology. She started a little company titled Artwerks that focused on doing labels and business cards.

Nancy approached the Pacific Northwest Ballet about designing and producing a coloring book for the Nutcracker.  They liked the art and suggested she sell it to San Francisco Ballet too, which she did.  She also contacted the Seattle Opera to do a coloring book about The Ring. This was also successful.  Nancy did all the art and “paste up” and these books were all printed at Johnson Printing by her cousin Glen Oberg who was the manager at that time.

Besides running her small business, Nancy started exploring watercolor classes taught by Jerry Stitt, Diane Lemle, and Carl Christophersen.

the old apple tree SOLD

The old apple tree

In 1983 the Fulton’s moved to Normandy Park to be closer to David’s work. It turned out that Carl Christophersen was moving to south Seattle too, so Nancy was able to continue to take classes from him. That year she got a watercolor painting into the Northwest Watercolor Society show at the Frye Art Museum. This was the very first time Nancy had ever put anything in a show. It was juried in and hung at the Frye! That was very encouraging to her.

In their new home, Nancy set up her studio in their kitchen which had good lighting. She used the island for an easel. She would start painting. Hours later Dave would come home from work and she would still be painting. “I hadn’t gone to the grocery store yet. I didn’t know what we were having for dinner. So that was a problem,” Nancy remembered. She had to find a separate space where she could paint. She took over one of the bedrooms. After 9 years of peddling commercial art, Nancy went to work part time at her husband, David’s, place of work. She was able to do that, be a mom, and continue to have success painting. As successful came in art, she was able to rent a small studio space close to where her husband worked. She painted there for nineteen years and taught classes there too. Recently the building was sold and was going to be repurposed so she had to move out.

A few years back David built her a little house-like studio out in back of their home. He’s in the heating business, so he made the floors radient heated. Nancy can go out there in the middle of the night and paint in her pajamas now. Dave retired just a couple of month’s ago; and Nancy moved out of my studio she was renting. She’s “retired” from teaching now.  Painting will be her avocation and watercolor continues to be one of her long loves.

ARTISTIC INFLUENCES

It was in Carl Christophersen’s watercolor class where Nancy’s breakthrough to watercolor happened. She had taken other watercolor classes before but struggled learning the medium. “When Karl took over he had the right formula for me and I took off. He did a little painting with some daisies. And It clicked. I got it, right away,” she remembers.  As a teacher, Nancy knows how hard it is to help people get important elements of painting, like negative – positive space. She knows how it can be a struggle to master a medium like watercolor, that sometimes it takes the right teacher, or the right demonstration, for a breakthrough. This can be especially difficult with watercolor because you can’t erase, you have to get it right. Carl’s demonstration was her breakthrough moment. Nancy did a painting in his class that she liked very much. He encouraged her to put it in the Northwest Watercolor Society’s “Northwest Open” show they were having at the Frye. And, as mentioned above, it got in!

Another mentor has been her cousin, Glen Oberg. Nancy says that Glen is not only one of the best painters she knows, but is an extraordinary human being. “He’s always humble. He’s easy going. He’s one of those people who has a great sense of humor. He’s always been supportive of me coming along…No one can paint watercolors better than he can,” She states. Nancy attends the class he teaches every Wednesday at a senior center. “I love it,” she says. 

Glen Oberg

Another influence is her good friend and terrific watercolor artist, Marty Rogers. She met Marty at one of the classes that she took from Diane Lemle in LaConner. They began to paint together, and that helped Nancy a lot. The would often paint plein air. Marty was really good at finding places to paint, and asking people permission to paint their home or on their farm. After they set up, Nancy would dig in: “I would paint until they dragged me out of the place.” People would stop and talk with them as they painted. “It was fun,” Nancy remembers. She says that it is helpful to paint with someone. “It’s kind of dangerous to go out by yourself. You know. You could fall and break your leg. When Marty and I would go out to paint, we’d go out for fun. But we would always come back with something we kind of liked.”

Marty and Nancy joined Art League North. This gave them a venue to show their work once a year in the art barn at the Tulip Festival. At that show “We’d practically give our stuff away,” Nancy comments. But “It was nice to be appreciated.”

[Note: They welcomed other people into their painting friendship. In 1993 I was a twenty-three year old and a fledgling watercolor artist. They invited me to join them for their weekly paint out, and I remember often joining Marty and Nancy and a few others at the Calico Cupboard for tea and scones and conversation before we set out to paint plein air. Those are happy memories for me. Author, Jason Dorsey]

STRUGGLES AND JOYS OF WATERCOLOR

For Nancy, one of the struggles is just painting something the way she wants it to be done. Not every painting is going to be a masterpiece. You start a painting out, and “then it goes south on you. And it’s disheartening,” she says. “I wanted to have a discipline that when that happens, I get out another piece of paper and start over. I don’t want to let it get in my way.” Nancy is glad she persevered through the disappointments. When she recently moved out to her new studio, she went through stacks of things from photographs to sketch pads. She couldn’t believe she had painted that many paintings; and she was struck by all the paintings that she has sold through the years. “The time has gone by real fast. But I’m still not painting the exact painting that I wanted to. I want to do the great, great painting. But a lot of them are pretty good.” Looking at her body of work she was able to say, “You know, these aren’t that bad.”

Another joy has been to share her love for art with her son and daughter. They are both artistic, though neither has chosen art as a career. Still, she was able to integrate them into her life as an artist. When she did the coloring book for the Nutcracker, they wanted to have it set up at the Olympic Hotel. So Nancy and her daughter set up the show. It was her project too.  Both of the kids enjoyed painting and drawing alongside of her. “It was really great,” Nancy says, though “My husband would sometimes be annoyed because I wouldn’t be doing things he wanted me to do.”

Once she got started with watercolor, she knew she was never going to quit. But she wanted it to be something that David wanted for her. She contributed to the family income through her classes, which also helped with the ongoing purchase of art materials and costs of entering shows: “the more I sold the better I felt, and the more I painted,” she says. And in the end, David was a strong support of Nancy’s love for and pursuit of watercolor.

ART SHOWS, GALLERIES AND ORGANIZATIONS 

Nancy has signature status in the Northwest Watercolor Society.  A couple of paintings even got into the very prestigious National Watercolor Society show. She has been a member of Women Painters of Washington for twenty years and exhibits in their gallery downtown in the Columbia Tower. She also exhibits twice a year at the River Gallery in La Conner.  Once a year she sells her paintings at an art show in Normandy Park with Artists United. 

ON WATERCOLOR 

Nancy’s students always feel like watercolor is indelible; like if you make a mistake it’s all over. But Nancy points out that it’s so malleable. “So many people don’t understand this. Yes, it’s nice to have that fresh wash. But you can keep going on, if you make a mistake. And that is one thing I would say. ‘Keep going. Don’t tear it up. Keep going. Keep working on it. When you get done with it, you may have something you didn’t think you were going to love, but you kept going on.”

She shares a story of how she learned this lesson for herself a long time ago. She had wanted to paint glass and I had this crystal thing. “Cut crystal is hard to paint. I think it is probably hard to paint in anything because it reflects all kinds of light. And I kept making mistakes. And I kept working on it. And it kept getting darker and darker. But I kept working and working. Finally I got it done. And it was ok. It was done. I actually managed to do this thing I didn’t think I could do. I was ready to tear it up several times. And I thought, ‘No just keep going. See how far you can go with this.’ So that’s the kind of thing I try to get through to my students. Don’t give up. Work on it some more. You learn something from it if nothing else. You can do it again. Just keep going.”

Nancy has a lifetime of watercolor painting behind her. From the countertop, to the bedroom, to the rented studio, to the studio behind their home, Nancy has painted a lot of paintings. But still there are times of insecurity and special moments of inspiration. Like when she set out to paint portraits of two of her grandsons, her son’s children. She really wanted to get them right. Nancy reflects that at the time she thought, “Aw, this is terrible. They won’t come out right.” She doesn’t do a lot of portraits, and she notes that it’s too hard to paint someone you love.  You have to put all your heart and soul into it. Plus, “They are both so cute,” she says. And they both turned out! Nancy’s eyes teared up: “That was probably the biggest deal, that was the biggest deal for me. That I could do a painting of those two kids and be happy with it.”

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LEGACY

Nancy hasn’t thought a lot about her legacy, except for maybe the legacy of art that she’ll leave to her kids. They have paintings of hers now. And they may have paintings of hers that they have an eye on. Still she is sensitive to not  foist something on them that they don’t want. She knows that asking them, “Do you want this?” puts them in an awkward position because then they’ll feel like they’ll hurt her feelings if they don’t, if they say, no.  “I don’t want to do that to them,” She says. She wonders if her granddaughter, who is really into art, might be part of her legacy. But she really doesn’t know what her legacy is.

That’s ok. The hundreds of people who have Nancy Fulton paintings in hanging in their home are perhaps the ones who can testify best to her legacy. Many of those people Nancy will never meet. But her friends tell her how they love her paintings. She recalls that there was one nice lady who bought one of her paintings. She had a bandana on and was going through chemo. She told Nancy, “I’m going to sit and look at that while I’m having this chemo thing.” That meant a lot to Nancy. A couple of Nancy’s paintings hang in my parent’s home, and one in my sister’s home. I know that they are treasured, and bring beauty and joy into those places.

Nancy knows what she gets from the paintings she likes. Sometimes she sees a painting that she’s done and says, “I love that.” And some of those paintings are hard to sell. “I don’t want to sell them. I don’t think I’m every going to do a painting as good as that.” Maybe not. But maybe Nancy’s legacy is loving watercolor, and sharing her love with people through her paintings. 

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EPILOGUE

My wife, Jenny, and I visited Nancy’s home in Normandy Park, Seattle to take some photographs and video footage of her Studio for the short video documentary on her life and art. I had written the article above based solely on my interview of Nancy, and what I knew of her from when we painted plein air in 1993. From the interview I was convinced that Nancy’s story was about the love of art, hence the title of this article “For the love of art.” Visiting her home solidified that first impression. Nancy led us on a tour of the art in her home.

What became crystal clear is that in Nancy’s home, her loves – for her family, of painting, and of great artworks by great artists – are all woven together.

THE ART OF HER TEACHERS

Her home is filled with paintings by her teachers. Like this watercolor by Carl Christopherson., Diane Lemle, and Glen Oberg.

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These beautiful florals, the first and oil, the second a watercolor, by Diane Lemle.

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Of course, Nancy has also collected a number of beautiful paintings by her cousin Glen Oberg. Here are just a few of that collection.

NATIONALLY KNOWN ARTISTS WHOSE WORK NANCY LOVES 

Artworks of well known national artists are also displayed. Nancy lovers their artwork and her home is filled with incredible works of art by well known artists.

Like this painting by Del Gish.

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And this one by Judi Betts.

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PAINTINGS BY HER FRIENDS

Nancy values the paintings of her dearest friends too. One of those friends, Marty Rogers, is an incredible artists as this painting showcases.

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NANCY’S OWN PAINTINGS

Nancy’s own paintings – the ones that she specially loves – have an honored place alongside these other paintings. Like this one that Nancy feels is her greatest painting yet. They certainly do hold their own next to the works of these masters.

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There are also paintings of her grandchildren that have a special place on the walls. You can see Nancy’s love for her little ones in these paintings.

Here in her home, her sanctuary, we see Nancy’s loves – her love for her family, her love of her friends, her own love of painting, and her love for good art –  integrated, kept and cherished,  a sacred gallery of her loves.

You can view Nancy’s beautiful artwork at the upcoming Jack Dorsey Invitational: Vintage Watercolorists of Washington at Sunnyshore Studio (2803 S.E. Camano Drive)

Saturdays, March 9, 16, 23 and 30, 10am-5pm

Meet the artist reception, Saturday, March 9th, 3:00-5:00pm

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Sunnyshore Studio is thrilled to be partnering with the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS), one of the premier watercolor societies in the US, in celebrating the life and legacy of vintage watercolorists of Washington.

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Meet Vintage Artist Cooper Hart: Marine Watercolorist

Cooper Hart was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1952.  The son of a career Air Force officer, an aircraft navigator and crewman, he grew up around military bases scattered across the prairies of Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. In 1967 his father retired from the Air Force after 23 years, moved the family to the Seattle area and went to work for the Boeing Company.

“I thought I had died and gone to Heaven“, Cooper says, “I found out that the whole world didn’t look like Kansas.” He quickly set out to enjoy all the outdoor activities that the Pacific Northwest had to offer. He began exploring the mountains and beaches, hiking, camping, boating, and fishing.

Not far from his home in Edmonds he soon discovered the wreckage of an old wooden sailing ship, the barkentine Conqueror, on the beach.  Launched in 1918, the Conqueror was one of the last wooden sailing ships to be built on the West Coast and marked the end of the era of sail. With a keen interest in all things nautical, he often visited the old ship, thoroughly exploring every inch of the decaying relic of a not-so-distant past. Remarkably, he even found copies of old newspapers dating from World War 2 still in the shattered remains of the chart house.

As a child Cooper had little interest in art. His older brother, however, was an extremely talented artist, and encouraged his attempts at drawing. His brother would eventually win a scholarship to the renowned Kansas City Art Institute, becoming a graphic designer and commercial artist, working in Hollywood in the 1960’s and later in New York City.

Cooper can recall being mesmerized at an early age by 19th Century American landscape paintings. He would stare intently at scenes of the American wilderness that he found in his school books. It seemed to be an interest that was always present. His courses in school did not include any art studies.  Later, in college, there were no art classes on art technique or history.

In the 1970’s he began working in the silkscreen printing business cutting screen stencils by hand. This led to a great familiarity with letters and type of every description.  From there it was a natural transition to the art of sign lettering and brush work.

Around this time he took a trip to Ketchikan, Alaska to visit some old college friends who had moved there. For the return trip he joined the crew of a very small Tlingit Indian salmon gillnet boat that was southbound back to the States. It was a long trip on a very tiny, slow wooden boat but it was a great way to see the country up close. It was a life changing experience to sail down the Inside Passage, stopping in various Indian settlements and towns along the way.  A stint of gillnet fishing followed after getting back to Puget Sound.

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A LOVE FOR WOODEN BOATS

Cooper used his skills as a sign artist to get work in the shipyard of the Whitney-Fidalgo Cannery company, which was located in Magnolia, on the ship canal opposite Ballard.  In those days the fish canneries owned their own fleets of purse seine boats which they leased to the skippers.  These were usually very young men that ran these seiners and were bound by contract to sell their fish to the company. The fleet was kept at docks on the historic site of the old Maritime Shipyards building, where scores of wooden workboats had been built by hand in the decades that came before.

“It was my job to paint the names on all the boats”, said Cooper. It was a fascinating place for anyone who had an appreciation for old wooden boats.  There was a constant buzz of activity as the crews prepared their boats for the upcoming season and run up to Alaska. The boats were well taken care of by the company. Every year they had to be hauled out, the hulls de-fouled, scraped, and painted.  The hydraulic and electric systems, radar and radios needed to be working properly. The nets needed mending and rigging repaired.  The old diesel engines needed to be made as reliable as possible as lives depended on it.

Many of these boats were positively antiques. Some of them were 75 years old or more. They had carried generations of fishermen north to seek their fortunes and they were still being used for fishing. It was quite a testament to the men that built and maintained them that they were able to remain in use for so long.  “I had the run of the place. I got to work on all the boats”, Hart said.

It was at this time that Cooper came to know this nomadic sub-culture of young men, the crews that worked and lived on these boats.  He said, “I was taken by the pirate-like fantasy existence that they led.  They were free to run up and down the coast in those beautiful boats, working and living in the fantastic playground that was Southeast Alaska.” It seemed to him that somebody should be documenting this scene, this era, somehow. “It was fading into the past and nothing like it would likely ever come again.”

“I didn’t really see anybody else doing it, at least not like I thought it should be done”, he said. There were a few Northwest artists that did some fishing scenes but not really like he wanted to do.  “I wanted to be a marine artist but the only problem was I didn’t know how to paint,” he said. He set out to change that.

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SELF TAUGHT ARTIST

 Cooper was in his later twenties when he decided to teach himself to paint watercolors. “There was never any question that watercolor was the medium I wanted to use”, he said. It seemed like a natural for the pictures he wanted to make. He had always been a do-it-yourself type and usually just picked up a book and learned how to do home repairs or build things on his own.  He picked up some watercolor technique books and went to work.

“I was a closet painter.  I didn’t show it to anybody for a long time”, Cooper recalls. It took several years before he felt that his work was good enough to show to others. “I knew that I wanted to make contemporary seascapes with boats but in a traditional style”, he said. He began a large collection of books of landscape and marine artists of that period. He carefully studied the works of Winslow Homer, Fitzhugh Lane, Sanford Gifford, William Bradford, and others.

Eventually, in 1984, he took a dozen or so paintings to a small museum near the Seattle Aquarium called the Museum of the Sea and Ships. The curator decided, on the spot, to host a one man show. Soon after that he was invited to be represented by the Kirsten Gallery in Seattle, a well known venue showing local and national marine artists.

Cooper met his future wife, Karen, in 1980.  They lived at that time in a 1930’s log cabin in Woodway.  He was honing his watercolor skills while at the same time running his home based sign business. He was still often working on the waterfront and the docks of Seattle doing his sign work and lettering on the workboat fleet. He was able to balance the time so that he could work and learn his art simultaneously.

1984 was a pivotal year.  Cooper began showing his artwork in galleries around Seattle. He and Karen were married and she began her first year of medical school at the University of Washington. Cooper kept up the balancing act between work and painting all the while. Karen graduated from medical school in the class of 1988. Following that they moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for three years of medical residency training, Cooper still doing artwork and working at local sign shops.

In 1989 he submitted an entry into the Mystic Seaport International Marine Art Exhibition in Mystic, Connecticut. This was the premier venue in the United States for the genre of marine painting. As it turned out his first time entry won one of the museum’s top awards, The Award of Excellence. Since that time he has been one of the museum’s “core” artists. Cooper has won the Award of Excellence twice and another top award, the David Thimgan Prize for best depiction of West Coast maritime history.

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They returned to the Northwest in 1991 and Karen began her medical practice with the Everett Clinic, for whom she has worked for nearly 28 years. They have two grown daughters and live near the town of Snohomish.

ON WATERCOLOR

For Cooper,” Watercolor seems like a technical skill that anyone can learn to master. It seems like anyone who can hold a brush can be taught to do it once you figure out the technical aspects”, he says. Of course, most people seem to disagree.  The goopy and noxious enamel paints used in sign lettering are nothing like the delicate watercolor paints. “The ability to control a brush already made the crossover to watercolor easier”, he says.

“Mistakes are not allowed in watercolor”, he says. “There is no going back. Anything that touches the paper is going to be there. You can’t cover it up or at least only to a very limited extent. You have to know exactly what you are doing because you can’t take it back.”

“In painting watercolor you move from the background to the foreground,” he says. First, the sky is washed in, sometimes requiring laying in 6 or 8 washes before he gets what he is looking for. This is where his background in printing comes in. In the printing process you have the three primary colors, red , yellow, and blue. “In watercolor, you need to have a balance of all three colors in the sky or the picture looks flat,” he says. He puts in washes that may have only a trace of red, blue, or yellow. “If they aren’t all there, it doesn’t look right.” With watercolor the light in the picture comes from the paper so you have to be cautious “not to muck it up with too much paint” which muddies the painting.

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Being a self-taught artist, Cooper had no formal training.  However he has intensely studied the works of those considered to be the masters of landscape and marine painting, both vintage and contemporary. He also tries to make it back to New England for the annual marine exhibitions on a regular basis. It is important to connect with the other artists, the top talent in the field, and see what they are doing artistically. “It’s also useful to see what is selling in the galleries and what isn’t.”

Cooper’s style is very traditional.  “On the East Coast they seem to hang on to traditions of all kinds, artistic or otherwise. There is nothing avant-garde about my work. Some people like  traditional art and some people don’t. It’s just the way I do it. I don’t know how other people develop a particular style. I just know how I do it.  I appreciate other people’s art and I would like to do some different things sometimes but I haven’t been able to yet.”

THE CHALLENGES OF BEING AN ARTIST

“Watercolor is a very immediate medium. Things can go bad really fast.” The artist doesn’t really know how the picture is going to turn out. “What you think you are going to do when you start may not resemble what you end up with. You have to be flexible. That can be a problem for some people, especially people like me who want to have such tight control over a rather difficult to control medium.”

Perhaps more challenging than watercolor itself is the business of art. Cooper points out that styles and trends come and go and seldom last very long. He remembers how marine art exhibits were sold out events in the 1970’s and 1980’s around Seattle. There were a number of marine painters in the region at the time. “Artists like Steve Mayo, William Ryan, Byron Birdsall, and Mark Myers seemed to be riding a wave that made them fairly successful at the time.”

Cooper notes that a lot of art galleries have disappeared from the Seattle area in the last decade, like the Kirsten Gallery, where he showed his work for some 35 years. There is a lot of conjecture by art dealers that younger people just aren’t buying art like people did in years past. The prohibitive cost of commercial real estate in Seattle is also a factor. Some dealers have theorized that the tiny size of apartments people live in now leave little room for artwork.

There are not many artists who can work both ends of the business, the creative end and the marketing end. The two aspects are usually mutually exclusive. Cooper’s advice to younger artists, “Keep your day job.”


AVOCATION and VOCATION as an ARTIST

While there are challenges to being an artist, it has allowed space and time for Cooper’s vocation as an artist to be integrated with his avocation, his passion for boats and the sea.

 Cooper often took the opportunity to go out on the boats he loved to paint and has sailed thousands of miles on the waters of Alaska or running through the Inside Passage. He has made hundreds of photos that were later used as reference for his artwork. “One of my greatest joys is getting out to sea in Alaska with a few old friends for a long trip on a slow boat. It’s just the sea and the sky. Time is suspended. Night and day are meaningless.”

Cooper was a witness to the last days of the wooden boat era.  By the 1970’s, wooden boats were no longer being built as commercial fishing vessels.  They are fading away now. The old boats are getting tired. Even the most stoutly built vessels are succumbing to the ravages of saltwater and rot. The costs of maintaining or repairing an old wooden boat are steep. It is growing more and more difficult to even find shipwrights who know how to work on wooden boats, though there are a few. Every year more of the old boats are lost at sea or abandoned on some forgotten tide flat. “A lot of the boats that I knew and worked on or painted have either sunk or rotted away,” he adds. “It’s all fading into the past. It’s a piece of the old Seattle that, like so much of what was, is going away. The fishing industry, along with the lumbermen and the ship builders made Seattle what it is.”

Purse seiner Aldebaran in Ketchikan, 1984

ART LEGACY

Cooper thinks that the work of his that will likely stand the test of time are the paintings that document the Northwest fishing scene. “In fifty years they may discover a cache of paintings by some artist who left a trove of fishing pictures in an attic somewhere but there are none that I am aware of.” He adds,” I hope that someone in the future will be able to appreciate my work for what it was, an accurate portrayal of a unique time and place by someone who was there. That’s all an artist can ask.”

Seven Seas (1991)

You can view Cooper Hart’s marine watercolors at the upcoming Vintage Watercolorists of Washington show at Sunnyshore Studio:

  • Saturdays, March 9, 16, 23 and 30
  • 10am – 5pm
  • Artist Reception, Saturday, March 9, 3-5pm
  • 2803 SE Camano Drive, Camano Island, Washington

Sunnyshore Studio is hosting this Vintage show in partnership with the Northwest Watercolor Society, one of the premier watercolor societies in the US.

We are Family Documentary Update #2: February 2 – New Complications and Costs and the hard work of Creativity

Making a full length documentary is supposed to be easy, right? I’m learning the hard way, by real life experience, just how much work it really is. Here’s my second update on the making of the “We are Family” documentary about an inner city basketball team that against all odds won the Indiana state basketball championship.

New Complications

I could go into a number of complications that we’ve run into, but let me share just one. David Lichty, my video editor, discovered some videos of Arsenal Tech basketball in the Indiana State tournament dating back to the 1950’s and 1970’s that would be great B-roll footage for the movie.

IHSAA footage

He also found the 2014 Championship Game at Banker’s life fieldhouse that Tech won.

IHSAA footage 2

We have footage of this game too, but it is court side footage that Julian and other players recorded from the bench during the game. When he researched the footage on You Tube it turns out to be owned by the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA).

State Championship Game 1

So I contacted IHSAA to see if we could use their videos, and was put in contact with Chris Kaufman of IHSAA who apparently works with this kind of thing. Here’s what I learned.

It turns out that any recording of an IHSAA game, including video taken on a personal device, is the property of IHSAA. This is not a problem when that video is used for non-commercial reasons, like a parent shooting video of their kids playing that they’ll watch at home. But as soon as the video is used for commercial purposes, it must go through a process of approval through IHSAA, requires and contract which includes compensation to IHSAA. Chris told me that the biggest contract IHSAA has worked out is with the movie Hoosiers. Hoosiers used old footage from the State Championship game that Milan won.

I told Chris that at this point we are just trying to make the movie, and don’t have any deals lined up to sell the movie, etc. So he worked out a two part contract with us: (1) We pay IHSAA $500 for the use of their footage to complete the movie and show it. (2) There will be a second contract required if we plan to sell the movie in the future. In this scenario, IHSAA would ask for a percentage of any compensation we receive for the movie.

If this were all, no big deal. But it gets more complicated.

In the first contract to just use their footage we are required to have Movie Insurance.

Insurance

I get why IHSAA requires movie insurance. But I am WAY OVER MY HEAD in figuring this out. I guess this is why I have Jeff Sparks a consultant on this project.

CROPPED-Sagamore Headshot 3 (1)

So you can see how one thing – in this case our request to use IHSAA video – becomes a much bigger, complicated thing. I’ll probably need to hire a lawyer with experience in the Movie Industry to read these contracts and make sure that everything is straight.

And this leads me to my next point.

New Costs

As we keep pressing forward, new costs keep adding up. Here are some of the new costs that I did not account for in the 25K we raised to make this movie:

  • $500 for the use of IHSAA video
  • ??? for Movie Insurance
  • $1,500 to hire a lawyer on retainer

These new costs are not the end of the world. But we are a low-budget operation. I’ve looked into a couple of options to raise a little more money. So far, no luck. I’ll keep trying, and we’ll see what happens.

In the end, no matter the cost, I’m committed to making this movie. This inspiring story is worth telling!

Championship

The Hard Work of Creativity

Creativity is hard work. We often think of creativity happening in a moment of inspiration. And I suppose it does occasionally. But, for the most part, it is just hard work. It is putting in time. It is collaborating. It is feedback. It is grind.

For example, my son Julian spent hours going through playoff game footage and noting what were the best plays, the best footage. You can see his work in the chart below. The red stands for footage that should NOT be used; yellow stands for OK footage that can be used; and green stands for GREAT footage that needs to be used.

In preparing for this next step of the documentary process, my son Julian encouraged me to watch the film “More than a Game” that tells the story of Lebron James and his friends that played AAU and high school basketball together. The film covers about 8 years, so it is a little different than what we are trying to do. I really enjoyed watching the movie. I and thought they did a great job in telling the story. Learning from others is all part of the creative process too.

In the end, making a high quality documentary is just hard work. We have over eight hours of footage that needs to be trimmed down to a 3 hour “uncut” version of the documentary, and then trimmed down one more time to about 1.5 hours of the final version of the documentary. But in the end, telling this story of a team that inspired a city will be worth it!

celebration

 

 

 

 

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