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Meanderings between an old and new Studio

Most kids are not privileged to have an art studio next to their house. I was one who did.

In 1969, when I was just a few months old, my dad and mom moved to Camano Island to ten acres with a weathered white house and some old fox sheds for my dad to make a go of it as an artist.

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Dad converted one of the old fox sheds into a studio and called it “Sunnyshore Studio”, named after the “Sunnyshore Acres” section of Camano of which our property was a part.

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It was in that studio that I watched dad paint, and at age 16 painted a full sheet watercolor myself and realized that I had talent as an artist.

For many years I dreamed of building a studio on a plot of ground my parents had given to Jenny and I, which was also a part of “Sunnyshore Acres”, just a couple of hundred feet  south of my parent’s home.

That dream came true, when our family  moved back to Washington State after 13 years of my serving as a pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN. By God’s grace, we were able to build the new Sunnyshore Studio to showcase our family of artists and to share the beauty of Camano with the world.

This Monday, on my Sabbath day, I pilgrimaged up to my new Studio.

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I spent the day working outside. It was a beautiful day, and I find yard work at the Studio one of the most relaxing things of all.

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I puttered around, planting new Shasta daisies in Jenny’s Daisy flower bed, a Clematis vine along the fence, and three Hydrangea bushes that mom had given me.

I worked on a biography of my mentor, Otto Sather, and did some reading and note taking for my upcoming sermon series on 2 Corinthians.

But I also found myself wandering back to my childhood home and meandering outside, enjoying the flowers that grow so abundantly there tended and cared for as they are by mom.

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And circling around the old studio where I had spent so many hours of my youth.

 

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I also hiked down into the woods and took some photographs that will serve as subject matter for my next children’s book: I Remember Running Through the Woods. And the woods were lovely, dark and deep.

Then I made my way back to the new Sunnyshore Studio and painted a watercolor of a Beach Treasure washed to shore on the south end of Camano.

I can’t help in these meanderings to think of what an honor and privilege it has been for me to have access to art studio’s over my lifetime: places of creativity and culture making, places of making and doing and rest and renewal.

Mark Your Calendars for the 20th Anniversary Camano Island Mother’s Day Studio Tour this May

Sunnyshore Studio is excited to participate in the 20th Anniversary Camano Island Studio Tour and welcome the thousands of people who will make the pilgrimage down to the south end of Camano to view the many studios and galleries here.

The Studio Tour opens on Mother’s Day weekend, Friday, May 11th and runs Saturday, May 12th and Sunday, May 13th (10am-5pm) with an Encore Weekend, Saturday, May 19th and Sunday, May 20th (10am-5pm). 

Sunnyshore Studio will represent five generations of artists of the Dorsey family:

Fanny Y. Cory

Matriarch of our family of artists

Jack Dorsey

Father of Jason, April (Nelson), and Jed

Ann Cory

Granddaughter of Fanny Y. Cory and wife of Jack Dorsey

Jason Dorsey

Son of Jack Dorsey and Ann Cory

April Dorsey

Daughter of Jack Dorsey and Ann Cory

 

Jed Dorsey

Son of Jack Dorsey and Ann Cory

Julian Dorsey

Son of Jason Dorsey

Jackie Dorsey

Daughter of Jason Dorsey

 

We are especially thrilled to welcome Jed Dorsey back to Washington State! He will have just arrived the week of the Mother’s Day show and we can’t wait to share his epic artwork with old and new collectors.

We will also be featuring three guests artist which we’ll be introducing you to over the next month.

Mark your calendars for the Studio tour. And make sure to stop by Studio #5 as you enjoy Camano’s colony of artists and natural beauty. You won’t want to miss this event!

 

 

Feeling Lucky?

Feeling Lucky?

Here’s your chance to win some great prizes and support a great cause with Sunnyshore Studio’s Vintage Watercolorists of Washington raffle.

For just five dollars you can enter the raffle to win one of these four great prizes!

Prize #1

Jack Dorsey’s biography, Sketch of an Artist: $40 value

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Prize #2

Two Night Stay at Sunnyshore Studio: Enjoy our peaceful apartment amidst the beauties of Camano Island.

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Prize #3

Jason Dorsey’s I Remember Fishing with Dad children’s picture book and an original framed illustration from the book: $350 Value 

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Prize #4

Signed Copies of the inaugural Vintage Watercolorists of Washington – Thomas William Jones, Jack Dorsey, John Ringen, Nancy Axell, and Genny Rees: Priceless

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The Way the Raffle Works

  1. Buy one (or more) raffle tickets at our online store. March 23rd is the last day raffle tickets can be bought online at our store here:  https://sunnyshorestudio.com/store/
  2. We will fill out your contact information on the raffle ticket.
  3. At 5:00pm, on Saturday, March 24th we will draw four lucky winners.

What the Raffle is going for

Your support in buying a raffle ticket will help us produce the Vintage Watercolorists of Washington book that we are working on and plan to publish after five seasons of the Vintage shows, in 2023.

Thanks so much for your support in this way!

Raffle Tickets are available here: https://sunnyshorestudio.com/store/

Sunnyshore Studio releases videos to celebrate and preserve the stories of five Vintage Watercolorists of Washington

On March 10th, Sunnyshore Studio released five short videos that share the artistic path of the artists chosen for the inaugural “Vintage Watercolorists of Washington” show: John Ringen, Nancy Axell, Genny Rees, Thomas William Jones, and Jack Dorsey.

A special shout out to Julian Dorsey who worked hard on shooting these videos, and to Kyle Liedtke whose music weaves them together.

Enjoy learning more of their stories in those videos below. We are honored to share and preserve their stories in this way.

John Ringen: Teacher of Artists

Nancy Axell: Artist Organizer

Genny Rees: Artist and Mother

 

Jack Dorsey: Artist of the People

Thomas William Jones: Artist of Place

Video is currently being edited & reformatted.

 

Thomas William Jones: Vintage Watercolorist of Washington

Thomas William Jones is an artist of place: a Master artist who paints his impressions of the places where he has lived and what he has loved. The rural environment of his native OH first inspired his artistic gifts. And since 1967, the Pacific Northwest with its low light, long shadows, and rich hues has drawn them forth, like a conductor draws forth the musical gifts and passions of his orchestra.

Tom was born on August 13th, 1942 in Lakewood, Ohio.  He was a kid when they first moved into their Bay Village home, located along the shoreline of Lake Erie. It was during those initial Bay Village days that he remembers discovering earlier paintings that his father had done. Finding those watercolor paintings was a real beginning for him. “I remember watching my dad set up his paints on an old card table, usually about every other weekend.” Although Tom’s father wasn’t an artist by profession, he painted all his life. When recalling his father working with his brushes, paper and Windsor Newton paints, Tom says, “I think I was born with the Windsor Newton gene! I developed a sense of watercolor watching my dad paint.”

Tom grew up painting at a table alongside his dad and listening to stories of life during earlier Bay Village days. And while he and his father painted, Tom was also observing. Those images and stories came together, transferred into Tom’s heart and soul. He learned how to develop paintings and how paintings can tell the story of a place. Watercolor became natural for Tom, and he developed the ability to transfer his impressions to a painting. From that point on, Tom has  always loved watercolors. He “thinks in watercolor” and visualizes completed paintings in that medium.

As a kid, Tom remembers exploring the fields and woods with his dad and younger brother who also had a strong ability of painting in watercolors. Discovering other areas of Northern Ohio with its unique history, weather moods, and wildlife impacted his love of the landscape. All were deeply impressed upon his heart, giving him a sense of place. “Those beginnings were sort of my essence, my DNA, as far as watercolor goes,” he says.

Tom was also very fortunate to have Russ Larsen as his art teacher throughout junior and high school. Around 1956 or ’57, unbeknownst to Tom, Russ submitted one of his paintings for the National Scholastic Art Awards. Although Tom didn’t realize it at that time, the gold key award he won was a turning point. This kept him going and encouraged his latent artistic gifts. Russ continued following Tom’s career and became a life-long friend.

Amber's Horse

Amber’s Horse,  Artists of America Exhibition,

 

Education and beginning career

After Tom graduated from Bay Village High School in 1960, he attended the Cleveland Institute of Art. Tom recalls, “Art school was the best thing for me and I was fortunate to go to the Cleveland Institute of Art. I had some great instructors, some who had been there up to forty years.” 

Tom recalls at the time of not having a lot of patience for detailed studies, but instead wanted to ‘get to the brush’.  Being able to visualize what he saw as a completed painting, he knew he could get things down faster with a brush.

During the summers of art school, Tom worked as a ‘line boy’ at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. He obtained his private, commercial, and instrument ratings by doing aircraft paintings and landscapes for corporate pilots. Like with painting, he was inspired in aviation by his dad. (Tom continued his interest in flying and today flies his restored 1950 Cessna 140.)

After graduation in 1964, Tom decided he didn’t want to go on for a fifth year to get a teaching degree. He just wanted to get going! Knowing he was a good artist, but not having a lot of direction at that point, he then joined the National Guard. After the six months of active duty, he worked for an aviation corporation near Cleveland doing artwork. After a couple years, he got his first big break, a commission that would bring him West in 1967!

General Telephone Company of the NW was adding a new addition to their headquarters in Everett. The company president wanted the public to experience the rural areas they served through an artist’s paintings.

At that time, General Telephone Company represented the outlying areas of the Northwest: From rural Washington to western Montanaand down the coast into northern California. So there was a wealth of places for Tom to explore. He was able to travel to those places and meet the heads of the different regions. They took him around and showed him what was of interest in those spots. Then he was free to roam around and discover what excited him about those places. Tom says, “I was fortunate being able to have free reign. It was pretty special. It was a real challenge too. I agreed to do twenty five paintings and thought I could do two a month. Then thought, “Wow! I sure hope I can do two a month!”

The Northwest was new territory for Tom. He had never been west of the Mississippi. This challenging year also turned out to be a wonderful one. And he DID finish up on time!

In the middle of that year his technique changed from a more opaque approach to a looser transparent one. A lot of that change was due to the Northwest light. The sun was lower in the horizon due to the latitude, especially during the Fall months when he first arrived. Tom recalls, “I was totally immersed in the new angle of light compared to the Midwest and was simplifying my compositions because of it. The light was enhancing only portions of landscape, one side of a subject, part of a face. With these deeper contrasts and organic hues of the Northwest, I was ‘freeing up’ in terms of light and dark.”

The commission brought Tom to the Northwest and he’s lived here ever since. But roots go deep. Tom still loves that part of the country where he grew up. It is a part of him, as the Northwest has become a part of him too.

Another big change for Tom happened when he met a special person named Carrie in 1968 and they tied the knot in 1973. Tom says of Carrie, “Although not an artist, she’s developed an ‘eye’ for art and is a tremendous sounding board for understanding the ups and downs of painting. In Carrie I have the biggest fan when encouragement is needed. With her, I have another right arm!”

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Painting the White House

Tom had a second big break. Here is how it came about. He was part of the invitational Artists of America exhibition in Denver for twenty years; from 1980-2000.  During one of those exhibits, he met a gentleman who at the time was on the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities. He thought Tom’s art would make a wonderful Presidential White House Christmas card, so made a presentation to Mrs. Reagan’s social staff. Mrs. Reagan liked Tom’s work and chose him to paint the Blue Room for their 1985 card.

Tom spent several days in the Blue Room creating preliminary drawings, but did the actual painting in his studio. Mrs. Reagan loved his art so much that she asked him to create the cards for the next three years (1986-1988). Those subjects were East Room, State Dining Room and North Entry Hall and he was free to choose any composition he wanted. As before, studies were done at the White House, but the paintings were created back in Tom’s studio. The artists are not compensated, but they keep their original art. He kept one and the others are in private collections. Tom was honored to have some of his studies included in the White House Historical Collection.

A Moment Alone

A Moment Alone,  1st place, Rocky Mountain National

 

Influences

In addition to his dad & Russ Larsen, there are others who have influenced him as an artist.

Tom recalls as a child having latched onto watercolor artists featured in hunting and fishing magazines. Most notably, the New England artist, Ogden Pleissner. Years later, Tom and Ogden were both included in one of Artists of America exhibitions and their paintings were hung in the same room. “It was a special time to express to him how much I had admired his work and the inspiration I received from it,” Tom remarks. 

“I also recall in the early 1960s flipping through an issue of  American Artist and on the watercolor page was Donald Teague’s Gold Medal winner from AWS, The Façade, and it was absolutely beautiful! Many years later I had an opportunity to tell him so at an exhibition we were both in.”

Tom continues: “The Northwest has been fertile ground for developing friendships with great people, many of whom happened to be artists. Among those are Mike Burns, William F. Reese, Perry Acker and the Dorseys. Carrie and I have been blessed to have lasting friendships with many collectors whose support and encouragement are like adrenaline to an artist. All have influenced our lives in so many ways.”

On Watercolor

For Tom, the beauty of watercolor is having an impression of what you want to create on that white sheet of paper and then to see that magic happen…to see it come alive! It is having everything unified where one cannot tell where it started or ended. Tom sums it up, “To have that happen on watercolor paper is one of the joys of painting for me.”

When it comes to watercolor, it is the light coming through his pigment that delights Tom the most. “Actually I like the paper light more than the pigment itself”, he says. “That feeling is very elusive in describing. But for me, it’s that beautiful light that comes through the paint that gives it that vibrancy.

Sioux Moccasins

Sioux Moccasins,  AWS Bronze medal

 

Lessons

When asked about lessons for the next generation of artists, Tom jokes, “Don’t do it! Don’t ever do it!”

Tom points out that artistic life is a journey. “The lessons and experiences are going to be different for everybody due to the nature of art itself. There are no set paths, but there are certain ‘givens’ that I try to follow. Find an artistic route that’s comfortable for you. Keep walking and building confidence in your abilities. Maintain high standards while believing in your talents. Show your art wherever and whenever you can. And if there are rejections, know that we all have had them. Accept those as positives and keep going with encouraging people surrounding you.”

Tom believes that at a certain point in time there is a need for a little bit of selfishness, so you have to paint for yourself first.

Legacy

Tom hopes that others have connected with what he has created over the years and in doing so, they will remember images or conversations about his art. He would like to think that others will ‘live’ in his art, as he has done. And it seems they have. Over the years, Tom has received recognition for his artistic gifts, winning many awards. His paintings are sought after by collectors nationwide.

Tom’s gift is to have deep impressions of places he has lived and loved and to be able to put those on the white of watercolor paper to bring you to those places with him.

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We want to thank the Northwest Watercolor society for their partnership in our inaugural Vintage Watercolorist of Washington show.

We also want to thank David and Mary Anne Keyser and the Jack Dorsey family for sponsoring this years show!

Vintage Watercolorist of Washington: Genny Rees

Genny Rees appeared upon the watercolor scene of Washington in the early 1980s. Her story is one of the merging of her latent talent with a close friendship that came together to cause her artistic abilities to bloom, much like the florals she loves so much to paint.

Genny was born on September 10th, 1927 in the little town of Winona, Missouri, home to three hundred and fifty people.  She was born into an immediate family of six brothers and sisters, as well as six half -brothers and half-sisters.  Her Father died when she was fourteen. Genny, her mother and sister moved to Oregon, but her mother quickly became homesick for Missouri. So Genny and her mother moved to St. Louis where she attended high school. After graduation, Genny and her mother moved to Seattle to join her sister who wanted them to move in with her.

Genny met her future husband, Donald, in Seattle. They were married for almost sixty years. After they got married they moved from Seattle to Mercer Island in 1951. They lived there ever since, apart from two years in New York where her husband tried out working for a different company. Upon returning to Mercer Island, Donald, resumed working as a Boeing engineer, and a watchmaker in his spare time. Genny spent her time as a stay-at-home Mom to their five children.

Artistic Path

Genny had a cousin, Charles Wesley Copeland, with whom she had grown up in that little town in Missouri. He became a talented and famous illustrator in New York. She had always admired his work, and remembered that he could always draw anything. “I think I had him in the back of my mind all these years,” she says.

Finding time to paint while raising five children was hard. Genny fit drawing and painting in whenever she could. As a Girl Scout leader while her daughters were involved in scouting, she was able to bring her creativity to enhance the arts and crafts activities for the girls. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that the artistic talent in her bloomed, almost overnight.

In 1982, she joined the Mercer Island Visual Arts League (MIVAL) which is a large group on Mercer Island that hosts a big arts and crafts show every year. In 1989, she joined the Eastside Association of Fine Arts (EAFA), and in 1993 she was voted into Women Painters of Washington. By 1985, she was a signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society, which is quite a distinction since it requires being accepted into two national shows. Their shows are now international shows.

What was behind this blossoming of her art?

Genny had always been interested in painting and drawing. In the early ‘80s she started actively exploring her artistic gifts, first trying oil painting, and then experimenting with watercolor. She took a weekend watercolor workshop on Mercer Island with Jerry Becker and loved it. “We did little paintings,” she remembers. Then she started taking classes at the Community Center on Mercer Island, and at Bellevue Community College. She took several workshops and avidly observed the demos available at MIVAL meetings. She discovered that she thoroughly enjoyed watercolor. “Then,” she says, “I sold my first painting at a church art show and that sort of made me come alive. But I think it’s always been in me to paint.”

The other factor that has stimulated her emergence as an accomplished artist has been her long-time friendship with fellow watercolor artist, Nancy Axell.  They knew of each other since they both lived on Mercer Island, but did not formally meet until 1982, when Nancy’s daughter, who lived in Alaska, needed her watch repaired. Genny’s husband fixed it, and Nancy brought him a pair of  Mukluks that her daughter had made to thank him.  That was when Genny and Nancy formally met. They shared a common interest in that Genny’s oldest daughter also lived in Alaska. Since then, they have been painting partners, artist friends, and colleagues in the same organizations. They have been able to support each other throughout their artistic careers and have watched each other grow as artists. Nancy says, “I’ve watched Genny’s work get better and better over the years, as she has won all kinds of awards, and rightfully so. It’s been a joy to witness her growth.”

Genny says, “We’ve been friends for so long and it’s meant a lot to me. We’ve done a lot of things together. We support each other with our art, and have belonged to the same organizations: MIVAL, Women Painters of Washington, and the Northwest Watercolor Society. We’ve both been active on the boards. (Genny was president of MIVAL in 1989 and Women Painters of Washington in 1995.)  As friends, we could always talk about the same things. She knew what I was doing. I knew what she was doing. We took workshops together and enjoyed watching each other paint.”

Peony

Influences

Besides her cousin and Nancy, there have been three major influences in Genny’s artistic journey. When she started taking classes at the Community Center on Mercer Island, she studied under a woman named Marjette Schillie. She also took classes from Jess Cauthorn who was a highly respected teacher and, she says, “taught us everything he knew.” Finally, there was Ann Brecken who still teaches around Seattle. “She was, and still is, a great inspiration to me.”

Struggles and Joys

Besides trying to find time to paint while raising her family, a significant challenge for Genny has been how vulnerable it makes her feel when submitting her paintings to art shows. “Putting my work out there in art shows to let other people see and critique is daunting,” she says. “I’ve kind of gotten used to that. I just put it out there and whatever happens happens. Sometimes you get in and sometimes you don’t. There are so many good artists out there.”

When speaking of the joys of being an artist, Genny says, “I’m happy that people appreciate my work. My paintings seem to bring people so much pleasure and that is a wonderful feeling.”

Genny shared how she received a letter from a woman who had cancer and was dying. Genny had given her a small painting.  The last thing she did was write a letter to Genny. Her husband sent it. In it she shared how much she had appreciated the painting. “That really made me feel good,” Genny said.

Genny has also enjoyed meeting other artists. “I don’t think there is any artist that I’ve met that I don’t like. They’re all great. They’re all friends, and it feels as if I’ve known them all my life,” she says.

Iris

 

On watercolor

“Just being able to have a piece of white paper and apply beautiful colors to it is exhilarating. When I paint my florals they just come to life. I love all of them.”

The white of the paper doesn’t intimidate Genny. She typically works from photographs, and takes a long time to draw it all out since she’s very detailed. She loves the interplay of color, the light and the shadows. Sometimes she has to rework her painting, but even then, Genny enjoys the whole process: “It’s just a joy to paint. I’m never as happy as when I’m working on a painting,” she says.

Her gift as a watercolor painter has been widely recognized. When asked when she realized that she was a good artist, Genny deflects: “I don’t know. I never think I’m good enough and I’m always trying to improve. I guess maybe I’m good. I don’t know. It’s just something that I love to do.

Dahlias

Lessons and Legacy

What lessons does Genny have for young artists, especially for moms in the midst of raising children?

“Observe everything and learn everything you can,” she says. “Read books. I’ve learned a lot from books. I don’t take as many workshops as some people do, so get a lot of information from my books and videos and from demos at art meetings. I would just urge aspiring artists to paint or draw every day if they can. I try to paint every day. And just enjoy it. Just do it,” she says.

For the past twenty-plus years, Genny has been the facilitator for an “Open Studio” at the Mercer Island Community Center, meeting every Monday from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M. “It is a great opportunity to get to know other artists and to help each other or just work on their own art in an open, non-judgmental environment. If you can, see if there is something like this in your community where you can work on what you want at your own pace, get feed-back (if you want it), and not worry about meeting deadlines or being graded,” says Genny.

“My philosophy,” says Genny, “is that people should do what they love to do as well as they can and enjoy doing it along the way.” Joseph Campbell once said, ‘Follow your bliss.’ And that is what I try do as I paint my watercolors,” she says.

When asked about her legacy Genny says, “Well, I haven’t thought too much about it. I’m sure my kids have thought about it. I have lots of paintings and they’re going to have to figure out what to do with them when I’m gone. I just hope my paintings inspire my children and grand children, and bring them joy,” she says.

Genny’s patrons, collectors and fellow artists will no doubt say that her great legacy is the hundreds of bright florals that sparkle on the white watercolor paper brought to life by a masterful hand. But one could argue that Genny’s life is a lesson that one’s devotion to one’s children and one’s artistic calling do not have to stand in opposition, but can flourish together and in the same person.

 

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Come see Genny’s beautiful paintings as well as the artwork of four other Vintage Watercolorists of Washington at Sunnyshore Studio:

Saturdays, March 10th, 17th and 24th, 10am-5pm

Reception: March 10th, 3:00-5:00pm

Sunnyshore Studio is on Camano Island

2803 S.E Camano Drive, Camano Island, WA 98282

 

 

 

Jack Dorsey: Vintage Watercolorist of Washington

“I’ve made so many friends through art.” Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey was born March 12th, in 1940 in Seattle, WA. He grew up in the Redmond area and attended the Lake Washington School District. When he was sixteen his family moved to the small community of Plain, WA near Leavenworth. There Jack finished high school. He attended Wenatchee Valley College for two years, then transferred to Seattle Pacific College, where he graduated with a BA degree in Art Education. He taught art for a couple of years in the Highline School District. In 1966, Jack married his beloved “Annie”. In 1969, Jack, Ann and baby Jason moved to Camano Island where he launched out as a full time professional artist. “I’ve been a Washingtonian all my life,” he says.

Jack always had a desire to draw. He grew up drawing things around their house. Jack’s interest in art was perked on visits to his Aunt Marion and Uncle Norm’s home in Seattle. Displayed on their walls were paintings by Grady Spurgeon. “His art was phenomenal,” Jack recalls. “He did oils. He did watercolors. They were so colorful, so vibrant. It was awe inspiring. It was my first museum exhibit.” When Jack was fourteen, the elderly Grady, Spurgeon invited Jack to stay with him for a couple of weeks to study under him as an apprentice. Jack was too shy and declined. He regrets that to this day.

Jack took art classes at Lake Washington High School from Mr. Greer, who was a good teacher. When he was eighteen he met Walter Graham, who was a well-known commercial artist from Wenatchee. At one time Walter Graham had owned the 4th largest commercial art studio in Chicago. “He flew his own airplane,” Jack remembers. Jack met him at the old Columbia Hotel in Wenatchee where Walter was working on a mural of wild horses galloping over a waterfall that was going to be placed in the Rocky Reach Dam. Walter took an interest in the young artist. “We went out sketching together; painting together; we ate together. We had great times together. He was a great inspiration,” Jack says.

Besides all these encouragements Jack’s “undying desire to paint” propelled him forward as an artist.

Jack started selling his paintings in the early 1960’s. He had success at both the Burien Art Festival and Bellevue Art Festival. And then a big break came. Ann’s father and mother gifted Jack and Ann with a little white house on ten acres on the south end of Camano Island. Jack could now devote himself to painting full time, while carving out a rustic life for their growing family. Over the next ten years Jack had many successes, most notably two solo shows at the prestigious Frye Art Museum in Seattle (in 1972 and 1979), and a solo show at the Franell Gallery in Tokyo, Japan (1979) where Jack sold all 32 of the watercolors he showed. This gift of a house “gave me a wonderful opportunity to paint full time,” Jack states.

Jack worked hard selling his art from 1969-1979. He displayed his paintings in a chain of Turkey House restaurants from Bellingham to Olympia. Al and Ethel O’Brien were friends and owners of the original Turkey House Restaurant in Arlington. With their business partner Jack McGovern they went on to build seven new restaurants. Jack’s watercolors graced the lobbies of each of these restaurants and he sold his paintings on a regular basis. In fact, that is where Francis Blakemore saw his work and facilitated his show at her gallery in Tokyo, Japan.

Nevertheless, it was hard to pay the bills for Jack and Ann’s growing family. So in 1979 Jack hired on at the Boeing company. “For 15 years I didn’t paint at all, or hardly at all,” Jack says. He retired from the Boeing Company in 1995. Jack’s art career was revived in 1999 when he began to participate in the Camano Island Mother’s Day Studio tour. Jack continues to paint and his artworks fill the homes of friends, patrons and collectors all over Washington State and beyond.

Recently Jack’s son Jason built a new Gallery/Studio just south of the family home called “Sunnyshore Studio”, in tribute Jack’s original art studio on Camano. Sunnyshore Studio recently celebrated Jack’s 77th birthday with an Art Retrospective and a book that tells his story, Jack Dorsey: Sketch of an Artist.

Jack Dorsey Book Cover - March

Artist Friendships

Jack met Mike Burns while they were both taking art classes at Seattle Pacific College. During those early years they were both trying to sell their paintings, and starting out at the lowest rung as artists. Jack reflects on their growing friendship over the years, “Before we were out of school we double dated. After college I would meet him at different art association meetings and we’d talk.” Mike was a highly talented artist who was making a name for himself. Unfortunately, Mike passed away in 1991 when he was only 47.

Mike’s memorial service provided a connection with another artist friend. Mike Burns had been a good friend of Tom Jones. Jack had seen Mike and Tom together at the Puget Sound Group of Painters meetings. Jack tells how it was at Mike’s memorial service that he reconnected to Tom Jones. “After Mike passed, Tom and I started corresponding. I sent him a Christmas card. He was out on the ocean at that time. Eventually we got together. Our friendship grew out of a mutual friendship with Mike.”

“As artists we look for companionship and likemindedness,” Jack says.

Northern Moss

struggles and joys of art

Jack tells how in 1979 before he went to work for the Boeing company he told Bill Reese and Jerry Stitt, who shared a studio in Redmond, that he had hired on at the Boeing company. “I’ll never forget Bill’s words,” Jack said. “He said, ‘Too bad.’” Up to that point Jack had been getting a reputation as a good artist. Bill knew right away that it was going to be hard for Jack to continue with his art while working at Boeing.

Jack believes that the hardest thing for an artist is to be an artist and nothing else. And to make enough money to live.

When asked about what were the joys of being an artist Jack said: “The highest joy that I can possibly even begin to try to explain is the joy of having someone genuinely love your work to where they purchase it. I’m not talking about the purchase part. I’m talking about the gratification that comes from of somebody admiring your skills and talents.

Not only does their enjoyment of Jack’s art thrill his heart, as a people person Jack thrives on making friends of his collectors and patrons. When people buy your art they basically become you’re friend; you have a connection. “I’ve made so many friends through art sales, and even with people who don’t buy,” Jack points out.

Magestic Madrona

on watercolor
“I love the magic and the mystical and elusive challenge watercolor brings. Watercolor can be handled so many ways, It can go “loosy goosy” or loose and tight, there are so many combinations,” Jack says.

For Jack, the challenge is to find the spark, the quality that sets your work of art apart from anyone else. He’s studied art and understands art subjects. Sometimes he chooses a subject based on the unique way he wants to approach it. “I pride myself in being able to say, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this.’ A lot of art is the same old same old.’” Jack wants his art to be common to experience but uncommon to expression. For Jack finding one’s unique quality is a combination of many things: “It’s the technique. It’s the style. It’s the vantage point. It’s the perspective and so forth. It takes a lot of things to make a real fine piece of art,” he states.

Mystery Sailboat

lessons
For Jack a critical lesson that artists should learn is to really be themselves. They should not try to be another artist. “Yourself comes out in your innermost being,” Jack says. Jack tires of the same ole same ole; where people get a glitch. “They ride the theme to death.” Jack believes that finding your own artistic style takes hard work, a lot of hard work. It takes determination. It takes vision and purpose.

Jack knows firsthand that an artist might have to put being a full-time artist on hold so that he or she can make real money from a “real job” Art isn’t always an easy way to make a living. An artist may have to do their art as an avocation until they are able to do it as their vocation.

Left Hanging

Camano Island’s colony of artists
When Jack moved up to Camano Island in 1969 he was one of the few artists on the island. Watercolorist Wes Broten was on the Island. Slowly a trickle of artists began to move to Camano, including prominent artists and art entrepreneurs like Karla Matzke, Jack Gunter and Jack Archibald. Jack remembers how people got confused him with Jack Gunter and Jack Archibald a lot. Jack Gunter and Karla Matzke were behind the launch of the Camano Island Studio tour in 1998 and which was instrumental in reviving Jack Dorsey’s artistic career. Now Camano is called home to a host of artists. Jack says, “yeah, we have quite a colony of artists here. I guess I’m one of the older ones.”

legacy
Jack’s legacy can be traced back to Leavenworth, the “Bavarian Village.” When Jack was a young emerging artist there were a few developers who wanted to turn Leavenworth into a Bavarian town. They invited Jack to talk art in a meeting in downtown Leavenworth before it was remodeled and they gave him a leading role as a promoter in the “Art in the Park” program. Jack is mentioned in Miracle Town, a book about the story of Leavenworth. “I was just a small player” Jack says.

Jack has been involved as a member of arts organizations in the Northwest. He was a member of the Puget Sound Group of Artists, and is life member of the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS) which he served as president of in 1979-80. In terms of legacy, Jack is pleased to share the story of his solo shows at the Frye Art Museum in 1972 and 1979 and his one solo show of my watercolors at the Franell Gallery in Tokyo, Japan.

But perhaps Jack’s greatest legacy is the many friendships he has made along the way in his art journey. Friends like Mike Burns and Tom Jones; the many collectors and patrons who have purchased his art and who have become his friends. For Jack the ultimate end of art may not be merely in the art itself, but in the community the art creates.

Wind Blown

Sunnyshore Studio invites you to celebrate the art and legacy of Jack Dorsey as well as four other vintage Washington Watercolorists.

Saturday, March 10th, 17th & 24th, 10am-5pm

Reception: Saturday, March 10th, 3-5pm

SUNNYSHORE STUDIO

2803 S.E. Camano Drive

Camano Island, WA 98082

 

 

Vintage Poster-01

Jed, Renae and Willow Dorsey’s homecoming to Washington State

Jed Dorsey, son of well known local artist Jack Dorsey and patriarch of the Dorsey family of artists, his wife Renae and daughter Willow are moving back to Washington State. Jed is a highly gifted artist and this is a coup for art lovers and the art scene in the Northwest. We were finally able to catch up to Jed for an interview on their homecoming.

Sunnyshore Studio: Tell me about the big news of you guys moving back to Washington?

Jed: Well, the big news is that on April 30, Renae, Willow and I will be leaving Indianapolis and heading to Washington state to make our home there. Our plan is to live on Camano Island initially until we figure out where we might land more permanently. 

Sunnyshore Studio: How has Indy been a great place for you to launch as a full time artist?

Jed: Indianapolis has really been a wonderful place for us to live in general, and for me as an artist, it has been great also. It is a city that feels like a town. There are enough people to have all the great things you’d expect from a city, but it just feels more personal than a big city. For me, it has meant that the art community here has been super supportive. I’ve loved having a studio at the Harrison Center and hope to find another community of artists that are as great as the friends I’ve made here. 

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Sunnyshore Studio: What will be hard for you to leave in Indy?

Jed: We are super connected here. We made a list of the things we are hoping to find in a community in WA, and the reality of it is that we already have it all here: good friends, close to schools, great studio, great church, diversity of people, etc. The only thing we are missing here is family. And that is a big thing, so that is why we are moving. But the thought of leaving Indianapolis has been really sad because we love so many people here.

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Sunnyshore Studio:  What are you excited about in your move back to the Pacific Northwest?

Jed: We are excited about living close to family. Willow loves the idea of being close to cousins. We look forward to regular meals together, working on projects, doing art… you know, just doing life with family, which is something we haven’t had too often because we’ve lived most of our married life separated by some distance. And we still have some distance to travel to see Renae’s parents and sister in Edmonton, but we will be way closer than when in Indy.

 And the other thing we’re all excited about is the physical beauty of the Northwest!

 

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Sunnyshore Studio: Tell me about your thoughts on joining up with your family of artists in Washington?

Jed: It will be fun. I think we will be able to encourage each other in a lot of ways. I look forward to painting with everyone again. My life is different now that I’m a full-time artist, and I look forward to how that will allow me to do things with my family.

Sunnyshore Studio: What do you see as the next steps of your career as a professional artist?

Jed: Really, I just want to get settled in Washington and see what is happening there in the art scene and try to get plugged in. I hope to get involved with some plein air painting groups eventually. I think there are so many things for me to learn at this next stage. I have very little idea about what is happening there in the art scene, and I don’t know much about the communities of the Northwest. So for me, I’m thrilled to be able to come back home and be like a little kid again, exploring and discovering the area. I know it will be fun. 

Vintage Poster Art Chosen

We are excited to announce that we have chosen Thomas William Jones painting Sioux Moccasins, which was the winner of the Bronze medal for the American Watercolor Society,  for the Vintage Watercolorists of Washington 2018 poster.

Vintage Poster-01

We are just a month away from the opening of this show!

Let us know if you have a business, a store, a favorite coffee shop where you would be willing to post one of these beautiful posters!

 

 

Nancy Axell: Vintage Watercolorist of Washington

“It’s been really rewarding.” Nancy Axell

Nancy Axell’s fingerprints are all over the watercolor scene and institutions of Washington State. Her great legacy is the graceful, poised, determined leadership she has given in serving them.

Nancy Newton Covington Axell was born in Seattle, WA May 18th, 1930. Her dad was a meat dealer who provided meat for hospitals. Her mother was a stay at home mother that wanted to work. “In those days men didn’t want their wives working. So she was always wishing she had a career,” Nancy says.

Nancy went to Franklin High School then to the  University of Washington. She started out studying home economics but soon decided that she really wanted to be a teacher and didn’t want to teach girls stitching and cooking. She liked smaller children, so she got a teaching certificate. Nancy worked for a while at Bellevue Community College in early childhood education, then went to Mercer Island teaching kindergarten for a number of years.  She made her home on Mercer Island and raised her four children there. There were ten years in between the first two and the second two so there were lots of years raising children.

Like most artists, Nancy always liked to draw.  When she was ten, a lady in her neighborhood who was a well known watercolor artist,  Olive Malstrom Carl, gave lessons. Nancy says, “That started me on a 77 year journey of loving watercolor. And I still love it.”

In grade school, Nancy won a Scholastic Art Contest. That gave her a boost. It was a validation of her gift as an artist. She took art in high school. And when she went to college at the University of Washington she minored in art. She took art classes from some wonderful people there. One teacher that stands out to her is Viola Patterson. She and her husband Ambrose Patterson were both outstanding artists. Nancy learned a lot from her.

Artists Friends and Art Communities
There are some friendships that stand out in Nancy’s path as an artist. After her college years, Nancy had a good friend named Myra who was also a painter. They traipsed all over Seattle painting boats and landscapes.  Nancy reflects, “Then both of us got married and started raising children. It was a little harder to fit the painting in.” For many years she did all kinds of arts and crafts, they didn’t somehow absorb as much time and effort. While she was always active in artistic endeavors, she put art on the  back burner as she raised four children.

In the early 1980s Nancy and Genny Rees teamed up.. They decided to take a watercolor class together on Mercer Island. That kick started Nancy back to her love for painting.  From that time on she has been very active in painting.

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Her life as an artist is also intertwined with a number of artist communities. She belongs to the Mercer Island Visual Arts League, the Northwest Watercolor Society, and the Women Painters of Washington. Becoming a member of the latter was a thrill to Nancy because Olive Malstrom Carl, who was her first teacher, was a former president of that organization. Olive was gone by that time, but Nancy knew that she would be proud that one of her former students had been accepted into membership.

And while her home has been on Mercer Island, for over 60 years, her family also enjoyed a beach house at Utsalady on Camano Island. Nancy enjoyed being part of the artist colony there including for a time being a member of the Stanwood-Camano Art Guild. At one time Camano Island boasted six past presidents on the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS). John Ringen (1964-65), Jack Dorsey (1979-80), John Ebner (1983-84), Donna Watson (1992-93), Dianna Shyne (2001-2002) and Nancy who served as President in 1995-96, and it is with the Watercolor Society that she has been most active.

Northwest Watercolor Society
The NWWS started in 1939 with three ladies in their twenties who decided it would be a good idea to start a watercolor society. At first they didn’t know if they would invite men, but they finally did. It has grown from this small group of people who banded together early on to an international society of over 800 members from all across the US, Europe, and Asia. People from across the world enter its exhibitions, and it is considered one of the top ten watercolor societies in the nation.

When NWWS had their sixtieth anniversary in 1999, Nancy was asked to be co-chair of that. But the real thrill for her was that she was curator of the retrospective exhibition that was held at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle. “That was my first step into being an actual curator.”  The exhibition was titled, “Northwest Watercolor Society Celebrates 60 Years.” In a story in the Seattle Times, Matthew Kangas details how it showcased both historic and contemporary artists. It included a few works from 1940 by artists Fay Chong, Z. Vanessa Helder, and Dorothy Milne Rising, one of NWWS’ founders, who painted “Industrial Rhythm,” a depiction of a sawmill. The historic section also showcased artists and illustrators from the postwar era in Seattle –  Harry Bonath, Rudy Bundas, Fred Marshall, Perry Acker, Paul Immel and Jess Cauthorn. Contemporary artists like John Ringen, John Ebner, Jack Dorsey, Mary Ellen Otten, Joan Grout and Jacqueline Van Noy, Kristi Galindo, Richard Singer, Karolyn Jo Sanderson and Penny Hill. These brief, shining moments offset the saccharine tone elsewhere. The article concluded “Watercolor may have been stigmatized by the art world because of its proximity to commercial illustration, but, to its legions of followers, the NWWS anniversary survey is manna from heaven. There’s a wide range of familiar subjects, beautifully executed. It’s the perfect tonic for a summer day.” (Seattle Times, August 18, 2000).

In 2015-16 the NWWS celebrated their seventy-fifth anniversary.  Nancy’s biggest thrill then was working on the book produced for that occasion, A Fluid Transition: Northwest Watercolor Societythe First 75 Years, that shares the history of the watercolor society. Nancy served as editor, researcher, and collaborator in this project along with two others: David Martin, a wonderful, acclaimed art historian in Seattle and Molly Murrah, who did all the design work and much more. Nancy says, “We worked together for a year and we’re all still good friends. We had our differences. But we ironed them all out. ” David wrote a brilliant, definitive essay of the development of water media painting in the Northwest and highlighted the many luminaries that led the movement. The book will be a lasting legacy celebrating the rich history of the Northwest Watercolor Society.

Nancy’s well-earned pride in the organization is obvious: “We offer so much to our members. We have workshops with nationally noted artists, monthly meetings with painting demonstrations and two major juried exhibitions each year.  We have a bi-monthly very informative newsletter, award annual scholarships to students and sponsor fall and spring paint-outs in our scenic Northwest. NWWS has an active website and Facebook page. Nancy has been continually on the board for 23 years. We have had so many wonderful volunteers on our board that provide all these well attended activities.

Influences, teachers and mentors
One artistic influence on Nancy was Jess Cauthorn. He was a fantastic artist in the northwest for many years. He taught at Bellevue Community College. “He was ‘Mr. Watercolor.” He knew all of the interesting techniques and things that we we needed to learn about painting and framing,” Nancy says.  Genny and Nancy went for several years to his classes.  They also took workshops from Judi Betts, Christopher Schenk and participated in many of the workshops hosted by NWWS and led by nationally known artists.

Challenges and Joys of being a watercolor artist
For Nancy a challenge was raising four children and trying to do art as a career, or even as a part time career.  Also she notes that watercolor is such a challenging media. You never really master it. But that’s also the beauty of it. “It’s so fluid and surprising, the results you never quite know how it’s going to turn out.” Nancy points out that her husband, Dick Axell, was one of her big boosters. He was “a wonderful support system to me,” she says. “That helped.”

In terms of the joy of being a watercolor artist Nancy says, “It’s constantly a joy. It’s a personal joy when you complete a painting that you feel good about. That you told the story that you had in your mind when you saw a scene.” Over the years she has had several paintings that have been popular.  One is called “Me and Dad.” It’s of a man and his little boy walking down a street. Nancy has sold many prints of that painting.  “It seems to strike a chord in people, this feeling of the father son relationship.” She tells how there was a family that was visiting here from the east. They had come out to Children’s Hospital because their two year old son was battling leukemia. They saw the painting in a gallery, bought it and framed it and gave it to the doctor to thank him for all he did for their son.

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That same painting hangs in  Child Haven, an organization in Seattle that works with abused children and their parents. A friend of Nancy’s who is on the board bought a print and framed it and put it in the counseling room where they talk to parents of abused children. They thought it was a good example of a father-son relationship. Nancy reflects, “Those are things that make you feel good about your painting when it reaches people like that.”

“When I go to a show that has oil and watercolor, I pass right by the oil. I just love the look, the fluidity, the beautiful colors of watercolor,” Nancy says. She enjoys painting in watercolor.  “There’s nothing like flooding the paint on to a piece of paper and seeing what happens. I enjoy oil paintings but they don’t strike me the same way at all.”

Morning Market-Nancy

Lessons for the next generation of artists
In giving tips to future artists Nancy says paint, paint, paint because you learn so much with every painting you do. She counsels finding good teachers and taking workshops. Nancy also recommends joining art organizations because through them you can take workshops and be encouraged through the community. Networking with other artists can be very valuable. Nancy points out that being an artist is not only painting. “If you’re going to be selling your art you need to know a bit about how to market your art, how to frame your art, and how to take pictures of it to send to exhibitions” she says. Finally, Nancy encourages entering juried shows. Through them you learn a lot.

“I always tell people about the NWWS show that we have every year that’s open to everyone in the US and the world. We get fabulous work. One year the first prize was won by a gal who was entering a show for the first time. She was thrilled!” Nancy continues: “So don’t ever give up. Being an artist is dealing with rejection. You enter a lot of things and you don’t get in. But you just keep up and pretty soon you’re finding that you’re doing well and selling your work. And that’s validation too.”

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Conclusion
It hasn’t just been organizational leadership for Nancy. She is a terrific artist and her watercolors are prized collections of her friends, fans and collectors. For example, in 2013, Nancy’s paintings were part of a Women Painters of Washington touring show called “Celebration”. This show launched at the  Columbia Center in Seattle, then travelled to Olympia, Port Townsend, and Ellensburg. Another of her paintings toured to Ireland with WPW.

Nancy has been able to balance being both a painter and a leader. When asked if she regretted the amount of time she spent serving organizations rather than just working in art she replied: “No because I enjoyed that part of it too.” She pointed out that even now she’s running an art gallery in the adult retirement community on Mercer Island where she lives. “I’m enjoying that,” she says, “It’s part of my nature.”

Watercolor artists, enthusiasts, and indeed the entire state of Washington should be thankful for Nancy’s positive, determined, graceful influence that has for so long nurtured this beautiful artistic medium and the organizations that celebrate it.

Vintage Brand

Vintage Watercolorists of Washington

Saturday, March 10th, 17th & 18th

10:00am-5:00

Reception, Saturday March 10th, 3:00-5:00pm

 

Vintage Watercolorists of Washington is hosted by Sunnyshore Studio in partnership with the Northwest Watercolor society. We want to thank our Sponsors David and Mary Anne Keyser and the Jack Dorsey family for sponsoring the show. 

 

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