Sunnyshore Studio is excited to have four guests artists featured at the popular Camano Island Studio Tour. Meet one of our guest artist and Camano treasure, Liz Hamlin.
Liz is an outstanding artist and person. She has led the Camano Art Association’s mentoring program at Stanwood High School for years. Recently she has been working on large watercolors painted of her neighborhood, views that she sees on her daily walks.
Sunnyshore Studio: How long have you been doing art? Tell us something about your journey in art?
Liz: Over many years of making art my love of watercolor continues with passion.
Sunnyshore Studio:What kind of art do you do? Why do you enjoy this medium?
Liz: I focus on non-traditional subjects; aerial views, monks, or broken glass were all subjects over the years.
Sunnyshore Studio: What are the joys and challenges for you as an artist?
Liz: My greatest joy has come from creating art unlike any I have seen elsewhere–color patch, a hard edged technique, the flower girl series combining figures and flowers or a two part piece for the viewer to walk between. Convincing the viewing public that watercolors are serious art is an ongoing challenge.
Sunnyshore Studio: Why are you excited about being a part of the Studio Tour at Sunnyshore this year?
Liz: I am delighted and honored to be showing at Sunnyshore Studios with the Dorsey family of very accomplished artists.
Camano Island Studio Tour Info
The popular Camano Island Studio tour is a five day event that brings over 7,000 people to visit the 30 some studios and galleries on Camano Island and Stanwood.
It takes place on Mother’s Day weekend, Friday, May 10 – Sunday, May 12, and on the following “Encore” weekend, Saturday, May 18-Sunday, May 19.
Participants visit the homes, gardens, studios and galleries of the art colony on our beautiful Island. You can learn more at the link below.
Sunnyshore Studio is thrilled to introduce to the world Fairy Master Ann Cory Dorsey. Ann learned the lore of fairies under the spell of her grandmother, artist and illustrator Fanny Y. Cory.
When Fanny moved to Camano Island in 1953 she lived in a little white cottage just down the road from the farm where Ann’s family. It was then that Ann began her tutelage under Fanny.
Now Ann’s ready to share her knowledge of fairies with the world. And the world includes YOU!
Ann’s son and Fanny’s great-grandson, Jason Dorsey, is on a quest to sight a fairy. He’s begun a course of study under his mother Ann. He’s promised to record as much as he can of what he learns and to share it with you.
Here is his first video introducing Fairy Master Ann Cory Dorsey.
If you would like to learn more about fairies, or perhaps create a fairy garden yourself, you may want to order a Fairy Mystery Box created by Jason’s wife Jenny. They are going on sale in May of 2019!
We will be posting our Fairy Sighting updates on our Sunnyshore Studio blog. You can also check them out on our Sunnyshore Studio YouTube site.
Sunnyshore Studio was a decade old dream of Jason and Jenny Dorsey to showcase their family’s art and share the beauty of Camano.
It came true when Jason connected with his old high school friend, who also happens to be the president of Spane Building, Inc. Here’s the story of how their dream came to be a reality in partnership with Jim Spane and his team.
On Saturday, March 9th, Sunnyshore Studio celebrated the art and legacy of five of Washington’s “vintage” watercolorists. Enjoy this photo journey of the day we shared together.
As usual, Jenny Dorsey did a great job is hanging the show and creating a beautiful and hospitable space.
Saturday morning before the show was beautiful, sunny and still. The “calm before the show.”
A few artists and guest trickled in before noon. It was lots of fun to listen to 2019 Vintage artists Nancy Fulton and Jerry Stitt share stories with Dad.
Another highlight for me (Jason) was an old friend from Stanwood High School, Paris Rutledge stopped by in his limo. He owns a limo service based in Tacoma, and had stopped by Jack Gunter’s studio on Camano and then stoped at Sunnyshore to say hi. This was the first time we’ve had a limo at the Studio.
Things were pretty slow in the morning and early afternoon, but the really picked up a little bit before the reception which began at 3:00pm.
It got so slow that Jackie got a free art lesson from master Jerry Stitt! How cool is that.
Then all of a sudden the studio filled up and we ran out of parking!
It was wonderful to see the artists mingling with their fans, collectors, patrons, family members and friends.
I introduced the artists and shared some stories about them. Some of them, like Sandy and Nancy, I knew from 1992. Dad said a few words too.
All five of our 2018 vintage artists came back for the show. It was incredible to them all together under one roof. What talent, but also humility!
After the Gallery closed at 5:00pm, Jenny hosted dinner for the artists and their significant other. It was a special evening of feasting.
What an honor it is for us to celebrate these artists, to showcase their art, and to collect their stories for future generations!
If you are interested in seeing the 2019 Vintage show we will be open on Saturdays, March 16, 23 and 30, 10am-5pm. You are also welcome to call me, Jason Dorsey, to arrange for a viewing by appointment.
While our Vintage Watercolor show features watercolorists who are still working, each year we highlight one watercolorist who left a legacy of art in Washington. Last year we had a beautiful watercolor by Perry Acker, that was generously loaned to us by the Stanwood Historical society.
For our 2019 show we’re thrilled to announce that we are featuring Elizabeth Campbell Warhanik 1880-1968).
Here is a short introduction to Elizabeth from A Fluid Tradition, by David Martin, that tells the story of the first seventy-five years of the Northwest Watercolor Society.
Here’s the blurb:
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Moved to Seattle in 1907. Warhanik studied at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and earned a degree in classical literature. She studied painting with Charles Woodbury at Ogunquit, Maine. At the University of Washington, she studied with Walter Isaacs and Helen Rhodes, and privately with Paul Morgan Gustin and Edgar Forkner.
Warhanik was one of Seattle’s most prominent early artists. She worked in oil, watercolor, and printmaking. In addition to being a longtime member of the NWWS [Northwest Watercolor Society], Warhanik was one of the founders and the first president of Women Painters of Washington.
Based on her stature as a Washington artist alone, I’d be excited to have Warhanik in our 2019 Vintage show. But I’m thrilled because of a more personal connection. Here’s the story of how I stumbled upon her work.
On January 4th, Jenny and I spent an afternoon at Ed and Susan Nudelman’s home in Seattle. I know Ed and Susan, and their kids, from the five years I served as Assistant Pastor at Green Lake Presbyterian Church in Seattle (1997-2002).
Jenny and I had a great time catching up with them. We fed their specialty ducks, talked family, art and books.
Besides being a scientist and a dealer in rare books, Ed is a super gifted poet.
They showed us some of the paintings of Susan’s grandmother, Elizabeth Warhanik. It didn’t take long to realize that she was not only a very gifted artists, but a real player in Washington’s early art scene.
Not only was Elizabeth a gifted artist, but her daughter, Winnifred Clifton (1916-2006), Susan’s mother was too. I had met Winni during my time in Seattle.
I tried to refrain my excitement, and tried to calmly ask if possibly, by chance, just wondering, if they might consider… allowing us to show a painting of Elizabeth’s. They quickly and graciously said YES!
And that’s how I stumbled upon this and many other beautiful Warhanik paintings! How cool it that!
2019 Vintage Watercolorists of Washington
Opens Saturday, March 9, 10am-5pm
Meet the Artist Reception: Saturday, March 9, 3-5pm
Runs also on Saturdays March 16, 23, and 30, 10am-5pm
At Sunnyshore Studio: 2803 S.E. Camano Drive, Camano Island, WA
Featuring watercolors by artists: Jack Dorsey, Nancy Fulton, Cooper Hart, Seiko Konya, Sandy Langford and Jack Dorsey.
In partnership with the Northwest Watercolor Society.
I set the release date for the “We are Family” documentary for March 23, 2019. While work on the movie is progressing well, I have had to swallow my pride and accept the fact that I could deliver a finished movie on that that release date off. Here’s why.
THE SHEER AMOUNT OF WORK
Making a movie is a lot of work. There are a myriad of moving pieces – from video editing, to getting release forms for people we’ve interviewed, to lining up a venue, to communicating with our musicians.
For example, last week I spent time going through video footage providing feedback to David Lichty who is doing video production. There was 1 hour and 17 minutes of video footage that just covers the lead up to the 2013-2014 season.
The sheer amount of work, plus the fact that for both David and I this is not our full-time jobs and that we are both finding time to work on this labor of love in our off-work hours means that it just is taking longer than I hoped and planned.
COMPLICATIONS, COSTS AND DECISIONS
I shared in my February update that I had run into some complications and new costs that I had not anticipated. For example, to get permission to use Indiana High School Athletic Association video, we need to have Movie Insurance. I should be getting a bid on the cost of that shortly. I did not anticipate these complications and costs when I set March 23 as the release date for the movie.
We have a number of people who will be viewing the “uncut” version of the movie to provide technical, artistic, creative and factual feedback. Their feedback is valuable and necessary for us to make the best possible movie.
David Lichty, Tremayne Reed and I will be taking that feedback and cutting and crafting the final documentary. I don’t want to rush that important process of feedback so that we can make the best possible movie we can.
We also need to receive permission to use footage from both individuals and agencies, and so we when get the “uncut” and “final” versions wrapped up, this will be part of the process.
It is disappointing not to hit the March 23 target date. But there are good reasons to push that date back. My hope is that we will be able to have an exclusive screening of the movie in May. But no promise. I’ve learned my lesson.
Until that screening, you can be sure that I will be grinding away to tell this important story of an inner city basketball team that against all odds won the State Championship and inspired a city in doing so.
Jerry Stitt’s paintings captivate. They hover on the watercolor paper, even dance. In their presence you know that you are in the presence of a master. They touch you at a deep, emotional level.
Jerry Stitt was born to be an artist, but it took many years before he took the plunge. He grew up in Seattle on Queen Anne Hill. There was seven children in the family. Jerry had three brothers and three sisters. He was right in the middle. “We had a great life,” he says. As a youngster Jerry saw pictures in his head, and like a lot of children, he had to paint them; but we was really serious about painting, even from a young age.
The family lived a block away from the grade school. Jerry went to Queen Anne High School. He had to walk a mile and a half every day, and he was always late getting there. “That’s alright,” he remembers, “I enjoyed the walk all the way to the school because I’d see all these buildings and all kinds of stuff that I would want to paint and draw.”
Jerry remembers everything he’s seen since he was about six years old. He doesn’t need to look at anything to draw or paint it because he holds it in his memory. He recalls not just the images themselves but the emotions of those images too, say for example, a building in the snow or a road in the heat of summer. He remembers his dog named Prince who loved to go walking with Jerry: “He was a collie, a beautiful collie dog, and he would go everywhere with me.”
After high school Jerry worked a number of jobs, while going to art school when he could. “I did everything,” Jerry says. He was a stage hand for the Seattle Opera House for five years. He enjoyed that because he not only met a lot of celebrities from all over the world, but saw how the stage was created for a particular scene, like the cabin in Fiddler on the Roof. Without knowing it, he was picking up art and design skills. He drove a taxi cab for four years; two years during the day and two years during the night. “Believe me, there’s a difference,” Jerry notes.
He worked for the Parks Department of the City of Seattle for nine years, stationed at the Woodland Park Zoo. There he became a journeyman plumber after three and a half years of training. He spent a year and a half in the carpenter shop, learning how to build stuff. But his favorite was working in the paint shop for about four years. That’s what he loved. He painted all the life boats for the summer season, and did a lot of lettering. “That was a lot of fun work for me,” he states. He also painted many Park and City of Seattle buildings. One building stands out.
Jerry was sent to paint the Elephant House at the Zoo. He put the five-gallon buckets of paint and all his gear in his truck and drove to the Elephant House. He came to the field where the elephant was, and the great big tall building that he was to paint. And there in the field was the elephant, and a hippopotamus too. The hippo was a good distance away and looking at him. “He was facing me, and he’s a big animal.” Jerry recalls. Jerry felt comfortable with the distance between them, so he grabbed his paint buckets, set them down over the fence, and climbed over the fence. He started to carry the buckets over to the building when “the hippo came running full bore at me, and in between me and him was this pond. He leaped in the pond and he was so big and fat that he bounced out of the water. And he was coming out of the water and I grabbed those paint buckets just in time and got them over the fence, and I leaped over the fence just as he got there,” Jerry tells.
Jerry thought to himself, “what an aggressive animal.” The Hippo moved back to where he had started, so Jerry went back over the fence. He eyeballed the hippo and thought to himself, “Well, I have to paint this building” so he bravely set out. He says, “I put the paint buckets over the fence and here he comes again, barreling right at me.” This went on a couple of times. Finally, Jerry told one of the zoo keepers about the hippo attacking him and asked what he should do. Eventually they figured out that when the zoo keepers feed the hippos they use the same paint cans from the paint shop, filling them with lettuce and other food that the hippo ate. When Jerry had put his paint cans over the fence, the hippo thought it was dinner. That was just one adventure of many that Jerry had working at the zoo for those nine years.
Jerry married Sharon Hyde, whose had a son named Rick who would become a gifted artist himself. Jerry and Sharon had three kids of their own: Ronnie, Rhonda and Christian. They were together for about ten years. Jerry’s second marriage was to Deanne Lemley, who is an outstanding artist herself.
PATH INTO ART
Jerry was inspired to take the plunge into art by a painter on television, who moved his brush effortlessly across the page. He was twenty-seven. During these years of raising a family and working for the City, Jerry took art classes at night, because he worked during the day, and had a family. He loved going to classes at Cornish Art School and another college on Capital Hill. He studied under a great art teacher whose name was Fred Marshall. Fred was an illustrator for the Seattle Times newspaper for twenty five years. “He helped me a lot because he could that I was ahead of the other people in the class,” Jerry remembers. Jerry took a shine to watercolor right away. “Yeah, those were the good ole days,” he says.
Eventually Jerry decided art was what he wanted to do with his life. “It always came down to my art, that was what I wanted to do,” Jerry says. He knew he had to make a living at it. So he started teaching watercolor painting classes. He’d work his day job, then get a studio in the evening where he’d teach his classes; then it was back to work at the city job he had during the day.
Thankfully, art allowed for him to integrate work with his family. He was able to bring his oldest son along with him to art classes. They’d travel to art classes in different cities and out in the country. Jerry remembers that the country folk would sometimes trade him vegetables and other stuff they had made for tuition for his classes. They had a good time together, and his son learned a lot too. ”I taught him how to draw. He became a great painter,” Jerry says.
Jerry taught for the University of Washington for five years, and for the University of Puget Sound too. The University of Washington would send him on assignments to bring “culture to the outside world” as they put it. They sent him to all kinds of different places around Washington State, as well as Alaska and down to California. “I went everywhere, for a week at a time,” he says.
Jerry loved teaching. He did his my homework and knew what he was talking about, and how to put art lessons is simple, memorable phrases like this one: “art is like golf, the winner is the one with the fewest strokes.” He had an acute memory, had years of architecture and design under his belt, and had the magic of being able to pull off a sparkling, even stunning watercolor with a class of students looking on. He always did a demonstration painting in his watercolor classes. They inspired the students, and Jerry would get inspired in the moment too.
Jerry has studied with such masters as Fred Marshall (AWS), Rex Brandt, Robert E. Wood (AWS), Christopher Schink and John Ringen. Regarding John he says,“I learned so much from John. He was a great painter. And he had a great sense of humor. He was fun to be around.”
Perhaps Jerry was most impacted by the Russian artist, Sergei Bongart. “He was a genius painter, the best,” Jerry says. Sergei told his students the story of how he got out of Russia. He and a friend wanted so badly to get to the United States that they walked from their hometown in Russia 2,000 miles to the German border. He and his friend walked day and night 2,000 miles to get to the German border. They walked day and night, and had to remain hidden as best they could. They found farms to stay on and would dig potatoes for food. Finally Sergei came to the Russian-German border. At the gate stood a border guard. And down the road towards him came rumbling a Soviet Truck with some soldiers in it. Sergei knew they would apprehend him. But so determined to leave Russia and go to the United States he was that he risked his life. “I’d rather die than go back to Russia”, he thought. So he walked through the gate. He waited to get shot. His pace hastened as he went through; he kept waiting for the guard to cock the pistol and shoot him in the back. He walked faster and faster. Still he didn’t hear the clicking of the magazine. Sergei got into Germany, and somehow got on a freighter that brought him to the United States. He made his way from New York to Memphis, Tennessee.
“He was one of my all-time great painter teachers,” is the way Jerry concludes the story. Those who know Jerry’s art affirm that he has some of the genius painter in himself, just like Sergei Bongart his mentor.
JOYS AND STRUGGLES AS AN ARTIST
Jerry take art and painting very seriously. He just stayed with it, and he learned from everybody he could. Art can be a solitary vocation, but in it Jerry found camaraderie. He joined the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters, who had a reputation for high quality art above all else. They were great guys and gifted artists that he had looked up to. Jerry looked forward to all those meetings and soon became President of the group. “I was among all those other big guns,” he says.
Jerry had significant success in his art career. He became a signature member of the prestigious American Watercolor Society (AWS), based in New York, in a notable way. To become a member an artist has to enter only one painting in their once-a-year national show, and you have to get accepted into that AWS three years in a ten-year span. “Well I entered it three years, and got in every year,” Jerry says with well-deserved pride. Jerry became a signature member of AWS, and as a result can sign AWS after his name. “That was quite an honor,” he says.
Jerry is also a signature member of the National Watercolor Society (NWS) as well as many of the other big watercolor societies like the San Diego Watercolor Society, the Missouri Watercolor Society and the Northwest Watercolor Society, which he served in the past as president.
But art wasn’t all the easy street for Jerry. One of the things struggles that he faced was in dealing with galleries. “I went in with my eyes wide open, [assuming] that they’re all reputable, and honorable. Most of them were, but not all. They would sell your paintings, and the rent would be due the next day, and they would say, ‘we’ll catch up to you,’. I ended up paying the rent for their gallery to stay open and didn’t get paid,” Jerry recalls. As other artists have learned, galleries tend to take a pretty good commission, usually at least 33% of sales.
Still Jerry was very fortunate. People liked his paintings and he made a very good living. He was able to make a full-time living through his art. He got a studio with artist Bill Rees in Redmond. They shared that studio for eleven years. Jerry taught classes at his studio, and he and Bill painted there every day. While they painted they talked about the old times. Sometimes they would see would have friends from the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters stop by.
My dad, Jack Dorsey, who was a member of the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters, tells the story of how he stopped by their studio in Redmond around 1979. Dad had worked as a full-time artist for the past ten years (1969-1979). He told them that he had just taken a job at Boeing. He remembers Bill Rees saying, “too bad.”
The reason Jerry paints is that it’s an emotional thing. His watercolors are infused with emotion. “It’s just something you know how to do, it’s very easy, at least for me it was and is.” Jerry knows this is not the case for all students of watercolor. He remembers that he would get a lot of students in his classes and they would think that art is about getting every little detail right, and there wasn’t any emotional content in their work. Jerry would tell them to put their heart into it, to paint with feeling. “If you’re painting a trail or a road, and it’s horizontal, paint what it’s doing. Paint horizontally, with big brushstrokes. If it’s a building, paint vertically. If it’s a figure, give it a gesture. When you’re painting feel what you are painting. Get involved with it,” He says. Jerry knows that not everybody has that intuitive nature about them. They think painting is recreating a photograph. For Jerry, this is the wrong approach, “A painter, you’re emotionally involved with the painting. You feel everything you’re doing.”
Jerry has painted in all mediums. He started out in watercolor with Fred Marshall, and watercolor stuck. What was hard about mastering watercolor for Jerry is that you only have one shot at it. If you did a watercolor, and you had something in it that was wrong, and you tried to fix it, it would look like you fixed it. You have to “paint the thing like you own it”, Jerry says. “You have to get really involved with the painting. That’s the way I paint. I get so involved. I can feel everything I’m doing, whether it’s a dirt road or a shingle on a roof, or a gesture of a figure, whatever something is doing, that’s exactly the way I feel about it. Whatever I’m painting, I paint what it’s doing. And it paints itself. It just paints itself, if you paint what things are doing.”
Jerry has an impressive resume. His web page tells: “He was a United States Navy combat artist, has paintings in the Pentagon, in the private collections of King Gustav of Sweden and the King of Saudi Arabia. His work is in the collections of Alaska Airlines, J P Morgan Chase Bank, Boeing Company, and Foss Tug Company.”
Jerry doesn’t need to stand on his resume. His work speaks for itself. I have found Jerry Stitt originals and prints in many homes of artists and art lovers throughout the northwest. And when I do I always stop in awe and wonder, even enchantment, wondering how he did it. I have learned that for Jerry it is much more than a matter of technical skill, it is a matter of the heart! He paints with and through his emotions.You don’t have to be art critic to know, or maybe it would be better to say “to feel”, that in the presence of Jerry Stitt’s paintings, you have encountered
VINTAGE WATERCOLORISTS OF WASHINGTON SHOW
You can see Jerry’s paintings, and the paintings of five other vintage watercolor artists, at Sunnyshore Studio’s upcoming Vintage Watercolorists of Washington Show.
Opens Saturday, March 9, 2019m 10am-5pm
Meet the Artist Reception, Saturday, March 9, 3-5pm
Also Saturdays, March 16, 23 and 30, 10am-5pm
Sunnyshore Studio wants to thank the Jack Dorsey family for sponsoring the show, and the Northwest Watercolor Society for partnering with us in celebrating the life and legacy of vintage watercolorists of WA.
As a Presbyterian pastor I often speak of the spiritual meaning of grace, the unmerited gift of God for salvation. The word can also mean simple elegance or refinement of movement. Poise. Finesse. Courteousness. Artist Seiko Konya paints with, and embodies, that kind of grace.
Seiko was born in Tokyo, Japan just after WWII. She was the youngest of four siblings, and the only girl in the family. Her father worked as an English teacher in high school. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom.
Growing up in Japan in the 1950’s, Seiko remembers there were only things of basic necessity. She loved collecting things, and finding things, especially different kinds of papers. “My toy was collecting papers, and things like chewing gum wrappers, foil with the little zig zag cuttings. I loved that.” She collected doilies from pastries, washed them carefully and ironed them. She put these finds away in a box. And peaked sometimes at them. “That used to give me so much pleasure,” she says.
Her father first came to the U.S. for education in the 1920s. He helped start a number of Japanese schools in Southern California. Eventually there were ten schools that he and his friend started. At that time, many Japanese families would send their children to Japan to learn the language and the culture. But some could not afford this. These ten schools were started to help mainly those who could not afford to send their children to Japan for cultural education.
Her father graduated from a college in Pasadena, Calif in 1930s with a PhD in religious philosophy and moved back to Japan. In the 1950s when he retired from work, he was asked to come back to the United States to help run these schools. That’s how their family came to immigrate to the US.
Seiko’s two older brothers were almost adults at that time, so they opted to stay in Japan. So just her immediate older brother and her parents came to the US. She was ten at that time. “I was kind of an average kid in Japan, and no real talent in art or anything. But coming here, I didn’t speak a word of English.” She was only good at math and painting. The teachers in the public school she attended put her to work painting historical settings and murals for school events. And then in later years she did a lot of posters, anners for the school halls, and things like that that gave her some experience in painting with brushes.
Seiko attended Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles. The students were asked to pick a major. She selected math because that was the only thing she knew how to do. She also elected to take painting. And as it turned out Ms. Terasas was the head of the art department. She recommended that Seiko try out for this scholarship at Chouinard College of Art, a large art school that is now owned by Disney, in Los Angeles. The thing was, to try out for the art scholarship, you had to be an art major. Seiko asked her if there was a future in art for her. Ms. Terasas said that if she worked hard enough and graduated from college there would be something. So she changed her major from math to art and tried out for this scholarship. And to her surprise she got in. This is where her art journey started.
JOURNEY INTO ART
For two years while a student at Roosevelt, Seiko attended life drawing classes on Saturdays at Chouinard. That became the foundation for her journey into art.
After graduating from Roosevelt, she attended East Los Angeles College for two years. She received her BA in art from the University of California Irvine.
At that time her parents couldn’t afford for Seiko, a girl, to go to a private art school. But her older brother was going to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. She got to learn a lot from him and his friends who came to their house to do their homework. They gathered in the family’s big basement to do their projects. Seiko watched them work, and actually did her homework with them. She also went to their school to see what others students were doing, and look at the standard of their work. She tried to keep up with the artists there, knowing she would have to eventually compete with them for a job. It was important for her to really study what they were doing.
Her brother, Yoshiro, was a big help for her in jump starting her career as an artist. She remembers how he looked at her portfolio, and made her do this one illustration five times before he said that it was good enough. He also gave her a list of art studios around Los Angeles and Hollywood. Seiko had no idea what kind of art jobs there would be. But through watching her brother and his friends, and seeing their aspirations, she got the idea that maybe she could be an illustrator.
But she had to go out and get the jobs. And she did! She went around town to get interviews with all the art directors. They were so helpful and encouraging that before long she became a freelance illustrator. She also was lucky enough to get into this Adam’s Studio in Melrose. They provided her with a desk and art equipment, like lucy machines and stat machines. They had five reps who would take the portfolio of the illustrators there around, and they would provide her with work.
Thankfully, Seiko’s parents were open to her pursuing art as a career, just as her older brother had. Her father, especially, had a very open viewpoint. Her father had a former student of his who had had success as an artist. This student had visited the family, and shared about his life as an artist. But they did want her to make a career of it. And she did.
CAREER AS AN ILLUSTRATOR
Seiko worked as a freelance illustrator for a year and a half. She learned of a free-lance job with Mattel Toys. She went there to try to get the work. At the interview they gave her two Barbie dolls, and asked her to come up with two themes, illustrating the backgrounds and dressing two Barbie dolls. She didn’t know how to sew at the time, but figures she must have done OK because they offered her a permanent job. She figured it would be a good thing that she work eight hours a day, like “real grown-ups”, and that she would try it for a year. She says, “I went in and it was so much fun.” They put her on a team that worked on preliminary design, on the conceptual design side. They had to come up with the ideas. The team had model makers that designed the prototype, chemists and electricians, who “helped you with all the parts that you don’t know how to get done. It was just a fun place to work. It was just so creative and energetic that I stayed for five years,” she recalls.
In 1978 she married Kaz. After she had kids, Seiko went out and freelanced again for eight years in toy industry. She eventually went back, to Mattel. This time she went to the development side, which is after the concepts get approved by the upper management. They took the concept to production. As a Senior Staff Designer, Seiko worked with a whole team of people with engineers, marketing people, safety people and schedulers. She often got the high priority projects at Mattel. Many times she would end up taking a project to their Hong Kong office and production site in PRC just to expedite the production.
She began working on Barbies. Then she went into the larger dolls, like the baby dolls and then the small dolls. Almost all her work was doll related. She also did the accessories and things like that. At Mattel she got a really good picture of how you get a product done, the three-dimensional execution of products.
Reflecting on her time at Mattel Seiko says, “It was so exciting to me to work with other people who are professionals, who are good at what they are doing. It made me try to do my best. I found it very fun and creative to do that.”
MOVE TO SEATTLE
While she was at Mattel, she began to hear rumblings that McDonald Douglas, where her husband worked, was merging with Boeing in the Seattle area. They had to decide whose career they were going to follow. Seiko said, “Seattle sounds pretty good.” She was curious to move up to Seattle. They decided to do the Boeing thing. Their son, Craig, was in junior high. The move was not too bad for him. But their older daughter, Christine, was a senior in High School; it was heartbreaking to have to bring her up to Seattle. “She was a real trooper”, Seiko recalls. Christine said, “I’ll do it. But let me go down and see my friends.” Christine went to California to visit her friends, and her friends came to Seattle to visit her. This made the move bearable.
A headhunter called Seiko and asked her if she would be interested in working at a small manufacturing company. She thought, Why not? She worked as the Creative Art Director there. She helped bring in the Disney and Warner Brothers license into the company, and started a whole line of dolls. She understood the process – and the business – really well since she worked at Mattel as a preliminary design all the way up to production side. And it was interesting work for her. “I think I was, you know, right place at the right time and it worked for me there,” she says.
She also taught industrial design at the Art Institute of Seattle for a couple of years. Seiko’s career path is marked by hard work and creative energy. Her launch into watercolor, on the other hand, happened in a more surprising and spontaneous way.
FIRST STEP INTO WATERCOLOR
One freezing day, she walked into the Mercer Island Community Center. There was a hall full of floral watercolor paintings by artist Genny Rees, “beautiful, beautiful paintings,” Seiko remembers. “And I went through them. And it just felt so warm looking at those paintings, [they] just warmed me up. You felt the Spring had come, and seeing that, I thought ‘I’m going to do this.’ I’m going to get into watercolor.” Seiko had always liked watercolor. But then and there she decided that this will be my step into next journey. She thought, “I’m going to really do it.” Inspired by Genny, Seiko quit her job. She signed up for a Joan Frey watercolor class. She was fifty-five.
Up to this time she had always liked watercolor but thought it was too difficult to get into watercolor. But when she saw Genny’s painting she just thought, I’m going to take that challenge and do it.
Recently Seiko traveled to Maine and visited Winslow Homer’s studio and home, in Prouts Nest.
She also traveled to Cushings, Maine, where Andrew Wyeth spent many years sketching and painting at Christina Olson’s home. She admires these two artists and their watercolors so much.
Homer often used chromatic contrasts, like the blacks and reds, and orange and blues, to achieve his dramatic powerful paintings. His paintings are “astonishing” to Seiko. “It’s just pure colors that gets you that amazing, strong, powerful painting.”
“On the other hand, Wyeth, his aesthetics was very quiet and subtle. He has, simplicity. Kind of a subtle grace. Kind of an understated beauty. And that resonated with me,” Seiko says.
She has taken a few workshops here and there: with Nancy Stonington, Thomas Sheller, Ted Nuttle, to name a few. But she tends not to take too many. She’s kind of stubborn in this way; she’d rather work her own problems out and find her own voice in paintings.
When Seiko self-assesses her voice in watercolor, she thinks that she still is too “tight with my watercolor.” She says, “Watercolor allows you to be so loose with your watercolor. And let the freedom of the water just ooze out. But my technique is very tight, very controlling. I’m hoping to get better about that. I’m hoping to loosen up and to be a little more dynamic about my paintings.” Seiko’s precision may have its roots to when she was younger as an illustrator, working on illustrations for magazines, album covers, billboards and things like that. Those were tightly rendered illustrations. She finds it hard to loosen up and let the accidents happen.
What she does so well, so gracefully, is people: their bodies, their faces, their emotions. This is where Seiko’s acute sensitivity comes out, and too her years of high school life drawing classes.
Because she was inspired by Genny, Seiko started out with floral paintings. The first portrait that she painted was of her husband, Kaz. She was a part of Eastside Fine Arts Association at that time. They had a show, and she put in that portrait of her husband and won an award for that. Since then she went into more portrait and figurative paintings.
In portrait and figurative paintings she found her voice! “Every detail, every slight expression, the change of the facial muscle, and the tilt of the head, everything shows up as a kind of an emotion. So it’s very sensitive. I like being that sensitive about a figure. That way, the sensitivity that I have can come out in my paintings.”
Seiko tries to live art. This includes the details: how she places everything around the house needs to balance. It drives Kaz crazy because she will take things around the house and rearrange them. When she cooks, she places the plate in certain ways that it accents its color. She plays around with the layout and colors of plates a lot. It makes the food look good even though she claims not to be a good cook, and that “it’s not that good that often.” Still it makes it look delicious. “I do things like that that automatically, I think as an artist, you kind of bring art to whatever you do.”
To grow as an artist, Seiko doesn’t do well in workshops so much, but she does read a lot of books of artists she admires. Recently she read through Mary Whyte’s books. “She’s really something. I just admire her. I went to Charleston to see some of her original art. She moved from the northern states to the south to be with her subjects, to live with the people that she paints. I admire that of her,” Seiko comment.
In discovering your voice as an artist, Seiko believe you have to discover what you have a passion for. For her, because she’s from Japan, she loves learning about Japanese culture. Even though she has been submerged in it because of her parents being so Japanese, there’s still a lot more that she would love to learn and incorporate all that in my paintings.
Watercolor is for her now her life. It’s part of her existence. She paints every day, and with a group of artists on Mondays. She visits lots of galleries. And she is excited to continue to grow as a watercolor artist.
She loves the challenge of mastering one of the hardest art mediums. She challenges herself to get better at the craft. She knows she has a long journey still ahead, and a lot to learn. But she says, “It’s small steps at a time. You take one step at a time.” She hopes to get to a point where she can say, “Oh, I’m really happy with this painting. Or I’m excited about my paintings.”
You can be sure that Seiko will walk that path ahead with the same grace that she has walked the path behind her.
2019 Vintage Watercolorists of Washington Show
To see Seiko Konya’s beautiful watercolors, visit Sunnyshore Studio’s 2019 Vintage Watercolorists of Washington Show. The show takes place on four Saturdays, March: 9, 16, 23 and 30, from 10am-5pm.
A meet-the-artist reception will take place on Saturday, March 9th, 3-5pm.
Sunnyshore Studio: 2803 SE Camano Drive, Camano Island, WA
Sandy Langford grew up on Queen Anne Hill, Seattle. Her early inspiration for painting was her sister who was six years older than Sandy. Sandy would watch over her shoulder as she drew horses. I would say, “wow, that looks like fun.” Sandy believes that she fell in love with art not because she herself was especially gifted in art, but because of her sister’s artistic gift.
Her parents encouraged her in art in an indirect way too, through their support of her siblings proclivities. Wanting to encourage Sandy’s older sister in her artistic development, the family toured the Seattle Art Museum many a Sunday. Wanting to encourage Sandy’s older brother in his engineering bent, every summer when they drove to California they stopped at all the bridges along the way, taking pictures of them. Sandy laughs and says, “by the time I came along, they were done.” Still these early immersions in art and man-made objects against the backdrop of nature, undoubtedly registered in Sandy’s heart and mind.
As Sandy found her own way, she took as much art as I could take at school. At Queen Anne High School, her art teacher, Ms. Sears, was very strong on rules. She taught her students how to stretch the paper on a board, wet it, then wait a day for it to dry. Sandy remember, “then you had one shot at getting the sky right. Otherwise you started over again.” In later years, when Sandy found Arches watercolor paper it opened up new possibilities. Unlike the thin watercolor paper they used in art class, it was so hardy. If you didn’t like one area, you could scrub it out with a toothbrush. If you wanted to change a painting you could soak it in the bathtub. “It’s so tough and versatile,” Sandy comments. Under Ms. Sears tutelage, the restrictions of watercolor were emphasized, not it’s freedom. Sandy would discover that later.
After high school, Sandy attended Seattle Pacific College for two years. They didn’t have much art school at the time. So she transferred to the University of Washington where she graduated with a degree in art. She enjoyed the variety of art classes she took there, even though she didn’t click with the political bent of one of her teachers. She took some watercolor classes there; she loved the wood class, and working with throwing clay pots on the wheel, and taking sculpture from George Tsutakawa. For Sandy it was a real neat all-around experience.
Even though she majored in art, Sandy did not aspire to make a living through art. For Sandy, art was more something that she wanted to have as a part of her whole life through. Perhaps in the back of her mind she may have figured that she would get married, and wouldn’t have to make a living through art. She did meet a young man, an engineer named Fred. They got married and made their home in Redmond, WA. There Sandy settled in as a housewife, and soon mom of their two daughters which has now grown to two awesome son-in-laws and three grandsons.
PATH INTO ART
Sandy’s path into watercolor is through community. As a mom, she was busy raising her kids. While she dabbled in stained glass and pottery, but they were only hobbies; her energies were given to her family. As her children left home, she could have become lonely and aimless. But she didn’t for this is when her passion for art was rekindled.
Sandy was forty-seven, when she signed up for a class from Jeanne Marie Price in Bellevue. Jeanne was good at teaching adults because they’re restricted and scared, in contrast to kids who are so free and will fill the whole page with color. Sandy had a positive experience with her. Not only did she teach her students how to paint watercolor a freer way, but in a very short time she helped them display and sell their art in Bellevue at the senior center. At the first sale, Sandy sold three out of five paintings. She said to herself, “I want to do this the rest of my life.” Sandy isn’t sure if the turning point for her was that someone else liked her work, or that she just loved doing it. She does know that from that point on, she painted every moment she could. It was her passion. “I would get up in the morning and before I ate breakfast, or got dressed, I was painting,” she reflects. “I want that passion again. But life gets in the way.”
One friend that Sandy made in that first class was Sonja Ravet. Sandy and Sonja were really good at mentoring each other. At the time, they were both painting flowers. But they did them very differently. Sonja went on to teach art classes herself. Sandy did teach one class, but it was a long way north, and she didn’t get home till 11pm at night, exhausted. She realized that teaching isn’t her thing; she’s better with one on one friendships or smaller communities. Sandy’s passion for art was rekindled in community, and it was nourished by the rich artistic community in the Puget Sound region.
COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS
Sandy’s story is woven into the threads of the incredibly rich watercolor community in Washington. She’s taken classes from artists outside the Puget Sound region, like Gerald Brommer, who is from Carmel, CA. Sandy liked his work and when she met him she was thrilled that his personality matched his art. But for the most part, her instructors and artistic friends read like a veritable Who’s Who of Washington watercolorists.
Sandy likes to take classes from people whose artwork she loves. She’s taken a couple of classes in Coupeville. One of those was taught by Glen Oberg. Sandy remembers the class had a great time painting outside every day and that it was packed with really good artists: John Ringen, himself a watercolor legend and a lifelong friend of Glen; Marty Rogers who became a beloved friend of Sandy; and Nancy Fulton, Glen Oberg’s cousin.
She took a week-long class taught by Jerry Stitt on Camano Island. This was amazing for her because as a child, from 6 months to 18 years, her family came to Camano every August for one or two weeks at Madrona Beach Resort on the West side of the Island. At the end of the holiday, when the kids piled into the back seat to go home to Seattle, there would be a tear in Sandy’s eyes. So the class tied together two of Sandy’s loves: for painting and Camano. The class painted at many of the same places Sandy remembered as a child. In that class, Sandy also met April Nelson, daughter of northwest artist Jack Dorsey, and she became a precious art friend.
A number of art communities have nourished Sandy in her art journey. Sandy got involved in Art League North. They met at the Fire Station Mount Vernon. After the official meeting they would go out to lunch afterwards. This is where her friendship with Marty Rogers deepened. Marty’s husband Earl Jorgensen was a part of that group. So were Glen Oberg and Nancy Fulton. She remembers “magic moments” painting plein air with them. That was her first artist group.
Sandy also was also part of a wonderful critique group with Betty Dorotik. Members of this group grew together, ate together, and enjoyed each other’s company. All Bellevue gals, they now live on Camano Island, Whidbey Island, Idaho, and Montana, with one, Pia Messina, passing on. She remembers those as being “rich times.”
Another small community is a couple of friends who have been painting weekly for over twenty years. Sandy and Genny Rees began painting on Mercer Island in the late 1990’s. When the first building that they met in got torn down, they moved to the community center. Sandy says that she and Genny had become so close that they were going to meet or else. A few years later Seiko Konya come along. Sandy remembers that Seiko was obviously gifted with painting, but was kind of struggling with painting flowers and backgrounds. “And then she subtly did this little portrait and our mouths just dropped open,” Sandy remembers. “The portraits are so easy for her to do. Particularly if she does family.” Sandy and Genny encouraged her to try for a show. Seiko entered a painting of a violinist in the Northwest Watercolor Society show. So the first time of trying, Seiko got in the show, got an award, and sold the painting. Seiko was off and running.
Like Seiko, Sandy has been encouraged by the community of artists. Being in this community is very humbling for her because she sees their paintings, and aspires to paint like that. But Sandy realizes that each artist comes with their own inward voice, a style that will be their painting voice. It’s going to be different for every person. “I can’t paint like Seiko. I can’t do those portraits,” she points out. But she feels very lucky about the friendships that she’s made through art. So much of her artistic journey has been about the friendships she’s made and being around artists outside of just painting. “There’s something very common in all of us,” Sandy says, “we love the beauty around us, we have much in common in how we see life and what’s really important to you. We’re not really money grabbers. If we had to pay to paint, we would do that.
JOYS AND STRUGGLES OF ART
For Sandy, the joys came so much at first. “You were taking a while piece of paper, and then there’s a flower (painted on it) and I was thinking, ‘Boy, I’m pretty good.’ She continues, “You start out by being amazed at what you can do. And the longer you are at it, the more you ask of yourself, the harder it becomes. I would want to be painting better at this time than I am.” Sandy points out that though artists usually paint alone, “We can’t live as a recluse. We’ve got to be engaged in life to be painting life.” So while Sandy doesn’t like to be interrupted when she’s painting, she knows that’s unrealistic when you have children and grandchildren.
Sandy has set up a small studio in their home, just off the dining room. It’s part of the house, not an isolated room. The studio has windows on two sides, and so has wonderful light. Sandy has finally gotten shades for the windows so that she can close it off at night, keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Sandy’s studio – a designated place to paint next to the kitchen/dining room, the hub of the home – ties together two of her passions: her people and her painting. But how to hold the two together is a conundrum for Sandy.
Sandy loves how with watercolor you can be painting and your brush runs through a a little puddle of water and the paint color just – woosh – magically and spontaneously color the clear water and spread over the paper. She is fascinated by how you can paint layer upon layer of watercolor, letting the transparent colors build on each other.
When Sandy paints flowers she would put in a wash of a little yellow, then red. From the outset the painting had a glow and this became a kind of trademark. Her friends would walk into a gallery and see a painting and know it was her work before they saw her name on the painting. Sandy remembers being struck by how you can erase the pencil marks from watercolor paper after you paint on it. She likes Arches Watercolor paper, and is loyal to Windsor Newton paints. She enjoys how it takes very little for an artist to go off to class or paint with friends: “When I go off to class I have to have paper, paints and brushes. That’s it. It’s pretty simple.”
She also knows that watercolor is not easy. You have to keep yourself going, keep growing, keep learning. There’s always the danger of getting the painting to tight. You have to know when to walk away from a painting and try a new subject matter. You need to know when to push yourself and try something uncomfortable, or meet a new teacher along the way. For example, she’ll take a class from Eric Weigart, when she has to “loosen up” her paintings.
Watercolor is a challenging medium. But less challenging when the artist is walking with the encouragement and wisdom of the community of artists.
LESSONS ALONG THE WAY
A wise old artist, Chuck Webster, once told Sandy that she would have to do her painting by herself. “That’s where you’re going to do your successful painting,” he said. Then added, “make sure once a week you’re in community.” Sandy has taken his guidance seriously. She paints in her studio and each week tries to connect with other artists on a weekly basis, whether through a class or the small communities of artists she is involved in.
She took one class from Gerald Brommer on integrating collage and acrylic in a more abstract way. She remembers that he was a phenomenal teacher, but was actually more impressed by the fact that even though he was in his 70’s, had recently had a hip replacement, and was jurying the Northwest Watercolor Society show, and was out every night, he was still so energetic. Sandy asked herself, “where did he get his energy?” And she concluded, “from painting.”
Many of the lessons we learn in the context of community is not so much what people say, but it is how people live.
When asked about her legacy, Sandy is very humble. She hopes her family enjoys her paintings. She laughs and says her art legacy is very simple: “just anything other than they used the painting in the birdcage.” She would like to hear from the grandchild saying, “I loved it when she painted me playing baseball.” She adds that when an artist gets rid of a piece of work, we don’t know if it’s treasured. “Every once-in-a-while I’ll hear from a person who bought a painting long ago and they’ll say, ‘Oh we love our painting.’” That means a lot to her.
Sandy remembers how once a lady came into the “Art Barn” hosted by Art League North at the Tulip Festival. She wanted Sandy to match her bedspread, and the painting was going to go over the bed. Sandy chuckles and points out that “It was a nightmare…you don’t want that.” But still she did it. And it was worth it! This woman and her husband have since bought 6 paintings. They have visited Sandy and Fred, and send Christmas cards every year. They have become part of Sandy’s artistic community too!
Sandy is just satisfied “If she’s given any joy along the way.”
This article has been especially fun since I got to know Sandy all the way back in 1992-1993. Jenny and I were married in June of 1992. We spent the following year living on Camano Island where I served a one year pastoral internship at Camano Chapel. During this time I got involved in a watercolor class that was taught at the senior center on Camano Island through Skagit Valley College. Part way through the year our teacher left, and I assumed the role of teaching the class in her place. One of the students was Nancy Axell, who was featured in our 2018 Vintage Show. Another was Sandy Langford who is, of course, in the 2019 show. This was a very fruitful year of painting for me. I entered a number of national and international shows and got accepted in many, and even won a few prizes. At that time I even considered going into art as a career. In the end, I decided to put my paintbrushes away and finished up my seminary studies and went into full-time ministry. What a joy it has been, in returning to Washington State, and living in Redmond, to reconnect with Sandy and to be neighbors. And what a joy it is to feature her beautiful artwork in our Vintage show.
Author: Jason Dorsey
2019 VINTAGE WATERCOLORISTS OF WASHINGTON
Saturdays, March 9, 16, 23 and 30, 10am-5pm
Artist Reception: March 9, 3-5pm
At Sunnyshore Studio: 2803 SE Camano Drive, Camano Island, WA
Last Thursday Jenny drove down to Salem, OR to be with her Dad as he went in for cataract surgery. The surgery was successful. Jenny was able to be a calm, encouraging presence for her parents.
She was also able to make a trip to Your Town Press where I Remember Running Through the Woods was printed.
1,000 books all boxed up waited on a cart to be taken home.
With the help of her sister, who brought her van to help haul books, Jenny was able to get them all loaded up!
Wow! That’s a lot of books.
And while they’re not perfect, we’re super happy with how they came out and with the story they tell!
We’re planning a big Release Party on Saturday, March 9th, at the opening of the Vintage Watercolor show at Sunnyshore Studio. There are a number of book signing events in the works, and we’re hoping to roll out a more official “release” on this site.
But if you’re interested in getting the book in advance of these events, it is for sale on our Store on this site.