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Sunnyshore Studio Celebrates Watercolor in Washington

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.

Meet Vintage Watercolorist Sandy Langford: Artist in Community

BEGINNINGS

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. 

ON WATERCOLOR

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. 

LEGACY

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.” 

EPILOGUE

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

Lineup of artists for “Christmas in Miniature” show

We have a wonderful lineup of artists for our Christmas in Miniature show that opens on Saturday, December 1st, 10am-5pm. You won’t want to miss our “meet the artist” reception from 3:00-5:00 on the 1st. You’ll recognize some “big name” artists in the northwest as well as some emerging artists.

Each artist was told that they must keep their paintings to no more than 12” by 16”, or 160 square inches. You’ll be delighted to view their original small and affordable paintings.

Here’s the lineup:

Lydia Crouch

Lydia

Lydia Crouch is most often referred to as “the one who paints the dresses,” as her heart toward the emotional recovery of human trafficking victims is a passion that comes through in her work.  She also loves painting simple moments from her world at home on Camano Island.  She is married to Rich Crouch and has two grown children.  She more than grateful to be adopted into Dorsey Studios where she paints live on Thursdays at the Gallery in Camano Commons.

Ann Cory 

Ann Cory

Ann Cory is the granddaughter of nationally famous illustrator/cartoonist/artist Fanny Y. Cory. She is the wife of Northwest artist, Jack Dorsey, and the mother of artists Jason Dorsey, April Nelson, and Jed Dorsey.  She has been a on again, off again artist throughout her adult life during her life seasons.  Now, after a bout with cancer in 2015, she is on again and enjoying it very much.

 

Marilyn Crandall

Marilyn

As a plein-air watercolorist, Marilyn Crandall‘s free and loose strokes uniquely capture landscape images and country scenes with an emphasis on strong patterns of light and dark.

This artist grew up in several western states as her engineer dad worked on the large hydroelectric dam projects from Arizona to Oregon, California to Washington, Utah to Montana.   She graduated with honors from Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City where she majored in Environmental Design.  Prior to that she attended the University of Washington, College of Architecture, where she was introduced to watercoloring as a way to render her designs.   Her profession has been as a registered architect; her passion is watercolor.

She feels privileged to have taken workshops with Eric Weigardt, Tony Van Hasselt, Kathy Collins, and Diane Hill, among others. All have been mentors. She is a member of the Washington Watercolor Society, the Roaming Artists, and CAA, Camano Arts Association.

She has painted abroad in Guatemala, China, Korea and Mexico as well as in the USA in Maine, Virginia, Georgia, Washington DC and now can paint the coastal scenes and rural landscapes of Washington State, particularly the amazing Salish Sea area.

Betty Dorotik

Betty Dorotik

“My love of birds greatly influences my works either on canvas, paper, or wood. Nature is my resource and is abundant outside my window or door, always pausing me to watch and observe and apply. “ bettydorotik.com

 

Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey - Color

Jack Dorsey is a lifelong resident of Washington State and is a graduate of Seattle Pacific College.  He has to his credit two one-man shows at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle and a one-man show in Tokyo, Japan.  Jack Dorsey’s art has been collected by the Frye Art Museum and the LaConner Historical Museum along with numerous corporations and private collectors throughout the U.S.A. and internationally.

Jack Dorsey  is a former president of the Northwest Watercolor Society and a past member of the Puget Sound Group of Painters.  Currently he is a life member of the Northwest Watercolor Society and an associate member of Oil Painters of North America.

Jack Dorsey’s emergence back into the art world came in 1997 after retirement from the Boeing Company after sixteen years as a production illustrator in Everett.  In the past few years collectors started to find Jack Dorsey’s fine art during the annual Mother’s Day Studio Tour on Camano Island where he makes his home.  Jack Dorsey is known for his watercolors which can be described as impressionistic realism.

It is interesting to note that all of Jack’s family are artists also.  His wife, Ann Cory paints in acrylics; the youngest son, Jed Dorsey paints in acrylics and oils; while April and Jason Dorsey have achieved painting success also.

As a long established Northwest artist, Jack Dorsey cordially invites inquiries and visits to his home if anyone is interested in collecting his fine art.

 

Jacqueline Dorsey

Jackie Dorsey

Jacqueline was born in Seattle, Washington in March of 2002. She grew up in Indiana and loved exploring the beauty of the Midwest and the Northwest as a child.

Jackie always enjoyed doing and watching family members do art. She decided she wanted to learn how to do watercolor and joined the Dorsey Art Show at The Harrison Gallery in Indianapolis. She sold her first painting, and soon after that, was asked to do her first commission. Jackie has been painting and learning ever since, showcasing a few paintings at the Mother’s day shows here on Camano each year.

She is currently taking a watercolor class as a Running Start Student at Bellevue College. Along with her family, she has been working on creating an extension of the Sunnyshore Studio by building a tiny house. The tiny house will serve as a place to create, showcase her art as well as others, will serve as her own place to spend time with the people she loves, and as a place to share the beauty of Camano with the world. Jackie is also partnering with her dad, Jason Dorsey, on a two year project, Discover Beautiful Camano Island, to aid in the creation of a book, documentary, and art show.

 

Jason Dorsey

DSC_4735 (2)

Jason Dorsey a pastor of Redeemer, a Presbyterian church in Redmond, WA. On the side, he is the Artistic Director of Sunnyshore Studio, serves as president of the Camano Arts Association, and chairs the Stanwood-Camano Arts Advocacy Commission. Jason grew up in a family of artists and enjoys teaming up with them now in the “family business”. As a watercolor artist, Jason enjoys integrating watercolor and writing in books.

Jed Dorsey

Jed Dorsey (1)

Award winning artist Jed Dorsey is known for his radiant acrylic landscapes. He uses bold colors and strong design to portray his vision of the world. His work has been featured on the HGTV show Good Bones, included in museum collections, and can be found in homes and businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada.  Jed grew up on Camano Island and is happy to be living in the area after many years away. You can find him painting and teaching at Dorsey Fine Art Studio located at Camano Commons on the island. www.jeddorseyart.com

John Ebner

best J. Ebner - Feb 2018 (6)

John Ebner began a unique, life long journey of discovery while growing up on his family’s farm in Sublimity, Oregon. His enthusiasm for life and never ending curiosity were energized through freedom on the farm and the adventures with three brothers, one sister and loving parents. Little did he realize that one day he would give artistic expression to all he was discovering and more.

In the seventh grade, John submitted a collection of his drawings of birds and flowers to his grade school teacher and was surprised his work received so much praise. He continued drawing and painting and eventually enrolled in art school. As an adult and needing to earn a living. John was engaged as a manufacturer’s representative, covering the Northwest and continued to explore painting in his spare time.

With his love of art and his creative spirit, John’s path of discovery took an interesting turn. What once was a hobby turned into a passionate dedication and his talent flourished. Continuing to support his family he began developing his artistic skills, produced an assortment of paintings and delivered them to a local gallery. To his surprise, the gallery contacted him a short time later saying all paintings have been sold and requested he create more. Further sales and requests brought John the realization he just might be able to support his family by painting full time and presented the idea to Paula. She wholeheartedly agreed and from that point forward he devoted his life entirely to his art.

The next step in John’s journey of discovery answered that question and served as a critical turn in the road. From the beginning of their marriage, John’s wife Paula, had served as his main source of encouragement and inspiration. Perhaps sensing that John was ready for a major change, she signed his up for a watercolor course, leading to his dramatic transformation.

Over the next few years John’s popularity grew, the demand for his paintings increased and he is now considered on of the Pacific Northwest’s most admired and collected artists.

Many of the captivating qualities of John’s work are apparent. His life-long love of the Pacific Northwest is revealed through the countless compelling vistas he has captured. His curiosity always drawing him to the next step, newest technique and desire to see beyond the obvious. Although reluctant to define his own work, preferring that it speak for itself, he admits that the magic of water has served as an element continually engaging his imagination. He frequently returns to explore the serenity and essence of waterfalls, rivers, seascapes, and beaches that invite him to look beyond the mist. His unique and recognizable motif of rain People huddled under umbrellas, strolling on an ocean beach or lingering on a city street add a timeless and etherial dimension to his work.

John’s artistic journey continues as he experiments and explores new forms, subjects and techniques. He is forever grateful for the many emotional rewards his art provides him as well as the gratification and joy voiced by others who see or own his work. Ever humble, ever curious, John is still looking to discover what lies on the other side of the mountain or beyond the mist.

John is a past president of the Northwest Watercolor Society and a life member of the Puget sound group of Northwest Artists.

Laurie Laun

Laurie 2

Born in Michigan in 1946, Laurie has practiced art throughout her life, including early study at the Chicago Art Institute.  While raising her family and earning several college degrees including an MBA, she served for many years as an executive in high tech companies.  In her travels to over 30 countries Laurie has become informed by many artistic cultures: she mastered batik in Java, aboriginal dot painting in Australia,

mulberry paper-making in Fiji, wood engraving and block printing in Singapore and haiku poetry in Japan.  She lives on beautiful Camano Island.

Amy Martin

Amy Martin

Amy Martin is a graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Creative Writing and a minor in Painting.  Her eclectic oil and acrylic paintings are inspired by the beauty all around her­­–the color of coffee in a cup, a blooming poppy, the angular white of a ski slope, or an airplane swooping to land on a river.  Amy’s former professions include Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot and Boeing Change Specialist which fuel her passion for aviation and birds-eye-view paintings. Currently, she lives and works from her home studio on Camano Island in Washington where she shows annually in the juried Camano Arts Association Studio Tour. She is enrolled in Goddard College’s MFA Creative Writing Program and is working on a book length flight memoir.  She can be found on FB @juniperbeachstudio and Instagram at Amy_martin_artist.

April Nelson

April Nelson

April enjoys sharing the natural beauty of the world through art. Whether she is capturing the rich colors of dusk on a slough in the Skagit Valley or the thundering rise of a flock of snow geese, creating art is about seeing and thinking together. She appreciates the beautiful world that God created and she hopes that her art will communicate this to the viewer.

 

John Ringen

John Ringen

John was President of NWWS in 1964–1965, and has fifty years of impressive credentials; teaching numerous classes and workshops at college and adult levels, commercial illustrating, and judging a variety of festivals, exhibitions and open shows primarily throughout the Northwest. He has an enviable list of exhibition awards.

John and his wife of 43 years, Vicky, spend half their time each year in their motor home traveling to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and up and down the coast, visiting some of the finer wineries (he has quite a fine collection of wine). When home, he paints every day; at least 4 hours or more in his fantastic studio/gallery which is separate from his house. That way he “doesn’t have to clean up all the time.”

John attended the University of Washington on an athletic scholarship though he “wasn’t much for athletics.” After marrying Vicky, he joined Boeing when children came into their world. His strong inspiration to pursue art was fueled by two things: the only thing he ever got an A on in school was art, and his uncle, a commercial artist, always supplied him with whatever art materials he needed.

John works on up to fourteen paintings at once. He loves to paint anything that has to do with Northwest scenery and landscapes. His loose, impressionistic painting style has earned him frequent accolades and awards.

Regarding himself as an artist who records his visual impressions and feelings, he is a “reaction painter.” John enthusiastically proclaims that there is nothing quite as exciting, challenging and rewarding as attacking a crisp white sheet of watercolor paper.

Melanie Serroels

Melanie Serroels

Melanie started in watercolor during the last year of High School. She took workshops with collected Pacific Northwest Artist Charles Mulvey during college, and then when time permitted then took workshops with Robert Landry. Jack Dorsey & Thomas William Jones, Dianna Shyne and also Jed Dorsey. Melanie paints with both watercolors and acrylics.  She is a member of the NW Watercolor Society.  Since the first arriving on Camano Island in 2004 she has been a member of two local art groups, Camano Arts Association and the Stanwood Camano Art Guild. Currently, she volunteers several hours per week for the Camano Arts Association doing administrative work for CAA’s 80+ Members. Her camera is full of paintings ideas.  Her painting representative style reflects the calm water and scenery of the Pacific Northwest.  The views from her waterfront home and the constantly changing atmosphere outside keep her in painting mode until something distracts her.  Melanie is often caught between volunteering and finding time to pursue her painting

Being avid volunteers both Melanie and Randy like being involved in their community. Here are some of her volunteer and art related activities and accomplishments: Stanwood Camano Art Guild/SCAF Road Banner Project and Auctions; Stanwood Camano Arts Spring Show – First Place Award; Snow Goose Poster Winner in 2006; Snow Goose Festival Committee Volunteer – Snow Goose Festival Family Activities Program and Bird Art Show at Four Springs House and Lake Preserve; Stanwood Chamber of Commerce Office – Volunteer and Art walk; Gallery and Gallery Shows – Seagrass on Camano; Stanwood Camano Art Guild – Art In Public Places; Five Camano Arts Association Studio Tours; Camano Community Center Gala Auction Volunteer.

Travel, visiting friends and family, and spending time with her 3 young Grandchildren fill in her calendar. Trips to Las Vegas, Victoria BC, Disneyland, International Kite Festival and a 2,250 mile road trip down the West Coast inspired her minds eye this year. Trips to Alaska and Disneyland with her youngest granddaughter are already booked for 2019.

The Christmas in Miniature show opens on Saturday, December 1st. It runs through Saturday, December 8th. Sunnyshore Studio will be open both Saturdays 10:00am-5:00pm.

Christmas Poster 2018

 

 

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!

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. 

 

John Ringen: Vintage Watercolorist of Washington

John Ringen is one of the artists in Sunnyshore Studio’s Vintage Watercolorists of Washington inaugural show taking place in March 2018. Discover his story here.

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“The greatest gift of all is to not be able to do anything else well.”
John Ringen

High school academics were not John Ringen’s forte. In fact, if he had not been so talented athletically, his story may have turned out very differently. Despite his early struggles, John Ringen’s greatest contribution to Washington state art may have been as a teacher. It is quite certain that the thousands of students whose lives he touched and artists he’s influenced are thankful he found his place.

Born in Everett, WA on July 4, 1928, the eldest son of Ingvar and Elsie Ringen. Ingvar and his brother, Hjalmar, immigrated from Norway in 1905 with their parents. John’s father worked as train engineer and was often gone, leaving his mother to corral their two sons. Elsie was a gifted musician and writer, but it was John’s uncle who influenced his passion for art. Hjalmar was a very talented artist and made a good living as one of the first commercial artists in Everett. “He was my inspiration,” John says.

Despite struggling in other grade school classes, John found his place in the art room. “I found that I wasn’t interested in much else [than art]. I didn’t know I was interested in art. So I took an art program. They were looking for someone that was incapable of paying attention. I would be sent to the art room. I loved it there. I was all by myself. I could do anything I wanted to. The teacher would look in periodically.”

While John struggled academically, he excelled in athletics.  At Everett High School he tried just about every sport and was a standout in football and track. He received an athletic scholarship to Washington State University, where he again played football and ran track. After a hamstring injury interrupted his athletic career, on the advice of his coach he transferred to Everett Community College. “My [Washington State] coach told me that would be a good idea, a good place for me to go. I had great years there. Everett was a good school as a far as athletics go.” It was there that John would break the state record in the low hurdles for two-year colleges.

Although his athletic career at Washington State was cut short, he grew up a lot. One of the things he took away from that experience was the encouragement of an art instructor named Bill Hixson. He was a young teacher and a strong painter. “I thought he was God. And he might have been. He registered with me. I think he was probably one of the most popular teachers. I liked the way he worked. It wasn’t experimental. It was pretty direct.”

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When his time at Everett Community College ended, John transferred to the College of Puget Sound (now University of Puget Sound) where he used up his final year of athletic eligibility playing football and running track- this time he set a record in the long jump, which stood for many years. By this point, he learned how to be a student. At CPS his grade point average put him in the top ten of male students. It was at CPS that he received another, he along with a photography student and a professor were inducted into the Kappa Pi National Art Honor Society.

John went on to complete his undergraduate studies at the University of Washington. In his dry, witty sense of humor, John remarks: “I used up my [athletic] eligibility so I had to go to work.” He received a Bachelor in Art, a second Bachelor in Education, and, eventually, a Master of Fine Art in painting. “So I got the trifecta” he says.

Even though John enjoyed teaching, he left Marysville High School after one year, because he really wanted a Masters in Fine Art. He went to work at Boeing for the next three years to earn money for graduate school. In those days, you had to have a pre-candidacy show before you could qualify for the Master of Fine Arts program. John was one of six accepted into the MFA in painting program. “It was a pretty good program,” John comments, “except you had to be an abstract expressionist, and I wasn’t an abstract expressionist. So I kind of worked myself into that position.” Students had three years to complete the program. If they didn’t complete the requirements in three years, they were welcome to apply again, however, it was not encouraged.

During his years of graduate school, John juggled teaching in Seattle and working at Boeing with attending class. “As the third year rolled around it forced me into a position where I had to produce. “I got a Masters. Three of us got Masters. That was nice.”

With his graduate degree in hand, he was able to focus on teaching. For thirty years, John taught high school art. Many of his former students still fondly recall Mr. Ringen’s classes whenever they see him. In addition to high school, John spent six years as part of a “Community Development” art program through the University of Washington. This fit his introverted/adventurous temperament well. “They shipped him out to Alaska, Canada, Eastern WA, all over the state. Bellingham, up at Western. I moved around a lot for about 6-7 years. I met a lot of people.” These classes included instruction in watercolor, acrylic and oil painting.

John joined the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS) when he was in his twenties and a student at the University of Washington. He remembers the meetings in those early days of the society: “We’d have the little talk and then critique each other’s watercolor. We’d sit around on the floor because the places that we met were houses. Maybe there would be 10, 15, or 20 people at the most and a couple of bottles of wine.”

The one mission that the NWWS had was the annual watercolor show at the Seattle Art Museum. It was a good show with lots of local competition for spots, including students at the university. Gifted artists like Mark Tobey were involved in it early on. “It was a class show,” John reflects. “I usually made it for some dumb reason,” he says with a smile.

After five straight years of having his paintings admitted to the NWWS show, John began to be recognized as an up-and-coming artist. He was invited to be a member of the Puget Sound Group of Painters, which was an elite, all male group of artists. After many years as a member, he served as president because, as he puts it, “I had to serve my time.” In those days the group offered camaraderie, “It was well worth the effort. It was fun, though it made a drunk out of me,” John says tongue-in-cheek.

During his years of teaching John remained a busy artist. Today his home is full of decades of beautiful paintings. Most scenes are of the Pacific Northwest, but there are also paintings from Europe and South Africa where John travelled with his wife, Vicky. John’s watercolors merge his early training in abstract expressionism with crisp realism. In addition to the paintings on the walls, his studio is full of paintings. John says, “You go through lots of bad paintings. Once in a while a jewel drops out. I’d usually sell the jewel. Once in a while you see one of the jewels. I saw one of those jewels a few years ago and thought it was bad. And I thought to myself, ‘that’s a good thing. I’ve improved.’”

John continues, “I’ve found that true with other artists too. They go through periods. Periods when they think their work is really good. But it’s not so good. They churn out a lot of mediocre stuff, but when it works, it’s really great. The ability to know a good painting, a jewel, from the mediocre is an important attribute in an artist.”

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Challenges of being an artist

When asked about the challenges of being an artist John puts it bluntly. The great challenge of being an artist is to make a living by your art. John says, “I can tell you. I’ve never reached the point where I’ve made a living as an artist. That’s a struggle and that’s a fact. And I wouldn’t want to have to survive on just doing art. I don’t have the courage to give up a retirement. So I’ve never made a living at art. I admire those that do. I know it hasn’t been easy for them.”

John points out that there are many artists that are pretty good, but they can’t make a living. He says, “You have to have personality. I don’t have the personality. I’m not driven. I’d rather go to work at something else. At Weyerhaeuser, I worked there all through high school. I’d rather pull lumber on the green chain than have to make a living as an artist because I knew I’d have a check at the end of the month.”

He has friends like artist Bernie Weber who went to a good art school and made a good living as an artist. However, John preferred working a full-time job and painting on the side. In fact, after 30 years of teaching art, when he was close to retirement age, John decided to transition to a different career. He worked for eight years as an illustrator at Walter Dorwin Teaque Associates. As an illustrator, he transitioned from abstract expressionism to a tight realism. John dryly comments:  “I had to really work at it. The day I showed up for work, I put my head down and went to work. The other guys had been there a long time and could accomplish as much as me by not working very hard.”

John is still a prolific artist. Twenty-five plus years since his second retirement, John still paints everyday. His studio is next to their home on the south end of Camano Island overlooks Port Susan, onto the mainland and the Cascades beyond. As he likes to say, “now that I’ve given up golf, I may be able to do something with painting. If I wasn’t an artist, I may have been a better golfer- if it wasn’t for golf, I have been a better painter.”

Joys of being an artist

For John the joys of being an artist are in the whole thing. “It’s a journey,” he says. “I can say that I don’t need to sell. But it [when one of his paintings in purchased] is an acknowledgment that maybe I’ve done something that’s worth looking at.”

John points out that you’ll have some people who kind of admire you, some people who are jealous of you, and some people who know you are frauds. He says it’s a lot easier to work in the supermarket than it is to be an artist- but being a teacher, he points out, is twice the problem. When you’re a teacher you have to sell yourself. John found that teaching in the public schools, not every kid loves you and, for matter of fact, most kids don’t like you- they merely put up with you. But he reflects that there are a few successes that he’s had as a teacher. “I’ve never made a success out of a kid,” he says, “but there have been some successes.”

John counsels younger artists in this way: “If you’re really convinced that’s what you want to do, then, yeah, it’s a good life.”

On Watercolor

John is a watercolor painter. Although he’s sneaked in acrylics and also painted in oils- but for him, watercolors are comfortable. He likes to work fast and that has a lot to do with the reason why. He can invest an hour or so in a watercolor and put it aside and start a new one. He points out, you don’t have to worry about the drying. Watercolor dries fast. John also appreciates that in the framing process, the artist can take the sheet of watercolor and if there’s a spot in the painting that works, that frames well, that looks good- it is easy to frame that small part of the painting. It is much harder to change the shape of an oil canvas.

John'sPainting

Legacy

John Ringen has painted in Washington State for over seventy years. Hundreds, indeed thousands, of his paintings fill the walls of homes all over Washington and beyond, bringing joy to their owners and collectors. His paintings sparkle with the magical merging of loose washes and crisp, realness of transparent watercolor. Each marked with his trademark: Ringen.

But it is perhaps as a teacher where John Ringen made his greatest mark and left his greatest legacy. John Ringen has often been called an artists’ artist. The names of students that he taught are a kind of hall of fame of watercolor in Washington State, including master watercolorist Jerry Stitt.

When one thinks back on John Ringen’s life, back to the days when he was a struggling schoolboy, back to the days when he found his niche in art class, it should not surprise us that John has left a legacy of encouraging, challenging, coaching, and nurturing students himself. For where we have been given much, we are able to give much back.

Vintage Brand

Sunnyshore Studio’s Vintage Artists of Washington takes place on Saturdays March 10th, 17th, and 24th, 10:00am-5:00pm.

There will be a reception on Saturday, March 10th, from 3:00-5:00pm

Learn more here: Vintage Watercolorists of Washington Art Show Announcement

We are thrilled that the Northwest Watercolor Society, one of the top ten watercolor societies in the nation, is partnering with us in this inaugural show.

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Finally we want to thank our sponsors: David and Mary Anne Keyser and the Jack Dorsey family for sponsoring this show.

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Stay tuned for more articles about the artists for the inaugural vintage show.

Promotional video released for Vintage Watercolorists of Washington art show

Today Sunnyshore Studio released a promotional video for its upcoming Vintage Watercolorists of Washington show. Enjoy…

Vintage Watercolorists of Washington Art Show Announcement

Washington State has been home to a host of distinguished watercolor artists over the years like Florence Harrison Nesbitt, Perry Acker, Jess Cauthorn, Victoria Savage, Arne Jensen, and Mike Burns to name just a few. The Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS) which was founded in 1939 in Seattle Washington, has been a leading organization dedicated to the celebration of watercolor.

In light of this rich tradition, Sunnyshore Studio is partnering with the Northwest Watercolor Society to host the first of five Vintage Watercolorists of Washington art shows. Each year we will honor five master watercolorists who live in Washington State and who have enriched the cultural life of this place through their artwork. We also hope to inspire a new generation of watercolorists through showcasing their art and sharing their stories.

The five artists chosen for the inaugural show are Jack Dorsey John Ringen, Genny Rees, Nancy Axell, and Thomas Williams Jones. Their original watercolors will be shown at Sunnyshore Studio on Saturdays March 10th, 17th, and 24th, 10:00am-5:00pm, with a reception from 3:00-5:00pm on March 10th.  A video tribute will share their journey with watercolor. Their stories will eventually be compiled into a book celebrating their artistic legacy.

Vintage Brand

It is called the Jack Dorsey Invitational in honor of the patriarch of Sunnyshore Studio and one of the vintage watercolorists of Washington today. Jack Dorsey is thrilled to invite artist friends, colleagues and peers to this showcase and celebration of their art and cultural contribution.

Vintage Watercolorists of Washington - flier back page

Questions, contact
Jason Dorsey
Artistic Director
Sunnyshore Studio
2803 S.E. Camano Drive,
Camano Island, WA 98282
317.209.6768
sunnyshorestudio@gmail.com
www.sunnyshorestudio.org

 

Jack Gunter and John Ringen: Camano Island Master Artists

Camano Island is recognized as a major cultural center for the Visual Arts in the Pacific Northwest. One of the reasons for that is the sheer number of artists who call Camano Home. There are more than 1,000 artists in the Stanwood/Camano area, with a population of 20,000 that means about 5% are artists. In a ranking by the National Endowment for the Arts the highest per capital number of artists was found in New York State with 1% of the residents being artists. Compare that to the Stanwood/Camano area with a whooping 5%. The Stanwood/Camano area is home to a “colony of artists.”

More important than the numbers in this colony of artists is the presence of Master Artists, those artists who are brilliant at their work.

Last Monday, Dad and I spent time with two of these Master Artists – Jack Gunter and John Ringen

Jack Gunter

Dad and I ran into Jack after a lunch at the Tyee Store on the south end of Camano (did you know they are serving delicious sandwiches there?). Jack is an unique mix of gifted artist, writer, filmmaker, and cultural innovator.

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It was fun to get a tour of his super cool Gallery/Studio which is a cultural must-do-thing on Camano.

What struck me most was just how absolutely gifted – brilliant would not be hyperbolic – Jack is and how wonderful his work is. His birds in trees laden with snow were beautiful.

Jack is known for his symbolic egg tempera pieces. There were lots of those artworks to enjoy.

Jack shared with us the story of how some of his art had been detained in Siberia and his recent rescue of those artworks after 20 plus years of their “captivity” in Russia. You can read more about that here; there’s also a film that’s being released that tells that story.

https://www.jackgunterart.com/video/siberian-rescue

Best of all was watching Dad and Jack Gunter shoot the breeze, tease each other, and share in the collegiality of artists who deeply respect each other’s work.

Jack Gunter says this on the back cover of Dad’s biography Jack Dorsey: Sketch of an Artist.

When I moved to Camano Island in the 1980s, I was told the only artist out here was a fellow named Jack Dorsey. I sought him out, but Jack said he didn’t paint anymore because he was working full time at Boeing. Baseball, particularly the Mariners, became our bond. When we ran into each other at the Elger Bay Grocery we talked sports. All the while I pushed, told him he was a legend and should get back to art. It worked. These days I take some credit for Jack’s re-emergence as a painter.

John Ringen

After talking with Jack Gunter, Dad and I decided to stop by John Ringen’s home. John Ringen is a past president of the Northwest Watercolor Society and Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters and a Master Watercolor Artist.  I have gotten to know John’s wife Vicky through serving on the Camano Arts Association board with her. John welcomed us and gave us a tour of their beautiful home and his art studio.

All I can say is “wow, it is amazing!”

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Perched on the cliffs at the south end of Camano, their home has a breathtaking view.

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But it was the artwork – most of it John’s – that fills the walls upstairs and downstairs that I gazed at most. I took pictures of each painting. They don’t do justice to the sheer magnitude and beauty of the work. Here are a few artworks from upstairs.

Downstairs the walls were also covered with amazing art. John’s drawing desk that looks east onto the water.

Then we the building with Gallery (downstairs) and Studio (upstairs) where John works his magic.

The downstairs Gallery was full of John’s art. He’s getting ready for the upcoming Camano Island Mother’s Day Studio Tour.

Here’s a few videos I shot of the John’s upstairs working studio. What an amazing place!

Over the years I had seen John’s work in different galleries and exhibitions in the Northwest. But to see not just a few works but his artistic legacy filling his home, gallery and studio was impressive.

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It was fun for me to watch Dad and John interact. I’m thankful for the collegiality and friendship shared among Camano’s artists.

John has these kind words to say on the back cover of Dad’s biography:

Jack Dorsey, I’m impressed with all parts of your life–you’re a fine family man and a very accomplished artist. 

Seeing the Galleries/Studios of Jack Gunter and John Ringen reminded me of just how amazing the art culture is on Camano Island.

You can see Jack Gunter’s and John Ringen’s Galleries/Studios with your own eyes on the Camano Island Studio Tour.

  • Mother’s Day Weekend: May 12th, 13th 14th
  • Encore Weekend: May 20th & 21st
  • 10:00am – 5:00pm

You can read more about Camano Island’s Studio tour here:

https://sunnyshorestudio.com/portfolio/19th-annual-camano-studio-tour/

and here: http://camanostudiotour.com/

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