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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.

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.

Vintage Poster-01

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.

Vintage Artists (1 of 2

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.

Custom Photo (1 of 1)-2

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. 

 

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

 

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