While our Vintage Watercolor show features watercolorists who are still working, each year we highlight one watercolorist who left a legacy of art in Washington. Last year we had a beautiful watercolor by Perry Acker, that was generously loaned to us by the Stanwood Historical society.
For our 2019 show we’re thrilled to announce that we are featuring Elizabeth Campbell Warhanik 1880-1968).
Here is a short introduction to Elizabeth from A Fluid Tradition, by David Martin, that tells the story of the first seventy-five years of the Northwest Watercolor Society.
Here’s the blurb:
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Moved to Seattle in 1907. Warhanik studied at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and earned a degree in classical literature. She studied painting with Charles Woodbury at Ogunquit, Maine. At the University of Washington, she studied with Walter Isaacs and Helen Rhodes, and privately with Paul Morgan Gustin and Edgar Forkner.
Warhanik was one of Seattle’s most prominent early artists. She worked in oil, watercolor, and printmaking. In addition to being a longtime member of the NWWS [Northwest Watercolor Society], Warhanik was one of the founders and the first president of Women Painters of Washington.
Based on her stature as a Washington artist alone, I’d be excited to have Warhanik in our 2019 Vintage show. But I’m thrilled because of a more personal connection. Here’s the story of how I stumbled upon her work.
On January 4th, Jenny and I spent an afternoon at Ed and Susan Nudelman’s home in Seattle. I know Ed and Susan, and their kids, from the five years I served as Assistant Pastor at Green Lake Presbyterian Church in Seattle (1997-2002).
Jenny and I had a great time catching up with them. We fed their specialty ducks, talked family, art and books.
Besides being a scientist and a dealer in rare books, Ed is a super gifted poet.
They showed us some of the paintings of Susan’s grandmother, Elizabeth Warhanik. It didn’t take long to realize that she was not only a very gifted artists, but a real player in Washington’s early art scene.
Not only was Elizabeth a gifted artist, but her daughter, Winnifred Clifton (1916-2006), Susan’s mother was too. I had met Winni during my time in Seattle.
I tried to refrain my excitement, and tried to calmly ask if possibly, by chance, just wondering, if they might consider… allowing us to show a painting of Elizabeth’s. They quickly and graciously said YES!
And that’s how I stumbled upon this and many other beautiful Warhanik paintings! How cool it that!
2019 Vintage Watercolorists of Washington
Opens Saturday, March 9, 10am-5pm
Meet the Artist Reception: Saturday, March 9, 3-5pm
Runs also on Saturdays March 16, 23, and 30, 10am-5pm
At Sunnyshore Studio: 2803 S.E. Camano Drive, Camano Island, WA
Featuring watercolors by artists: Jack Dorsey, Nancy Fulton, Cooper Hart, Seiko Konya, Sandy Langford and Jack Dorsey.
In partnership with the Northwest Watercolor Society.
Jerry Stitt’s paintings captivate. They hover on the watercolor paper, even dance. In their presence you know that you are in the presence of a master. They touch you at a deep, emotional level.
Jerry Stitt was born to be an artist, but it took many years before he took the plunge. He grew up in Seattle on Queen Anne Hill. There was seven children in the family. Jerry had three brothers and three sisters. He was right in the middle. “We had a great life,” he says. As a youngster Jerry saw pictures in his head, and like a lot of children, he had to paint them; but we was really serious about painting, even from a young age.
The family lived a block away from the grade school. Jerry went to Queen Anne High School. He had to walk a mile and a half every day, and he was always late getting there. “That’s alright,” he remembers, “I enjoyed the walk all the way to the school because I’d see all these buildings and all kinds of stuff that I would want to paint and draw.”
Jerry remembers everything he’s seen since he was about six years old. He doesn’t need to look at anything to draw or paint it because he holds it in his memory. He recalls not just the images themselves but the emotions of those images too, say for example, a building in the snow or a road in the heat of summer. He remembers his dog named Prince who loved to go walking with Jerry: “He was a collie, a beautiful collie dog, and he would go everywhere with me.”
After high school Jerry worked a number of jobs, while going to art school when he could. “I did everything,” Jerry says. He was a stage hand for the Seattle Opera House for five years. He enjoyed that because he not only met a lot of celebrities from all over the world, but saw how the stage was created for a particular scene, like the cabin in Fiddler on the Roof. Without knowing it, he was picking up art and design skills. He drove a taxi cab for four years; two years during the day and two years during the night. “Believe me, there’s a difference,” Jerry notes.
He worked for the Parks Department of the City of Seattle for nine years, stationed at the Woodland Park Zoo. There he became a journeyman plumber after three and a half years of training. He spent a year and a half in the carpenter shop, learning how to build stuff. But his favorite was working in the paint shop for about four years. That’s what he loved. He painted all the life boats for the summer season, and did a lot of lettering. “That was a lot of fun work for me,” he states. He also painted many Park and City of Seattle buildings. One building stands out.
Jerry was sent to paint the Elephant House at the Zoo. He put the five-gallon buckets of paint and all his gear in his truck and drove to the Elephant House. He came to the field where the elephant was, and the great big tall building that he was to paint. And there in the field was the elephant, and a hippopotamus too. The hippo was a good distance away and looking at him. “He was facing me, and he’s a big animal.” Jerry recalls. Jerry felt comfortable with the distance between them, so he grabbed his paint buckets, set them down over the fence, and climbed over the fence. He started to carry the buckets over to the building when “the hippo came running full bore at me, and in between me and him was this pond. He leaped in the pond and he was so big and fat that he bounced out of the water. And he was coming out of the water and I grabbed those paint buckets just in time and got them over the fence, and I leaped over the fence just as he got there,” Jerry tells.
Jerry thought to himself, “what an aggressive animal.” The Hippo moved back to where he had started, so Jerry went back over the fence. He eyeballed the hippo and thought to himself, “Well, I have to paint this building” so he bravely set out. He says, “I put the paint buckets over the fence and here he comes again, barreling right at me.” This went on a couple of times. Finally, Jerry told one of the zoo keepers about the hippo attacking him and asked what he should do. Eventually they figured out that when the zoo keepers feed the hippos they use the same paint cans from the paint shop, filling them with lettuce and other food that the hippo ate. When Jerry had put his paint cans over the fence, the hippo thought it was dinner. That was just one adventure of many that Jerry had working at the zoo for those nine years.
Jerry married Sharon Hyde, whose had a son named Rick who would become a gifted artist himself. Jerry and Sharon had three kids of their own: Ronnie, Rhonda and Christian. They were together for about ten years. Jerry’s second marriage was to Deanne Lemley, who is an outstanding artist herself.
PATH INTO ART
Jerry was inspired to take the plunge into art by a painter on television, who moved his brush effortlessly across the page. He was twenty-seven. During these years of raising a family and working for the City, Jerry took art classes at night, because he worked during the day, and had a family. He loved going to classes at Cornish Art School and another college on Capital Hill. He studied under a great art teacher whose name was Fred Marshall. Fred was an illustrator for the Seattle Times newspaper for twenty five years. “He helped me a lot because he could that I was ahead of the other people in the class,” Jerry remembers. Jerry took a shine to watercolor right away. “Yeah, those were the good ole days,” he says.
Eventually Jerry decided art was what he wanted to do with his life. “It always came down to my art, that was what I wanted to do,” Jerry says. He knew he had to make a living at it. So he started teaching watercolor painting classes. He’d work his day job, then get a studio in the evening where he’d teach his classes; then it was back to work at the city job he had during the day.
Thankfully, art allowed for him to integrate work with his family. He was able to bring his oldest son along with him to art classes. They’d travel to art classes in different cities and out in the country. Jerry remembers that the country folk would sometimes trade him vegetables and other stuff they had made for tuition for his classes. They had a good time together, and his son learned a lot too. ”I taught him how to draw. He became a great painter,” Jerry says.
Jerry taught for the University of Washington for five years, and for the University of Puget Sound too. The University of Washington would send him on assignments to bring “culture to the outside world” as they put it. They sent him to all kinds of different places around Washington State, as well as Alaska and down to California. “I went everywhere, for a week at a time,” he says.
Jerry loved teaching. He did his my homework and knew what he was talking about, and how to put art lessons is simple, memorable phrases like this one: “art is like golf, the winner is the one with the fewest strokes.” He had an acute memory, had years of architecture and design under his belt, and had the magic of being able to pull off a sparkling, even stunning watercolor with a class of students looking on. He always did a demonstration painting in his watercolor classes. They inspired the students, and Jerry would get inspired in the moment too.
Jerry has studied with such masters as Fred Marshall (AWS), Rex Brandt, Robert E. Wood (AWS), Christopher Schink and John Ringen. Regarding John he says,“I learned so much from John. He was a great painter. And he had a great sense of humor. He was fun to be around.”
Perhaps Jerry was most impacted by the Russian artist, Sergei Bongart. “He was a genius painter, the best,” Jerry says. Sergei told his students the story of how he got out of Russia. He and a friend wanted so badly to get to the United States that they walked from their hometown in Russia 2,000 miles to the German border. He and his friend walked day and night 2,000 miles to get to the German border. They walked day and night, and had to remain hidden as best they could. They found farms to stay on and would dig potatoes for food. Finally Sergei came to the Russian-German border. At the gate stood a border guard. And down the road towards him came rumbling a Soviet Truck with some soldiers in it. Sergei knew they would apprehend him. But so determined to leave Russia and go to the United States he was that he risked his life. “I’d rather die than go back to Russia”, he thought. So he walked through the gate. He waited to get shot. His pace hastened as he went through; he kept waiting for the guard to cock the pistol and shoot him in the back. He walked faster and faster. Still he didn’t hear the clicking of the magazine. Sergei got into Germany, and somehow got on a freighter that brought him to the United States. He made his way from New York to Memphis, Tennessee.
“He was one of my all-time great painter teachers,” is the way Jerry concludes the story. Those who know Jerry’s art affirm that he has some of the genius painter in himself, just like Sergei Bongart his mentor.
JOYS AND STRUGGLES AS AN ARTIST
Jerry take art and painting very seriously. He just stayed with it, and he learned from everybody he could. Art can be a solitary vocation, but in it Jerry found camaraderie. He joined the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters, who had a reputation for high quality art above all else. They were great guys and gifted artists that he had looked up to. Jerry looked forward to all those meetings and soon became President of the group. “I was among all those other big guns,” he says.
Jerry had significant success in his art career. He became a signature member of the prestigious American Watercolor Society (AWS), based in New York, in a notable way. To become a member an artist has to enter only one painting in their once-a-year national show, and you have to get accepted into that AWS three years in a ten-year span. “Well I entered it three years, and got in every year,” Jerry says with well-deserved pride. Jerry became a signature member of AWS, and as a result can sign AWS after his name. “That was quite an honor,” he says.
Jerry is also a signature member of the National Watercolor Society (NWS) as well as many of the other big watercolor societies like the San Diego Watercolor Society, the Missouri Watercolor Society and the Northwest Watercolor Society, which he served in the past as president.
But art wasn’t all the easy street for Jerry. One of the things struggles that he faced was in dealing with galleries. “I went in with my eyes wide open, [assuming] that they’re all reputable, and honorable. Most of them were, but not all. They would sell your paintings, and the rent would be due the next day, and they would say, ‘we’ll catch up to you,’. I ended up paying the rent for their gallery to stay open and didn’t get paid,” Jerry recalls. As other artists have learned, galleries tend to take a pretty good commission, usually at least 33% of sales.
Still Jerry was very fortunate. People liked his paintings and he made a very good living. He was able to make a full-time living through his art. He got a studio with artist Bill Rees in Redmond. They shared that studio for eleven years. Jerry taught classes at his studio, and he and Bill painted there every day. While they painted they talked about the old times. Sometimes they would see would have friends from the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters stop by.
My dad, Jack Dorsey, who was a member of the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters, tells the story of how he stopped by their studio in Redmond around 1979. Dad had worked as a full-time artist for the past ten years (1969-1979). He told them that he had just taken a job at Boeing. He remembers Bill Rees saying, “too bad.”
The reason Jerry paints is that it’s an emotional thing. His watercolors are infused with emotion. “It’s just something you know how to do, it’s very easy, at least for me it was and is.” Jerry knows this is not the case for all students of watercolor. He remembers that he would get a lot of students in his classes and they would think that art is about getting every little detail right, and there wasn’t any emotional content in their work. Jerry would tell them to put their heart into it, to paint with feeling. “If you’re painting a trail or a road, and it’s horizontal, paint what it’s doing. Paint horizontally, with big brushstrokes. If it’s a building, paint vertically. If it’s a figure, give it a gesture. When you’re painting feel what you are painting. Get involved with it,” He says. Jerry knows that not everybody has that intuitive nature about them. They think painting is recreating a photograph. For Jerry, this is the wrong approach, “A painter, you’re emotionally involved with the painting. You feel everything you’re doing.”
Jerry has painted in all mediums. He started out in watercolor with Fred Marshall, and watercolor stuck. What was hard about mastering watercolor for Jerry is that you only have one shot at it. If you did a watercolor, and you had something in it that was wrong, and you tried to fix it, it would look like you fixed it. You have to “paint the thing like you own it”, Jerry says. “You have to get really involved with the painting. That’s the way I paint. I get so involved. I can feel everything I’m doing, whether it’s a dirt road or a shingle on a roof, or a gesture of a figure, whatever something is doing, that’s exactly the way I feel about it. Whatever I’m painting, I paint what it’s doing. And it paints itself. It just paints itself, if you paint what things are doing.”
Jerry has an impressive resume. His web page tells: “He was a United States Navy combat artist, has paintings in the Pentagon, in the private collections of King Gustav of Sweden and the King of Saudi Arabia. His work is in the collections of Alaska Airlines, J P Morgan Chase Bank, Boeing Company, and Foss Tug Company.”
Jerry doesn’t need to stand on his resume. His work speaks for itself. I have found Jerry Stitt originals and prints in many homes of artists and art lovers throughout the northwest. And when I do I always stop in awe and wonder, even enchantment, wondering how he did it. I have learned that for Jerry it is much more than a matter of technical skill, it is a matter of the heart! He paints with and through his emotions.You don’t have to be art critic to know, or maybe it would be better to say “to feel”, that in the presence of Jerry Stitt’s paintings, you have encountered
VINTAGE WATERCOLORISTS OF WASHINGTON SHOW
You can see Jerry’s paintings, and the paintings of five other vintage watercolor artists, at Sunnyshore Studio’s upcoming Vintage Watercolorists of Washington Show.
Opens Saturday, March 9, 2019m 10am-5pm
Meet the Artist Reception, Saturday, March 9, 3-5pm
Also Saturdays, March 16, 23 and 30, 10am-5pm
Sunnyshore Studio wants to thank the Jack Dorsey family for sponsoring the show, and the Northwest Watercolor Society for partnering with us in celebrating the life and legacy of vintage watercolorists of WA.
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.
Genny Rees appeared upon the watercolor scene of Washington in the early 1980s. Her story is one of the merging of her latent talent with a close friendship that came together to cause her artistic abilities to bloom, much like the florals she loves so much to paint.
Genny was born on September 10th, 1927 in the little town of Winona, Missouri, home to three hundred and fifty people. She was born into an immediate family of six brothers and sisters, as well as six half -brothers and half-sisters. Her Father died when she was fourteen. Genny, her mother and sister moved to Oregon, but her mother quickly became homesick for Missouri. So Genny and her mother moved to St. Louis where she attended high school. After graduation, Genny and her mother moved to Seattle to join her sister who wanted them to move in with her.
Genny met her future husband, Donald, in Seattle. They were married for almost sixty years. After they got married they moved from Seattle to Mercer Island in 1951. They lived there ever since, apart from two years in New York where her husband tried out working for a different company. Upon returning to Mercer Island, Donald, resumed working as a Boeing engineer, and a watchmaker in his spare time. Genny spent her time as a stay-at-home Mom to their five children.
Genny had a cousin, Charles Wesley Copeland, with whom she had grown up in that little town in Missouri. He became a talented and famous illustrator in New York. She had always admired his work, and remembered that he could always draw anything. “I think I had him in the back of my mind all these years,” she says.
Finding time to paint while raising five children was hard. Genny fit drawing and painting in whenever she could. As a Girl Scout leader while her daughters were involved in scouting, she was able to bring her creativity to enhance the arts and crafts activities for the girls. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that the artistic talent in her bloomed, almost overnight.
In 1982, she joined the Mercer Island Visual Arts League (MIVAL) which is a large group on Mercer Island that hosts a big arts and crafts show every year. In 1989, she joined the Eastside Association of Fine Arts (EAFA), and in 1993 she was voted into Women Painters of Washington. By 1985, she was a signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society, which is quite a distinction since it requires being accepted into two national shows. Their shows are now international shows.
What was behind this blossoming of her art?
Genny had always been interested in painting and drawing. In the early ‘80s she started actively exploring her artistic gifts, first trying oil painting, and then experimenting with watercolor. She took a weekend watercolor workshop on Mercer Island with Jerry Becker and loved it. “We did little paintings,” she remembers. Then she started taking classes at the Community Center on Mercer Island, and at Bellevue Community College. She took several workshops and avidly observed the demos available at MIVAL meetings. She discovered that she thoroughly enjoyed watercolor. “Then,” she says, “I sold my first painting at a church art show and that sort of made me come alive. But I think it’s always been in me to paint.”
The other factor that has stimulated her emergence as an accomplished artist has been her long-time friendship with fellow watercolor artist, Nancy Axell. They knew of each other since they both lived on Mercer Island, but did not formally meet until 1982, when Nancy’s daughter, who lived in Alaska, needed her watch repaired. Genny’s husband fixed it, and Nancy brought him a pair of Mukluks that her daughter had made to thank him. That was when Genny and Nancy formally met. They shared a common interest in that Genny’s oldest daughter also lived in Alaska. Since then, they have been painting partners, artist friends, and colleagues in the same organizations. They have been able to support each other throughout their artistic careers and have watched each other grow as artists. Nancy says, “I’ve watched Genny’s work get better and better over the years, as she has won all kinds of awards, and rightfully so. It’s been a joy to witness her growth.”
Genny says, “We’ve been friends for so long and it’s meant a lot to me. We’ve done a lot of things together. We support each other with our art, and have belonged to the same organizations: MIVAL, Women Painters of Washington, and the Northwest Watercolor Society. We’ve both been active on the boards. (Genny was president of MIVAL in 1989 and Women Painters of Washington in 1995.) As friends, we could always talk about the same things. She knew what I was doing. I knew what she was doing. We took workshops together and enjoyed watching each other paint.”
Besides her cousin and Nancy, there have been three major influences in Genny’s artistic journey. When she started taking classes at the Community Center on Mercer Island, she studied under a woman named Marjette Schillie. She also took classes from Jess Cauthorn who was a highly respected teacher and, she says, “taught us everything he knew.” Finally, there was Ann Brecken who still teaches around Seattle. “She was, and still is, a great inspiration to me.”
Struggles and Joys
Besides trying to find time to paint while raising her family, a significant challenge for Genny has been how vulnerable it makes her feel when submitting her paintings to art shows. “Putting my work out there in art shows to let other people see and critique is daunting,” she says. “I’ve kind of gotten used to that. I just put it out there and whatever happens happens. Sometimes you get in and sometimes you don’t. There are so many good artists out there.”
When speaking of the joys of being an artist, Genny says, “I’m happy that people appreciate my work. My paintings seem to bring people so much pleasure and that is a wonderful feeling.”
Genny shared how she received a letter from a woman who had cancer and was dying. Genny had given her a small painting. The last thing she did was write a letter to Genny. Her husband sent it. In it she shared how much she had appreciated the painting. “That really made me feel good,” Genny said.
Genny has also enjoyed meeting other artists. “I don’t think there is any artist that I’ve met that I don’t like. They’re all great. They’re all friends, and it feels as if I’ve known them all my life,” she says.
“Just being able to have a piece of white paper and apply beautiful colors to it is exhilarating. When I paint my florals they just come to life. I love all of them.”
The white of the paper doesn’t intimidate Genny. She typically works from photographs, and takes a long time to draw it all out since she’s very detailed. She loves the interplay of color, the light and the shadows. Sometimes she has to rework her painting, but even then, Genny enjoys the whole process: “It’s just a joy to paint. I’m never as happy as when I’m working on a painting,” she says.
Her gift as a watercolor painter has been widely recognized. When asked when she realized that she was a good artist, Genny deflects: “I don’t know. I never think I’m good enough and I’m always trying to improve. I guess maybe I’m good. I don’t know. It’s just something that I love to do.
Lessons and Legacy
What lessons does Genny have for young artists, especially for moms in the midst of raising children?
“Observe everything and learn everything you can,” she says. “Read books. I’ve learned a lot from books. I don’t take as many workshops as some people do, so get a lot of information from my books and videos and from demos at art meetings. I would just urge aspiring artists to paint or draw every day if they can. I try to paint every day. And just enjoy it. Just do it,” she says.
For the past twenty-plus years, Genny has been the facilitator for an “Open Studio” at the Mercer Island Community Center, meeting every Monday from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M. “It is a great opportunity to get to know other artists and to help each other or just work on their own art in an open, non-judgmental environment. If you can, see if there is something like this in your community where you can work on what you want at your own pace, get feed-back (if you want it), and not worry about meeting deadlines or being graded,” says Genny.
“My philosophy,” says Genny, “is that people should do what they love to do as well as they can and enjoy doing it along the way.” Joseph Campbell once said, ‘Follow your bliss.’ And that is what I try do as I paint my watercolors,” she says.
When asked about her legacy Genny says, “Well, I haven’t thought too much about it. I’m sure my kids have thought about it. I have lots of paintings and they’re going to have to figure out what to do with them when I’m gone. I just hope my paintings inspire my children and grand children, and bring them joy,” she says.
Genny’s patrons, collectors and fellow artists will no doubt say that her great legacy is the hundreds of bright florals that sparkle on the white watercolor paper brought to life by a masterful hand. But one could argue that Genny’s life is a lesson that one’s devotion to one’s children and one’s artistic calling do not have to stand in opposition, but can flourish together and in the same person.
Come see Genny’s beautiful paintings as well as the artwork of four other Vintage Watercolorists of Washington at Sunnyshore Studio:
“I’ve made so many friends through art.” Jack Dorsey
Jack Dorsey was born March 12th, in 1940 in Seattle, WA. He grew up in the Redmond area and attended the Lake Washington School District. When he was sixteen his family moved to the small community of Plain, WA near Leavenworth. There Jack finished high school. He attended Wenatchee Valley College for two years, then transferred to Seattle Pacific College, where he graduated with a BA degree in Art Education. He taught art for a couple of years in the Highline School District. In 1966, Jack married his beloved “Annie”. In 1969, Jack, Ann and baby Jason moved to Camano Island where he launched out as a full time professional artist. “I’ve been a Washingtonian all my life,” he says.
Jack always had a desire to draw. He grew up drawing things around their house. Jack’s interest in art was perked on visits to his Aunt Marion and Uncle Norm’s home in Seattle. Displayed on their walls were paintings by Grady Spurgeon. “His art was phenomenal,” Jack recalls. “He did oils. He did watercolors. They were so colorful, so vibrant. It was awe inspiring. It was my first museum exhibit.” When Jack was fourteen, the elderly Grady, Spurgeon invited Jack to stay with him for a couple of weeks to study under him as an apprentice. Jack was too shy and declined. He regrets that to this day.
Jack took art classes at Lake Washington High School from Mr. Greer, who was a good teacher. When he was eighteen he met Walter Graham, who was a well-known commercial artist from Wenatchee. At one time Walter Graham had owned the 4th largest commercial art studio in Chicago. “He flew his own airplane,” Jack remembers. Jack met him at the old Columbia Hotel in Wenatchee where Walter was working on a mural of wild horses galloping over a waterfall that was going to be placed in the Rocky Reach Dam. Walter took an interest in the young artist. “We went out sketching together; painting together; we ate together. We had great times together. He was a great inspiration,” Jack says.
Besides all these encouragements Jack’s “undying desire to paint” propelled him forward as an artist.
Jack started selling his paintings in the early 1960’s. He had success at both the Burien Art Festival and Bellevue Art Festival. And then a big break came. Ann’s father and mother gifted Jack and Ann with a little white house on ten acres on the south end of Camano Island. Jack could now devote himself to painting full time, while carving out a rustic life for their growing family. Over the next ten years Jack had many successes, most notably two solo shows at the prestigious Frye Art Museum in Seattle (in 1972 and 1979), and a solo show at the Franell Gallery in Tokyo, Japan (1979) where Jack sold all 32 of the watercolors he showed. This gift of a house “gave me a wonderful opportunity to paint full time,” Jack states.
Jack worked hard selling his art from 1969-1979. He displayed his paintings in a chain of Turkey House restaurants from Bellingham to Olympia. Al and Ethel O’Brien were friends and owners of the original Turkey House Restaurant in Arlington. With their business partner Jack McGovern they went on to build seven new restaurants. Jack’s watercolors graced the lobbies of each of these restaurants and he sold his paintings on a regular basis. In fact, that is where Francis Blakemore saw his work and facilitated his show at her gallery in Tokyo, Japan.
Nevertheless, it was hard to pay the bills for Jack and Ann’s growing family. So in 1979 Jack hired on at the Boeing company. “For 15 years I didn’t paint at all, or hardly at all,” Jack says. He retired from the Boeing Company in 1995. Jack’s art career was revived in 1999 when he began to participate in the Camano Island Mother’s Day Studio tour. Jack continues to paint and his artworks fill the homes of friends, patrons and collectors all over Washington State and beyond.
Recently Jack’s son Jason built a new Gallery/Studio just south of the family home called “Sunnyshore Studio”, in tribute Jack’s original art studio on Camano. Sunnyshore Studio recently celebrated Jack’s 77th birthday with an Art Retrospective and a book that tells his story, Jack Dorsey: Sketch of an Artist.
Jack met Mike Burns while they were both taking art classes at Seattle Pacific College. During those early years they were both trying to sell their paintings, and starting out at the lowest rung as artists. Jack reflects on their growing friendship over the years, “Before we were out of school we double dated. After college I would meet him at different art association meetings and we’d talk.” Mike was a highly talented artist who was making a name for himself. Unfortunately, Mike passed away in 1991 when he was only 47.
Mike’s memorial service provided a connection with another artist friend. Mike Burns had been a good friend of Tom Jones. Jack had seen Mike and Tom together at the Puget Sound Group of Painters meetings. Jack tells how it was at Mike’s memorial service that he reconnected to Tom Jones. “After Mike passed, Tom and I started corresponding. I sent him a Christmas card. He was out on the ocean at that time. Eventually we got together. Our friendship grew out of a mutual friendship with Mike.”
“As artists we look for companionship and likemindedness,” Jack says.
struggles and joys of art
Jack tells how in 1979 before he went to work for the Boeing company he told Bill Reese and Jerry Stitt, who shared a studio in Redmond, that he had hired on at the Boeing company. “I’ll never forget Bill’s words,” Jack said. “He said, ‘Too bad.’” Up to that point Jack had been getting a reputation as a good artist. Bill knew right away that it was going to be hard for Jack to continue with his art while working at Boeing.
Jack believes that the hardest thing for an artist is to be an artist and nothing else. And to make enough money to live.
When asked about what were the joys of being an artist Jack said: “The highest joy that I can possibly even begin to try to explain is the joy of having someone genuinely love your work to where they purchase it. I’m not talking about the purchase part. I’m talking about the gratification that comes from of somebody admiring your skills and talents.
Not only does their enjoyment of Jack’s art thrill his heart, as a people person Jack thrives on making friends of his collectors and patrons. When people buy your art they basically become you’re friend; you have a connection. “I’ve made so many friends through art sales, and even with people who don’t buy,” Jack points out.
“I love the magic and the mystical and elusive challenge watercolor brings. Watercolor can be handled so many ways, It can go “loosy goosy” or loose and tight, there are so many combinations,” Jack says.
For Jack, the challenge is to find the spark, the quality that sets your work of art apart from anyone else. He’s studied art and understands art subjects. Sometimes he chooses a subject based on the unique way he wants to approach it. “I pride myself in being able to say, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this.’ A lot of art is the same old same old.’” Jack wants his art to be common to experience but uncommon to expression. For Jack finding one’s unique quality is a combination of many things: “It’s the technique. It’s the style. It’s the vantage point. It’s the perspective and so forth. It takes a lot of things to make a real fine piece of art,” he states.
For Jack a critical lesson that artists should learn is to really be themselves. They should not try to be another artist. “Yourself comes out in your innermost being,” Jack says. Jack tires of the same ole same ole; where people get a glitch. “They ride the theme to death.” Jack believes that finding your own artistic style takes hard work, a lot of hard work. It takes determination. It takes vision and purpose.
Jack knows firsthand that an artist might have to put being a full-time artist on hold so that he or she can make real money from a “real job” Art isn’t always an easy way to make a living. An artist may have to do their art as an avocation until they are able to do it as their vocation.
Camano Island’s colony of artists
When Jack moved up to Camano Island in 1969 he was one of the few artists on the island. Watercolorist Wes Broten was on the Island. Slowly a trickle of artists began to move to Camano, including prominent artists and art entrepreneurs like Karla Matzke, Jack Gunter and Jack Archibald. Jack remembers how people got confused him with Jack Gunter and Jack Archibald a lot. Jack Gunter and Karla Matzke were behind the launch of the Camano Island Studio tour in 1998 and which was instrumental in reviving Jack Dorsey’s artistic career. Now Camano is called home to a host of artists. Jack says, “yeah, we have quite a colony of artists here. I guess I’m one of the older ones.”
Jack’s legacy can be traced back to Leavenworth, the “Bavarian Village.” When Jack was a young emerging artist there were a few developers who wanted to turn Leavenworth into a Bavarian town. They invited Jack to talk art in a meeting in downtown Leavenworth before it was remodeled and they gave him a leading role as a promoter in the “Art in the Park” program. Jack is mentioned in Miracle Town, a book about the story of Leavenworth. “I was just a small player” Jack says.
Jack has been involved as a member of arts organizations in the Northwest. He was a member of the Puget Sound Group of Artists, and is life member of the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS) which he served as president of in 1979-80. In terms of legacy, Jack is pleased to share the story of his solo shows at the Frye Art Museum in 1972 and 1979 and his one solo show of my watercolors at the Franell Gallery in Tokyo, Japan.
But perhaps Jack’s greatest legacy is the many friendships he has made along the way in his art journey. Friends like Mike Burns and Tom Jones; the many collectors and patrons who have purchased his art and who have become his friends. For Jack the ultimate end of art may not be merely in the art itself, but in the community the art creates.
Sunnyshore Studio invites you to celebrate the art and legacy of Jack Dorsey as well as four other vintage Washington Watercolorists.
We are excited to announce that we have chosen Thomas William Jones painting Sioux Moccasins, which was the winner of the Bronze medal for the American Watercolor Society,for the Vintage Watercolorists of Washington 2018 poster.
We are just a month away from the opening of this show!
Let us know if you have a business, a store, a favorite coffee shop where you would be willing to post one of these beautiful posters!
Nancy Axell’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.
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 Society…the 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.
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.”
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.”
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 Watercolorists of Washington
Saturday, March 10th, 17th & 18th
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 is one of the artists in Sunnyshore Studio’s Vintage Watercolorists of Washington inaugural show taking place in March 2018. Discover his story here.
“The greatest gift of all is to not be able to do anything else well.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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 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.
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