Today, as we kick off the 21st year of Portland Open Studios by opening our call to artists, I am privileged to find myself in the company of the open studios board. The board members are all volunteers, and put in thousands of hours of work, starting now, to make this event a success in October. These people are seriously dedicated!
Returning are Maude May (Vice President), Shelly Edwards (Treasurer), Jolinda Miller (Secretary), Janie Lowe (Education), Duck Holland (Community Liaison), and David Friedman (Webmaster). Please refer to our Instagram and Facebook pages to find out more about these people.
Joining us this year is Kirista Trask as our Marketing Director. This is a new board position, and Kirista is creating an exciting and comprehensive new marketing strategy for us! Expect to see more consistent messaging, tight branding and much more visibility this year. Learn more about Krisita in her own words here. Even board members who are stepping down this year aren’t really leaving the Open Studios world. Samyak Yamauchi, who served two years as volunteer liaison and recruitment coordinator, is continuing to help out with our social media posting on facebook. Pat Kane, who has served a record seven years on the board, most recently as the communications director, is continuing on as our newsletter editor. Kit Carlton, who spent one year as our events coordinator, is volunteering to teach art at an elementary school for a Latino Network-Open Studios collaboration.
The thing all these people have in common is a commitment to building a bridge between artist and patron. And we are looking forward to making 2019 our most successful, most fun year yet!
Starting in January, Portland Open Studios started a new partnership with the Latino Network, sending eight volunteer artists into public after-school programs to teach art to underserved students.
Jessica Lagunas, the arts and culture program coodinator for Latino Network’s “Studio Latino” program, is moved to count her blessings when speaking of this special program and the relationship between the students and Portland Open Studios artists. “It’s not just that these artists are giving their time,” she says, “it’s that they are doing this with an understanding of the kids who are being served. Many are immigrants, and some have experienced trauma. The artists have put so much work into this collaboration.”
The “Studio Latino” program works with SUN Community schools to support healthy child and youth development by exposing youth to new art forms while increasing positive skills and behaviors.
“We are so excited to be working with them,” says PDXOS President Leah Kohlenberg. “We believe at Portland Open Studios that art should be accessible and available to all. This program is a natural extension of what we already do.”
Portland Open Studios thanks the participating artists and the Studio Latino program for faciltating this important collaboration. Below are the artists and participating schools:
Joanie Krug and Janie Lowe (also our education board member), are at Scott Elementary; Linda Sawaya and Robert Fortney are at Cesar Chavez Elementary; Heather Fields and Kit Carlton are at Bridger Elementary; and David Friedman, Redd Clark and Lai Mei are at Rigler Elementary. Additionally, current open studio artist William Hernandez returns for his second year to Woodland Elementary.
Artists Kit Carlton and Heather Fields began their classes at Bridger School this week, and reported that their first day went “smashingly.” “The kiddos really responded to the collage activity Heather put together—so much so in our enthusiasm we forgot to take pictures,” said Carlton. “Many of the kiddos today had remarked that they had wanted to sign up for a cooking course but were really glad the class was full, otherwise they wouldn’t have known that the mixed media arts were so much fun. One Bridger student remarked, ‘I wish this class was every day. It’s my first new favorite class.’ This is what art is about—exploration, breaking down social/emotional barriers to reach the heart of our humanity to build community. Really rewarding.”
Jessica Lagunas has the hope that more people will see what they are doing and be inspired to get involved. For more about Studio Latino, check out their page Studio Latino “At Latino Network, we view arts and culture as essential elements of youth education. And we believe every child—regardless of race, ethnicity or class—deserves an arts-rich education.”
This year, we decided to increase our jury from three to four judges. They will be judging the artwork together and in person. We feel that we will have a better idea about what the jurors are looking for and what impresses them in this way. As usual, the jury is comprised of working artists, an art educator and a gallerist. Here they are:
Stephanie Chefas Projects is a labor of love from its owner, Stephanie Chefas, who has been independently curating art exhibits for nearly a decade in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other locations. Now calling Portland home, Chefas retains an eye for cutting-edge and often challenging work that demands attention. Highlighting a diverse blend of contemporary artists from around the world, the gallery features monthly exhibitions with an emphasis on cultivating new talent and encouraging risk and evolution among established visionaries. StephanieChefas website
Fine artist, illustrator and author Lisa Congdon is best known for her colorful drawings and hand lettering. She works for clients around the world including Commes des Garçons, Ernie Ball, Crate and Barrel, Facebook, MoMA, REI, Sonos, Harvard University, Chronicle Books, and Random House Publishing, among many others. She is the author of seven books, including the starving-artist-myth-smashing Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist. She was named one of 40 Women Over 40 to Watch in 2015 and she is featured in the 2017 book, 200 Women Who Will Change the Way you See the World. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Lisa Congdon website
Harlem native Adriene Cruz received her BFA from the School of Visual Art in New York, and has been creating art in Portland for over 30 years. Best known for her brilliantly colored and adorned art quilts, she has exhibited internationally and also designed, among other public works, the colorful Killingsworth Station on Interstate. Adriene Cruz website
Una Kim was born and raised in South Korea and immigrated to Los Angeles, California at the age of sixteen. She attended undergraduate school at the University of Southern California and graduate school at the Parsons School of Design, New York. She has shown her work nationally and internationally, with solo exhibitions in Gwangju and Daegu in South Korea, and Ningbo, China. She has completed two large murals in the Portland area, and participated in international women’s exhibitions numerous times, the latest being at the National Museum, Beijing, China and Ho Chi Minh Museum, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Una Kim FB
Until you experience it, it’s hard to describe Portland Open Studios in a way that does it justice. For my first time attending PDXOS, I was simply looking forward to meeting some artists and looking at some art – I had no idea it would be so personal, and that’s largely due to the openness that each artist takes in letting the public into their home studios.
Wayfinding using both the app and the paper map worked very well for me. I would just pick a studio as a starting point and let it flow from there. Sometimes I would meet other visitors and ask them where they had been or where they were going next. Sometimes I’d be driving through a neighborhood and a yellow sign would catch my eye and I’d take a diversion from my plan and just see where I ended up. You really can’t go wrong, however you decide to navigate and which studio you select.
I never realized before how much I enjoy learning about process. Many artists have time-lapse videos playing so that you can get a quick view, and some also did live demos, which were great. At the end of each day, my brain was full from learning and from getting that deeper understanding about what each artist puts into their work. Seeing their tools,
easels, wood cutters, paints; feeling a floor so layered with wax that you could literally scrape shavings from it; watching kids gathered around a potter’s wheel saying “I want to do that one day!” – these memories are deeply imbedded in me now, as well as a renewed sense of how important art is in our city, our country, our world. It’s like seeing dreams made tactile, and those dreams tap into our own emotions and inspiration.
Considering that a lot of artists I know are shy people, I was truly grateful to be allowed to come into their private space. Each person that I met was so welcoming! It almost felt like you’d made a new friend each time. There is a sense of community within the “communities”, and it was neat to see the connection and support among the artists.
When people say “that is SO Portland” I would apply this to Portland Open Studios with gusto – we are literally surrounded by artists in all quadrants of our city and outlying communities, and this is what makes the culture of this city so special and unique. The house down the street from you with the interesting shed out back may house a talent that you know nothing about – PDXOS gives you the opportunity to lift the curtain and see the creativity first hand. F
or both locals and out of town visitors, we are so lucky to have this curated treasure trove of makers among us and available to us! I am adding this to my yearly traditions and can’t wait to share it with others, to return to see some of the artists I met this year and to discover new ones.
On Tuesday morning, at 5:30 am, I watched as KOIN 6 news correspondent Kohr Harlan’s face lit up – literally and figuratively!
He was holding a welding tool, which was spitting out hot metal, flame and sparks, attempting to seal a piece of metal onto a wreath shape of metal pieces. Beside him was Travis Pond, one of our participating artists, walking him through the process. Harlan’s face mask was awash in blue and yellow light.
“Yup,” said Harlan, as he lifted his mask and grinned widely. “It doesn’t get better than this. I got to WELD something.”
Which reminds me why it is we do what we do at Portland Open Studios. We are not your typical art experience. Where else can a visitor immerse themselves in up to 99 different ways that artists make art, in their studios, with their tools, with work in all its various states around them? It is exhilarating. All of our artists will be demonstrating their process. Many will have something for you to try out, too.
I know people who like to romanticize the job of an artist. Let me tell you, if you are making art for a living, there are definite ups and downs, just like any other job. But the biggest up is the thrill of making something with your hands and using your right – or visual side – of the brain. Those of us who participate in Portland Open Studios know that this meditative, out-of-time feeling is what gets us through even the most difficult of days.
We also know that this feeling is not unique or special to us – anyone can get it by learning to hand-make something. Whether it’s fine art, working on a car engine, knitting, cake decorating or carpentry, taking things apart and putting them back together again is an experience that builds your brain and your soul. The artists who participate in open studios aren’t just hawking their wares. We want you to share that experience, that feeling, with you. Our connection to art is very human and very universal.
This year, Portland Open Studios celebrates 20 years, and our hope, our dream, is that you walk into open studios with curiosity, and walk out having your mind blown – that process was so cool, that painting so beautiful, that studio so amazing. We want you to walk away feeling like you must have more art in your life, and that art has something to give YOU, personally.
We want you to walk away feeling like it doesn’t get any better than this.
Leah and the Portland Open Studios Board (Maude, Shelly, Jolinda, David, Pat, Janie, Sam, Kit and Duck)
It may have been 5 am in Travis Pond’s backyard sculpture studio on Tuesday, but the place was already humming with people and activity. Travis is Artist #3 in Community 1.
Kohr Harlan, a correspondent for the KOIN TV (Channel 6) early morning news program, was wearing protective goggles and wielding a fire and hot metal spitting spout. He was welding, live on TV, with Travis!
“Yup,” said Harlan, pulling up his mask with a grin. “This is the best it gets. The story just writes itself. Man, that was fun!”
This is the second year running that Harlan has covered Portland Open Studios for Channel 6 news – always, by doing art with the artist live on TV. Last year, he visited Maude May, our board vice president, to learn about encaustic techniques. And while he walked in curious but a little skeptical – “I’m more of a sports guy” he proclaimed – he walked out hooked.
We aren’t surprised here at Portland Open Studios – we know this is why our event is so important. It gets participants up close and personal with the artmaking process, not just the art. And we know that learning to make something can change your life. Remember that this weekend, as you visit artist studios!
If you’ve been watching, you’ve seen that this 20th year of Portland Open Studios has brought many changes and new ways to appreciate art here in Portland. One of the most exciting for us is to designate an art destination at Gamblin Colors.
Gamblin is a world-class oil paint supply company home-grown in Portland, run for and by artists. True to its Portland roots, Gamblin paints and solvents are known as kinder, gentler, less toxic versions of traditional oil paints. Owner Robert Gamblin and his wife, Catherine Kumlin, are both painters with a shared studio in the Gamblin warehouse, located in the Sellwood neighborhood.
Visiting the Gamblin warehouse is amazing in itself– but as an art destination, visitors will also get to experience the Gamblins in their shared studio, and will see works and watch monotype demos from other employees. The lineup:
Dave Bernard will be exhibiting his landscape paintings inspired by his travel throughout the American West.
Robert Gamblin draws from his 40 years of making color to creating insightful, mystical landscape paintings.
Catherine Kumlin will be displaying her ongoing series of expressive self-portraits.
Scott Gellatly will be exhibiting recent, color-filled plein air and studio paintings.
Mary Weisenburger will feature her interest in geometric abstraction through oil paintings and monotypes.
Meet the crew and see how this green paint maker operates. You’ll be glad you did.
Where: Gamblin Colors, 2734 SE Raymond St, Portland, Oregon 97202. (Community 2)
This October, Portland Open Studio’s 20th year offers both something old and something new.
Unchanged is the event itself, in which 99 artists will open their studios to the public on the second and third weekends of October (Oct. 13-14 and Oct. 20-21). Visitors can expect artist demos, the chance to try out some artistic processes, and the chance to get to know artists and procure some amazing local art.
How you’ll find the artists this year – our tour guide – has gotten a serious makeover. We noticed fewer people were seeking out our printed guide, which was distributed by our amazing partners New Seasons grocery, and appeared in many forms over the years, from a calendar to an 80-page bound book. The tour guide typically cost between $10 and $15 to purchase.
Meanwhile, the phone app version of our tour guide, first developed about five years ago by artist and former board member Shu Ju Wang, was becoming increasingly popular. Last year, nearly 1,500 people downloaded the app, while only about 300 bought the paper tour guide.
This year we have three ways to find our artists:
The Printed Guide, an 8-page insert listing all artists, with addresses and contact information, organized by neighborhood, will be in the center of the October issue of Portland Monthly Magazine (price: $6). That issue, the Weekend Getaways issue, is out on the newsstands now (as of 9/10/18)
The Phone App Guide will be available in both the apple store and google play stores on Sept. 20 (Price: $4.99). You’ll be able to review three photos of art from each studio, get driving directions between studios, and new this year, a calendar that will tell you what your favorite Portland Open Studio artists are doing ALL YEAR LONG. (How’s that for added value?)
Artists and their addresses are listed on our website (free), at www.portlandopenstudios.com
Want to catch all these artists in one place? We’ll launch our 20th year with a group show of most participating artists and party at the Oregon Society of Artists, on Friday, Sept. 28, from 6-9 p.m. And save the date for our big birthday gala bash, the Art Ball, on Nov. 8 at the Hilton downtown (Come dressed as your favorite artists, art time period, or painting).
Portland Open Studio artist Jesse Reno is a classic Portland success story. A self-taught mixed media artist with Basquiat sensibilities, he has grown his career into a successful self-supporting artist who is widely shown, who sells most of the paintings he creates and who teaches his intuitive painting techniques in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Mexico. All this, he says while being “the sole manager of my career with no business background.”
This year, Reno was selected in the annual Willamette Week reader’s poll as Portland’s Best visual artist. He recently took time to answer some questions for us about how he built his career.
Other artists would probably love to know how you’ve been able to make yourself known to enough people to win the reader’s poll. Can you give us some insight on that?
I don’t think it’s any one thing. I think it’s working every day, connecting with people, making meaningful work, and the accumulation of all that work. It’s about being persistent.
I’ve been a full time artist for 15 years and I’ve been active in the Portland art scene for that entire time. I’ve exhibited my work well over 100 times. I paint murals whenever I get the chance. For the first five years I showed every month in Portland. For the last four years I’ve been running a public studio at 3022 E Burnside with Melissa Monroe where people can stop in and meet us and ask us questions etc. For the past two years Melissa and I have been hosting exhibitions at the studio, showcasing other artists in our front gallery and opening up our studio for First Friday exhibitions. I don’t take any commission from other artists at my space. I want it to be a place to build real connection and culture, where money is not a motivator as to who I show or what work is exposed and where the outcome isn’t judged on sales. I’ve been teaching and lecturing about my ideas, philosophies and techniques as an artist going on 11 years now. I’ve had an online presence since 2001 with a website, portfolio info etc. And I haven’t stopped since.
I’m always making new work and doing my best to expose it online, in exhibitions, at classes and at my studio. I use my site, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube online and post regularly. I send out monthly emails and am still running monthly events at my studio. I generally travel out of state 5-10 times a year for some kind of art gig, and I’ve been doing that for the last 12 years.
What’s the most effective thing an artist can do to help their career grow?
Make work that you really enjoy and figure out why it’s meaningful to you. That‘s the key to staying motivated and excited. Art is a long game that builds on itself. Being motivated and understanding those motivations will allow you to share meaningful insights into your work process and purpose. This is what makes people interested in what you’re doing and want to work with you. Doing something unimaginable, something that really stands out and shows
your ability and determination as an artist.
One thing that opened a lot of doors for me was painting a 20×60 ft. mural in 2003 at a place called New American Casuals, which is located on MLK under the Morrison Bridge. It was my first mural – I painted it with my friend Eric Wixon. We used two paint rollers on extenders, a handful of brushes, and two ladders. We painted it for free and bought our own paint. It was all about painting the biggest piece I ever made in a place where a huge amount of people would be exposed to it – all kinds of random people. We had a show at the space after the mural was complete and I made a ton of friends, and sold a few pieces.
Most of all, having done it really motivated me. After that, when I went around town asking for shows, and a gallery or business owner in town asked where I had shown I asked if they had ever seen the mural under the Morrison Bridge. When I told them I did it they almost always asked when I wanted to show. It let people not only see my work but know I was determined enough to do something serious. There are plenty of other options; pretty much anything you can do that will speak for your ability and determination as an artist is a good idea.
Do you look at making art as a business?
Not making art, that’s a special space where I get to experiment, create, connect with abstract ideas and myself, and see what comes out. I look at exposing the work as a business for sure, but I keep it basic, in the sense that I want it to be exposed and available to people. In the early days I showed my work almost anywhere and for really affordable prices ranging from $25 to $500 for a master-piece. I’ve adjusted this all over time based on sales exposure, accomplishments and my current schedule. Now that I have too many opportunities to choose from I do my research and pick based on what I think will be the best exposure, and most fun. I look at it as a business when I’m working with people as well. This is my job and I take that part super serious.
Any time I’m working out a future opportunity I make sure I’m clear on my expectations and understand theirs by asking questions and taking notes. I provide them with all they ask for in a clear and efficient manner. I generally do this kind of work first so my head is clear and free when it’s time to create. I also have an assistant who photographs my work, corrects it for print and web, updates my site with images and events, helps organize travel arrangements, tracks inventories of art and art related products, preps work for exhibitions, packs work for shipment to shows or collectors, and other random things. I’d say getting an assistant is a really key once you start to succeed. The more you succeed the more business there is to do and one person can only do so much. It also pushes you to take it all even more seriously. It’s most important to keep the captain happy – meaning you – if you become unhappy and start to slack the whole ship goes down.
I’ve heard you say painting is an obsession for you. How do you handle the less obsessive parts about being a successful artist like making money and extending your patron base?
You have no choice but to do those things if you are going to succeed, so you accept that doing the things you need to are necessary and get them done. In the beginning my motto was ‘by any means necessary.’ I was obsessed with painting from the beginning. But the only way you’re going to get to paint more is to sell them. So success was always motivated by desire for me. Once I started to sell my work I was really grateful and excited to sell more. I could see the potential pretty quick.
I’ve never liked working for other people so as soon as I could see any possibility of working for myself I became very motivated to figure out how to make that happen. Now, as I mentioned before, I have an assistant who does a lot of the less exciting things. I’m still coming up with the ideas and managing them but it takes a lot off my plate. All that being said I still sometimes get really irritated with all the work it takes so I can paint, but it all needs to get done so I can keep painting.
It’s important to keep it fun too – taking on projects you actually want to do, basing your decisions on economics, but also taking into account what you’re good at and what taxes you. If it’s going to wear you down you want to make sure you’re getting paid well. Another option is to do twice as much work doing projects that are fun for you and hope for more random exposure, connection, and self-motivation. One thing that always seems to hold true is the more you do the more that happens. It’s not immediate but almost everything leads to something. So, the main point is to always be showing and sharing your work.
How important is it to take the time to do the more business-like tasks?
It’s the second most important thing after painting.
It’s at least half the job. If you don’t take care of business or take the time to promote and expose your work you’re not going to succeed. No one is looking for artists hiding in their studios.
If you woke up one morning and no one was buying your art, would you change anything?
I’d figure out was going wrong and find a new way to sell it. it’s all about finding people who connect with what you’re doing and making your work accessible to them. There are a lot of people in the world. It’s all about finding the ones you connect with. I’ve changed and followed a lot of paths through my career. You always need to adjust and grow as time goes on – things are always changing.
This is another reason you need to love what you do. it’s what keeps me motivated to always find new ways to keep things moving.
Can you offer us some examples of your working style and technique?
This is a painting process video I made – I’ve used it to promote my work and classes. I’m also pretty sure it’s what ultimately got me my gig live painting in Hollywood earlier this month. It’s all shot and assembled on my phone. A bit of a project but something most people could do if they put in the time.
There is a ton more info about how I got where I am and what I did to get there. Here’s a talk I gave at the National Art Educators convention in Chicago a few years ago. It takes a minute to load the player but it’s great if someone was interested in my back ground.
I’m sharing these because I thought they would be helpful as they give a visual to the words
which I think is key – it makes it all believable and digestible and that’s key to sending your message home.
Jesse and Melissa are having a show in the front gallery at True Measure Gallery on Sept 7th – First Friday – All are welcome – Jesse and Melissa Monroe will performing a live musical soundtrack to some recent films they made at 8pm. The show runs from 6-10pm
Jesse Reno and Melissa Monroe are numbers 43 and 37 on the Open Studios tour this year. You can reach him here: jessereno.com instagram @jessereno, or reach them at
The Studios and Gallery of Jesse Reno and Melissa Monroe
True Measure Gallery
3022 East Burnside
Portland OR 97214
Once upon a time, in 1998, I had two small paintings in an exhibition. I was asked to price the pieces low, so that they would sell, and sell they did. But when I received my percentage, it seemed as though I didn’t earn anything at all from this double sale. And so, after 17 years of being an exhibiting artist, I finally did some math to find out what it really cost me to produce any one painting. The unhappy ending? Not only did I not make any profit, but it cost me $500 out of pocket to sell those two paintings.
We have been told to count the hours spent creating the artwork, and to add up the cost of our materials, at most. This issue has flummoxed artists, coast to coast, for as long as I can remember. It should be taught in art school, among other business things.
Math is your friend and knowledge is power.
Start with four basic pieces of information:
Material Costs: Add up all the materials that go into your artwork. Average them out over the year, per piece of artwork created that same year.
Overhead Costs: Other expenses that go into being a working artist such as studio rent, workshops, photography, etc.
Creative Labor: Time spent actually creating your artwork in the studio. Keep a log.
Miscellaneous Labor: Time you spend doing support work such as attending meetings, gallery visits, shopping for supplies. Keep a log. Average it out over the year, per piece of artwork created that year.
One more thing to calculate:
Figure out your minimum hourly living wage, based on your real life expenses, so that you can live to continue to create work. That is only reasonable. Neither luxurious, nor impoverished, but reasonable.
As an example:
It takes you 15 hours to paint “Goldfish Dreams”, plus 20 hours average support time per painting. This equals 35 hours of your time to create this painting.
If your minimum hourly living wage is $25 per hour, then that is $875 for labor costs alone. If your material and overhead expenses average $200 per painting, then “Goldfish Dreams” cost you $1075. to create. You also need to consider any exhibition commissions, plus taxes on your labor and any profits.
Knowing what it really costs to create your work can be distressing at first, however, knowledge is power.
Everything above can be calculated mathematically. Then there are the more intangible items to consider:
Price ranges in the art market
The economy in general
Your cumulative experience as an artist
Your career level
And other things…
Remember to value your skill, vision, and years of experience… And then balance that with the reality of the marketplace. Have work available at different price points, from quick sketches and experimental pieces to your highest-quality exhibiting work. Balance what is important to you personally, and to your longer-term career.