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!
Portlanders are known for out-of-the box thinking, maverick action and putting crazy ideas into motion – in general, keeping it weird. Portland Open Studio artists are no exception to the rule – you will no doubt be amazed by the 99 artists who will show you their processes over the second and third weekends of October (Oct. 13-14 and 20-21). But even amongst this powerhouse creative group, some have risen above and beyond to create innovative, interesting, and – dare we say it – weird ways of making art.
So where can you find the top most unusual artistic processes during open studios?
Angela White-Wenger (Studio 74, North Portland Community 5), harvests orb weaver spider webs on porcelain forms in her backyard, and fires the designs into the final product. “I imagine them lasting for billions of years,” she says. “The webs are records of many things. In their design, scale, shape, captured contents (bugs, seeds, leaves, dust and debris), in their broken and repaired areas – they reflect and record the bodies, locations, surrounding conditions and daily activities of their creators.” Linda Ethier (Studio 30, Southeast, Community 3), creates delicate, intricately constructed glass sculptures with an ancient glass technique known as pate de verre, a process using finely ground particles of glass packed into molds and fired until they melt into forms. She then piles these delicate glass objects layer upon layer, firing each layer, and using molds to maintain the shape of each individual piece. “I use images of the natural world of things gathered and cherished since childhood: feathers, leaves, bones, egg shells, twigs and the odd mysterious trinket, saved as treasures to be revisited, to be seen and pondered during quiet moments.”
David Friedman (Studio 53, Northeast, Community 4), is a paper cutter who uses color optics to add depth and texture to his work. That involves cutting more than one layer, and putting colored pastel papers behind black pastel paper, creating a duplex paper to cut from, then mounting it up so its colorful shadows reflect on a white matteboard to which it is attached. “That makes color an integral part of each piece,” says Friedman, who developed the technique on his own. How unusual is it? In July, he did a demo for the Guild of American Paper Cutters, which met in Portland. “None of them had seen anything like it,” he said.
When we tried to hand sculptor/welders Rio Butler (Studio #92, Southwest Portland, Community 8) and Robert Travis Pond (Studio #3, Oregon City/West Linn, Community 1) an art store coupon, both turned it down. “I never use art supplies,” says Pond, shrugging. His beautifully gestural, crafted sculptures of animals and other objects are based on materials he pulls from scrap heaps. “I look for objects with significance and meaning,” he says. Butler, whose whimsical structures create an entirely new, mechanical world, agrees. “I scavenge things from every job I’ve ever done,” he says, “and then I let the pieces talk to me to tell me what to make.”
Photographer Jon Gottshall (Studio #69, North Portland, Community 5) and multimedia artist Kit Carlton (Studio #93, SW Portland, Community 8), both fuse old-school and new school artistic processes. Gottshall starts by printing a photograph onto clear, non-absorbent acetate, which allows the ink to remain fluid as it prints – and the longer he waits, the more it changes. He scans several changes, then overlays the scans into the original photograph, before printing a final copy. The result? Photographs that look like paintings. Carlton creates marks using pen, paint, and other art supplies on various surfaces, then photographs and layers those images using a computer – a process she terms “digilog – a combo of analog and digital art.”
And finally, Elise Wagner (Studio #73, North Portland, Community 5), combines encaustic painting (mixing wax with paint) with collograph printmaking. She now teaches this process nationally.
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.
This Friday, July 13th from 6-9pm you can see many artists drawing, painting and mixed media–ing to help benefit the Portland Art Museum. The Monster Drawing Rally will be held between the buildings of the Portland Art Museum. Several Portland Open Studios artist will be drawing at the event including Jesse Reno, Melissa Monroe and David Friedman. Past PDXOS artists will also be drawing. All finished works will sell for $35.
Proceeds support free school and youth programs at the Museum.
Bring the Family!
Stop by the L’il Drawing Rally an area where kids and families are encouraged to sit down and draw. This year’s L’il Drawing Rally features a fun experimental figure drawing activity led by artist Kristin Musser.
You might think of Portland Open Studios as an October happening. And yes, while it’s true our flagship event – the citywide open art studio tour – takes place over the second and third weekends of October, our 100 artists are around and visible all year round. And we want to do more!
You’ll see us demoing and sharing our process at the art stores Blick, Artist & Craftsman and Collage all summer and into the fall. We are showing art in venues all over the city. We are working with high school interns (our application program is still open, go here to register. And this year, our interns will be showing WITH us during the October tour.
Many of us offer classes in our studios all year long. We believe with a passion that everyone should love art, do art, and appreciate art. We think your life will be better for it, and we want to connect with you! This year, when we launch our new October tour guide phone app (in late summer), we will include a calendar function – that means all our artists can report on classes, shows, public exhibitions and other events all year round. It also means you can find them, in one place. (Thank hard-working board members David Friedman, Maude May and Duck Holland, and volunteer/data administrator Charlotte Cunningham for all the ground work they are doing now to launch this project).
But we are also open to ideas from you, the community. Please tell us if you have ideas about how we can interact with YOU! We love visiting schools, public offices, corporations, nursing homes. We are open to programming ideas of all kinds. We are an army of 100 artists, and we would like to serve our community. So please do tell us how: Write to me with any ideas, at firstname.lastname@example.org.