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)
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
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.
What an exhilarating moment – Portland Open Studios turns 20!
What started out as an idea to connect artists directly to the public in the basement of our founder, Portland artist Kitty Wallis, has morphed into an annual, educational, citywide art studio tour. Though it’s taken many forms over the years, for at least 15 years the second and third weekends of October are reserved for art lovers to meet and explore the artists living and working in their neighborhoods and beyond in their natural habitat – the art studio. As we have grown, we’ve recognized the increasing need for this type of art exposure, because we believe that creativity empowers and everyone should experience it, do it, and feel it directly.
At age 20, we can assure you – our 2018 Art Studio Tour will be better than ever! As usual, we’ll jury in 100 artists to represent our city’s professional working artists. As usual, during Oct. 13-14 and 20-21, we will invite the public to join us in those 100 artist studios, seeing (and often participating in) the creation of art.
What we will change this year is how we deliver our information about the tour. While our printed guide, so generously distributed through New Seasons grocery stores, used to be the main information source for locating artists during the tour, that is no longer the case. Now, most tourgoers opt to purchase the tour guide in the form of a mobile app. Meanwhile the printed guide sales have steadily declined over the years – it’s become a very costly brochure that fewer people pick up or even notice.
That’s why we are excited to announce our new partnership to print and distribute our paper version of the tour guide – with Portland Monthly Magazine! This year, tour goers can find the guide in the October issue (which focuses, appropriately, on weekend getaways). That brings the cost of the guide for tour goers down from $15 to $6, and with circulation numbers of 55,000, we are anticipating dramatically increased exposure! This new guide will be a streamlined version of our former 80-page tome – so you’ll be able to access the information much more quickly.
We’ll also be rolling out an updated mobile app tour guide (more details on that to come), and we’ll be updating our website so that people who want to access the artists can do so for free.
Welcome to Portland Open Studios 20th year – or as we like to think of it, Open studios 2.0!
For 19 years, Portland Open Studios has made it our mission to connect you, our friends, the public, with some of the best professional artists in town. This year, we reached out to more of you by offering a free app, PDXOS 2017, to find and visit studios – and you responded! PDXOS 2017 was highly successful and increased tour traffic this year! It was worth it to see so many more of you participating in the tour.
Taking a leap into the social media world creates new opportunities to expand our reach. But that leap also caused a bit of a budget shortfall. At this seasonal giving time of year, we would love for you to join us as a FRIEND OF PORTLAND OPEN STUDIOS. Our goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of the year. Like colors in a palette, Portland Open Studios has a range of opportunities for you to consider – all tax deductible.
Make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year and become:
$50 A Friend $150 A Copper Friend $300 A Silver Friend $500 A Gold Friend $1000+ Our BFF forever (aka Platinum Friend)
Looking for a hostess gift, a thank you, a stocking stuffer? A little something for someone special? Take a peek at our Portland Open Studios goodies. Show your support for Portland Open Studios by purchasing an apron, a reusable bag, a water bottle, t-shirt and more here! Check it out here!Our Shop
We value our visitors and want to make sure this tour is your tour. Please take a few minutes to fill out our survey – the survey will be particularly important this year as we listen to your suggestions heading into our banner 20th year.
We love getting checks in the mail – and that’s exactly what happened when Blank Slate Bar, a new bar and eatery in Montavilla, teamed up with longtime Open Studio artist Karl Kaiser to raise money for Portland Open Studios. They sold a special drink, the whisky-based Fluxus, during the month of October, and donated a dollar of every drink to our internship program. We just cashed their generous check. Many thanks to Blank Slate, and Karl, for your work on our behalf! Blank Slate
NOTE: Portland Open Studios President Kerri Hewett has new roommates: her friend Anna, and her two daughters, ages 9 and 13. While she’s done the tour many years, this is the first year she’s taken kids with her. Read her account below:
Preparing for the tour this year I had my work cut out for me. The car was packed with five of us: Amy from Umatilla, Anna and her two daughters Christina (13) and Ralphie (9), with me driving. Amy had visited during the tour last year as well, so we needed to maximize her visit. My goal this year was to visit new studios to see artists practicing in a wide variety of media, and with two kids this year, I was looking for high volumes of interaction.
From the first studio visit, we struck gold.
Visiting the studio Rick Wheeler and Chas Martin share, the girls immediately fell in love with Rick’s wild cat portraits. His images appear to have been drawn with black ink. I asked Rick to demonstrate scratchboard techniques and explain this medium. He held up his exacto knife and declared, “This is my tool, not a pen or a pencil.” He was using a reference photograph he took of the bear at the zoo in Salt Lake City. Christina’s jaw dropped and eyes widened as he skillfully scraped away the black ink on the image of the bear. Seeing this subtractive technique was definitely a paradigm shift for the girls.
Next, we visited Beth Yazhari to see her intricate, exquisite mixed media beaded artwork. As she explained where individual pieces came from and how she recycled them in a meaningful way, she was revealing her passion for bringing cultures together, across different eras. The kids also got to try it: Beth had three canvas pieces she was opening up for collaboration during the Open Studios weekends and engaged Christina’s interest in sewing to add beads to a piece that was recently started.
We must have talked for nearly an hour about the inspirations and meanings behind the work displayed on the walls of her studio. After a while, and with a little encouragement Ralphie joined in and started a brand-new piece with a completely white canvas.
What I love best about Open Studios is that we aren’t just looking at the “successful” fully finished, framed works we see in a gallery, or at a show opening. Open Studios allows us to view a process, the length of time it takes to get from empty frames, white canvas, or mounds of clay, through the experimentation of image, building skills, creating or avoiding muscle memory techniques – all leading to those finished products.
Interacting with the girls at home, in their artistic endeavors, I see their frustration at not being able to create a replica of what is in their imagination. Learning a new skill, though frustrating at times, will inevitably bring new ideas to the table. Getting this point across to a younger audience is challenging. They intend a different outcome while confronting this learning curve, and start believing their work is a failure, ugly, incorrect. Beth was the first artist of the day to state that there are no mistakes, no wrong way to add the beads.
Comments from the girls:
“I didn’t know that was a kind of art!”
“She spent 200 hours on that picture!”
We continued to Erin Leichty’s studio nearby. Erin regularly provides hands-on interaction during the Open Studios weekends. The girls got to coat a piece with drywall compound, scrub the paper off an image transfer process, and use chisels and other tools to carve and scrape a sample piece representing the final stages of Erin’s work. Again, “no wrong way” is heard, and duly noted in the car by Christina as we head to Aloha to visit a glass studio offering a sandblasting experience. Additional ah-ha moments include the realization that Erin’s photo transfer process requires a mirrored image to start.
“That stuff (drywall compound) is cool. I kept getting my fingers in the way.”
“I didn’t know some artists let you touch their artwork.”
“That’s two artists that said there was no wrong way.”
Watching a 9-year-old girl sandblast a water glass – Empowering.
Dropped jaws and wide-eyed wonder at nearly every studio – Priceless.
Our mission at Portland Open Studios is to create a direct relationship between working artists and the public, so that we’ll engender a passion for and connection to the arts with the public. There is no more direct way of experiencing this than through the eyes of a child.
Here we are, the day before the tour starts. Our artists are making sure they’re ready for your visits!
Some last minute announcements:
Oregon Society of Artists, one of our supporters this year hosting two artists: #42 – Farooq Hassan and #43 – Susan Kuznitsky. Additional artist studios in the building are welcoming visitors – see their ad on page 37 of the 2017 Guide to Local Artists.
The Terwilliger bridge will be closed Oct 14-15 making it difficult to find #15 Leslie Lee and #16 Dennis Meiners during Portland Open Studios.
Here’s the quickest re-route off I-5 South: Take the Terwilliger exit – stay in the left lane and turn left onto Barbur Boulevard. Turn left on 19th St. by Safeway, turn left on Spring Garden Road, left onto Taylor’s Ferry, cross Terwilliger, turn left on 4th, or 3rd or 2nd Ave. to 8225 SW 3rd Ave. It’s a quick detour REALLY
Also, Multnomah Blvd will take you to the east end of the bridge via the Terwilliger exit off I-5 N.
Dane Eisenbart is new to the tour this year, and we’re excited to have him on board. He was born and raised in the surrounding forests of the Tualatin Mountains, where he could often be found drawing or exploring outside. It’s here that he developed a fascination with the natural world which continues to inspire his artwork today. He enjoys exploring remote wilderness, hunting for small treasures, sea kayaking, and sharing stories of all kinds.
His work is characterized by anthropomorphic depictions of wildlife, dueling archetypes of light and dark, and an aesthetic of motion. He weaves together visual stories that resemble dream-like scenarios where nature’s laws are bent and new mythologies are born.
I had to ask how he got involved with art, because his art is so unusual. He explained “My mom is an incredible artist and I grew up idolizing her. There was always a variety of art supplies laying around the house and I took to art making really early. It was an intuitive way for me to spend my time and channel my energy. I think I proclaimed I would be a professional artist when I was four or five years old.”
“Every composition begins with the process of brainstorming, research, and stock image collection. I piece my findings together and begin sketching out the idea small before translating it to canvas. I work in multiple layers of oil paint. I rough in the first layer quickly without worrying too much about perfection. The second and third layers are often semi translucent glazes that shift the colors in the right direction and fine-tune the shadows and highlights of the piece. Each subsequent layer focuses more intently on details and my brush tends to get smaller the longer I work on a painting.
If you visit Dane in his studio this weekend or next, he will be showing several paintings in varying stages of progress and many more that are finished. He feels …”it’s is a great opportunity to learn about my process and see my creative space in person. As an added bonus you get to check out the Falcon Art Community which is home to an impressive collection of large format paintings. The space kind of has the feeling of a secret museum / art dungeon”
So you want to experience Portland Open Studios over the next two weekends (Oct 14-15 and 21-22). You’ve got a choice of 103 artists to visit over four days. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that planning for your tour might help.
Start by picking up our tour guide: You can download a free phone app, or one with more bells and whistles for $5.99. Or you can buy our commemorative full-color print guide for $15 at New Seasons, most art stores, and other select retail locations. The guide is organized by communities (there are eight communities this year), and includes maps and addresses of participating artist studios in each community. You can find artists by location, by medium, or by name!
We talked to two long-time tour goers, Sharee Schreiner and Diane Hunt, to get some advice on how to best do Portland Open Studios. Some practical tips:
Plan ahead. Spend some time deciding which artists you want to visit. Diane does this by getting familiar with the tour guide during the weeks before the tour (specifically, she keeps it on her passenger seat in the car, and skims the guide while stopped at traffic lights). Sharee determines whom she might be interested in visiting by perusing the guide, then going online and researching those earmarked artists, and by visiting their personal websites. Once you decide whom you want to visit, mark them on the calendar, and plan your tour around the map itself, maximizing the experience. You can also buy the phone app for $5.99, and mark favorites (it will automatically give you driving directions).
Don’t be shy, ask questions. The artists have been preparing for this tour for months, and they have a lot to share with you. Just let them know what interests you.
Expect a really personal experience. Immerse yourself in the fun of it. Especially if you buy something. Says Diane: If you go into each studio in the right frame of mind, you’re not just buying a piece of art, you are buying the story of your encounter with the artist. When we visited her house, Diane had a story for each piece of art she bought during the Portland Open Studios tour.
If something grabs you, buy it. There’s a good chance that if you don’t, it won’t be there when you come back. “I have missed things,” says Diane ruefully. Remember that many of these artists will let you buy a piece in installments if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask about an installment plan
Follow us on Instagram(pdxopenstudios) and watch for chances to win prizes during the tour.
Be respectful to the artist and their space, because in so many cases the studio is their home. You’re going into someone’s private space, so it’s important to be respectful of that.