Karl Kaiser’s mom was a teacher and so he was always doing art projects growing up. “But it wasn’t until I was older and on my first trip to Europe that I became interested in photography, specifically black and white photography.” During that visit he spent time with his Aunt Wanda, a working artist living in Germany. “On that first trip to Europe many years ago, I visited her and we spent many, many hours in her studio talking about art. From that moment on, she has been an inspiration. She still paints today at 87 and I still visit her as often as I can.” Karl’s training since then has been in the form of observation and from taking classes from talented artists. He continues learning still.
He eventually migrated to acrylic painting in an effort to explore a deeper connection to what he was finding through the lens. “I was exposed to Encaustic in 2005 and now consider it my primary medium because of the unique depth and texture it brings to my subjects. I manipulate the wax through scraping, using impressions and smoothing techniques to evoke the complicated but perfect natural world around me.”
“For the last few years I have been developing a technique that creates an illusion of depth with the wax. It transforms the artwork into a three-dimensional space. This technique consists of layers of color applied one on top of another and then scraping back the sides to reveal lines of color. Typically this means 50 to 100 layers of color. This piece is then embedded on its side into a wax platform of any number of color themes, overlaid with clear wax and then heated with a torch to bring out specific qualities that sometimes take shape as clouds, waves, trees or other nature inspired concepts. I try to capture the play of light and motion I see while I work with the wax. I do not fight against the hot wax; I let it find its own path. My intent is to create landscapes with differing vitalities, vibrancies and mood. My goal for the viewer is to evoke a time in place that is familiar but not easily identified or a memory that sits just outside of the periphery. To transport the viewer away from the distracted present and draw their focus inward to a place of peace and reflection.
As might be expected, Karl’s Aunt Wanda, a working artist living in Germany, is his biggest inspiration. “My Aunt Wanda continues to paint, draw or do something creative every day. She hasn’t told me in so many words, but has shown me by her example that doing something every day is the best thing an artist can do.” He gets his inspiration in part from “daily walks where I see nature, let my mind rest and wander and bring back images of things that catch my eye that inform my work.”
To see Karl in action, visit his studio during Portland Open Studios On October 14-15 or 21-22.
Meet Sally Squire. Walking through Sally Squire’s studio, I am continually amazed by the flights of fancy her imagination takes. She thinks she “wants to get to the point where I call myself an experimental artist.” I think she got there years ago. I see all kinds of things around the studio, some highlighting her artistic history, some giving us a hint at what’s to come. We’re rushing around her home so she can share it all with me. I’m blown away. She shows me a piece that is mounted to a curved piece of wood, reminiscent of a keyboard, called ‘Bell Canto’. It is a very colorful piece (see photo) created in 3 tiers. The inspiration behind this piece is a quote from the book, Bell Canto: “Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. … It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world’s greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.” But the real genius – each letter of the alphabet is given a different color, and the art piece spells out the quote.
Sally graduated with a degree in architecture and was in facility management for a number of years. Then she took a metalworking class, and just started making things. Since then she has worked making jewelry, then moved on to paper price tags with fabric dye and salt crystals on them. She started working with clay around that time, and took classes with Kristy Lombard. She just kept evolving and working. Polymer clay informs her earth clay period. “Most of my work in polymer was jewelry centered. Jewelry is just small sculpture, and it was a natural progression, as the urge to go larger got stronger, to seek out materials and techniques that supported that expression.” She sees a lot of patterns in things, and texture is really important to her.
Sally showed me a cabinet that contains some of the wealth of materials she has acquired, including strapping, paper price tags, plastic fasteners, coffee stirrers, dryer vent material, ear specula, and more, which she usually finds simply by looking around her. “I get a kick out of figuring out how each piece will go together, and I like to vary the challenge. So while I may produce a series, I move on to new materials fairly rapidly. That’s where my breadth of different art processes, and a background in building things really pays off.”
She admits to me that she doesn’t have a problem with inspiration, only a problem with what to do next. By this time I’m wondering if she has a blog and if I can follow along for the ride. “While I might be inspired by a medium or material, the idea comes first, then I figure out how to make it. It is usually the opposite with earth clay [I usually use a porcelain clay that is infused with paper fibers that are burned out during firing]. Working with clay is sensuous and I coax and caress the sculpture out of the raw clay. It is not unusual for my non-clay work to involve engineering and analytical processes in the design. In clay, and in my recent smoke work, the composition comes out of manipulation of the materials with only high-level planning in the beginning.”
Smoke and Mirrors
Sally’s current work includes a number of new processes, as well as new vistas in her already exciting clay work. “I’m using smoke a lot, both on paper and on porcelain. I have been drawn to fire in the last year for several reasons. The elemental nature is a balancing force to my reliance on electronics; it feels like the world is on fire; and I have had a year of health issues that challenged my outlook on life. With the recent forest fires impacting our lives, the work I do with flame and soot has another layer of meaning.
”The techniques that I use include smoking (fuming), branding, melting, origami, rubbing, mirroring, singeing, toasting, and liquid dropping. My materials include soot, paraffin, candle wax, conte, pigment, and hemp particles. Almost all these different processes involve carbon. Carbon as a mark maker. Most of the wall pieces all involve carbon on paper, and carbon introduced as a finish on the ceramics.”
Sally’s current work on paper includes smoke on origami and paper. A lot of her origami involves crinkling or ‘squishing’ paper, which allows her to find pathways, to which she introduces color and/or smoke, giving the piece depth. For me, these pieces are reminiscent of Tolkien’s maps of Middle Earth.
Her ‘shadow people’ are created using water, candle wax, paraffin, soot and flame scorch on paper. “If we could see people at their core, this is what I imagine it would look like. People – in groups of 2, 3 and 4 – interacting with their crowns of feelings emanating out of their heads.”
At the same time she is working with mirroring, which involves several processes including burning hemp twine, laying it on paper, covering with another sheet, then pulling the twine, creating mirror images.
Mirroring is a common theme for her. ”Often, in my spare time (ha-ha), I work with digital images as an exercise in color and form. I explore mirroring. The reason I often alter the images is to practice ‘seeing’ – that is to see the patterns and shapes and seek a new understanding rooted in imagination rather than ‘reality’. The [greeting] cards let me show off all the creative energy that pours out of me. It’s kind of a good record too!” She will have these cards for sale during the Tour.
Also for the tour, Sally is thinking of demoing the process she has begun using on her ‘Scutes’, which she has scorched with burning hemp twine. This produces a toasted look and the detritus of the burning twine gets incorporated as little black marks. She has also used this process on a wall piece that she will be working on during the tour made from small pieces of clay, cut, then mounted.
Sally Squire is curious, constantly exploring and experimenting. “My art reflects my broad interests and finds its expression through varied materials and mediums. You see the expression of the rhythm of my life – patterns and lines – in clusters and groupings of similar shapes. My non-objective style engages the senses of seeing and touch. Recently, this expression has blended into sensuous curves, peaks and valleys through ceramic and smoke. My work draws you in and invites you to explore its landscape and kinetic stories.”
Meet Paula Blackwell. Like many artists Paula was an artistic child, but she also excelled in science and physical fitness. Besides winning several Art awards she also won the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, a Science award and several Gold and silver medals as a short distance runner.
Her art education consisted of a college class in encaustic, private lessons in encaustic and professional faux finish and decorative painting classes. Before becoming a full time studio artist she was a professional faux finisher, creating decorative finishes on walls. She also worked creating displays for companies: faux finishing for the Street of Dreams, and creating displays for commercials. She once created a 1500 sq ft. Santa Fe village for an all-natural cigarette company “Natural American Spirit.”
Paula considered teaching faux finishing techniques after the housing market fell sharply. Just as she was envisioning what her studio should look like, a friend asked if she wanted to go on the Portland Open Studios tour. Paula agreed: she wanted to see artists who were teaching classes, so she could take a look at their studio set up. After the tour Paula convinced her friend to show her some of the encaustic techniques she had been learning. As soon as she started experimenting with the medium she fell in love. “I left thinking ‘I’ve got to play with this more – this is fun, it smells good and it’s amazing.”
Paula began watching every YouTube video about the art and trying to get as much information as she could. “I started producing lots of encaustic paintings, showing them to all my friends , and was in galleries after a month; after two months I had a website up and was making sales right away. This lit a flame and encouraged me to do more paintings and invest in a professional Encaustic studio.
Three months later, I was doing some on-line sales, and Jessica Beal Timberlake bought three of my paintings. I thought, “holy cow, that is so awesome” and decided to reinvest in this art and make sure that it was archival while honing my style.” One artist on YouTube turned out to live close to where she and her husband were going for Christmas. She decided to take take private lessons. “I wanted to just bang it out, get good, and make sure I had all the techniques.” And if Paula thought she was amped up before, “After the private lessons she was on fire: a girl on a mission.”
Then Paula got into PDXOS, a couple more galleries and a publishing company. The publishers sell fine art prints of her work, which they sell to designers, hotels, luxury resorts, and stores like Pottery Barn, ZGallery, and Arthaus. Per the publishers Paula is one of their most sought after artists; they are literally selling hundreds of her prints per quarter. And she recently signed her second three year contract with them.
Paula shared with me the history of encaustic art, which I found very interesting. Ancient Greek shipbuilders used wax to seal cracks in their boats; and then someone got the idea to pigment the wax and soon whole fleets of ships were being embellished. Soon a school in the mountains above the town of Faiyum was born where kids could go to school to learn the technique of encaustic. To make spending money, they would go down into the town of Faiyum where all the lords and ladies lived and would ask if they could paint their portraits. The young artists painted with the pigmented wax on wood. They would take an implement and put it in a little bowl that had coal in it to keep it hot. They had 4 colored bars of wax. They would take the tool out of the coal, touch it on the bar of wax, and paint directly on the wood with the tool. They mixed the 4 colored bars of wax & painted the most incredible portraits in beautiful colors. To this day they are in museums and they are as vibrant and colorful as they were then.
To see more of Paula’s art, and soak up her amazing enthusiasm, be sure to visit her during this year’s Portland Open Studios Tour.
Here’s a chance to see Community 8 artists before the Tour. They are showing at the Milwaukie First Friday event at Milwaukie City Hall this First Friday, in coordination with the Milwaukie Arts Council. Check it out
Portland Open Studios will also have a booth there, so be sure to stop by to say hi!
I hear there’s an 8×8 show going on in the space next door, as well as a music stage and vendors across the street. Sounds like a great way to spend Friday night, September 1.
We have word from Chris Haberman that it’s going to be the biggest First Friday yet with lots of events at local businesses and events for charity happening.
To find out more about Portland Open Studios, click here.
Come meet Portland Open Studios’ highest scoring artists and watch them demo their work during the September 7th First Thursday art walk. From 5-7 pm, at Blick Art Supplies, 1115 NW Glisan in the Pearl.
You’ll meet our top scoring artists – woodcarver Sam Hingston and emerging artist/painter Dane Eisenbart – and see works displayed from our artist-community leaders from around the city: Sara Swink, Susan Harrington, Kelly Williams and Chas Martin.
Folks can also pick up the $15 Open Studios tour guide at the Gallery and start to plan their tours of the studios they want to visit in the fall. The show will be up throughout the month of September.
Art enthusiasts, collectors and artists alike, mark your calendar! Sept. 17th is the last official date to choose an exclusive work from one of the artists participating in our creative program: Portland’s Community Supported Art (PDX-CSA)
PDX-CSA is currently in its fourth season, but began when cofounders Jason Kappus and Kristin Thiel wanted to find a more organic way for the public to interact with the local art scene. The two came up with the idea to introduce a program akin to CSA associations – but instead of farm to kitchen table, PDX-CSA delivers from the artist’s studio to you. This program provides patrons a chance to draw back the curtain on the artistic process by allowing them to select either a paired or individual project to fund, watch the projects progress and upon completion receive specially made art that they in a sense have had a hand in producing. This program is mutually beneficial for both artist and consumer because, as Kappus states, “By pre-purchasing artwork a buyer is saying that they have faith in the artist and their vision, which is a powerful gift to offer. [It] allows the artists to get paid for the effort of making the artwork and the freedom to experiment and push themselves. On the buyer’s side pre-purchasing the artwork means that they get the unique experience of following the journey of their artwork from concept to completion. Our feedback from Collectors so far has been that it’s a rewarding experience, one that connects them to the artists and their creative processes in a way they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
This demystification of the artistic process is essentially what drove Elise Wagner, part innovator and part alchemist, to participate in this year’s PDX-CSA event. Elise takes her cues from the natural world and the realm of science and creates stunning collagraphs from a technique she pioneered: “People are curious. It’s important to satisfy the curiosity of art loving people; then you make a better connection overall. If your ideas are interesting to them you want to connect with them too because then you can have a dialogue about the work. As artists we’re mostly isolated in our studio and are just ‘going through the motions’ of our practice. We don’t realize someone would be very interested in the technical, esoteric and the inspirational aspects of the process. But if they could come together in a way where you are not talking too much about one or the other and how they work together to make a whole; well, that’s where alchemy happens.”
For Kirista Trask, vibrant abstractionist and tenth generation Oregonian, her involvement with PDX-CSA came about from the struggle to explain the potent symbolism embedded in her abstractions in a way that easily translates to the Portlander experience. “It’s weird to say what you are trying to do and how it is tied to memories – that it is autobiographical. That it is a representation of a moment or a place. How do I expand from there to physically move my space out into PDX? For this project I’m taking my travel art-kit/easel and getting out into the heart of Portland to express the kinds of places that symbolize this city. Not just our beautiful parks, but places that epitomize Portland. For example, Voodoo Doughnuts makes a powerful visual symbolization – that fluorescent pink and bright color palette.”
While PDX-CSA aims to bridge the gap between the artistic community and the general public, at the nucleus of this program lies the reality that creating and experience is what truthfully informs our human condition and connects us all. It’s all about connection. Perhaps this is why Samyak Yamauchi, intuitive painter and constructor of whimsically imagined-worlds, best embodies this spirit of PDX-CSA through her daily practice of creating: “I just love the magic of it. How you have nothing and then you have something. It just happens. I love the mystery in it. I love how I don’t know what is going to happen. I love how in the studio, in any situation I guess, you always get to start over. If I don’t like something in my life or a painting, I can change it, get rid of it or do something else. I love that. I love how the creative process is just life. I just love it. There is no separation.”
I love the way all of our artists come to their profession in very unique ways. David Castle shares some of his journey. “My early grade school years were spent in a Denver suburb long enough ago that students had ample access to art and music classes, so my interest began quite early. I even have a piece of my 3rd grade art hanging in my studio and get comments on it from visitors!
“My family left the city for a southern farm when I was still in grade school – so began years of working hard with my hands to build, repair, grow and harvest. I believe this experience instilled a need to continue working with my hands into my adult years, so making art was a ‘softer’ and more ‘gentle’ way of keeping my hands going after the farm experience was left behind. I’m also inspired – and motivated – by the process of making art itself. So, I feed a need within to make things by constantly experimenting and painting. I do this for myself and will surely make more art in my lifetime than I could possibly share with the world.”
David is currently working on a series of Pacific Rains paintings, inspired by the rains and coast of the Pacific Northwest and, particularly, the northern Oregon coast. “I often work from photographs I’ve taken over the years of coastal areas and still have much work to do as I explore this vast source of inspiration. I’m also honing my skills and perfecting my method of mixing oil paints and metallic watercolors successfully. But I have more experimenting to do to get the results I’m looking for, so work on this continues.”
If you visit his studio during this fall’s Portland open Studios tour, David will introduce you to the unique process of mixing oil and metallic watercolors that he developed for his abstractions. “I’ll also be describing my various sources of inspiration, such as the Oregon coast, and how I use these sources to envision, and then paint, my unique abstractions.”
Being an artist is technically David’s second career. “My first love and career was technology and I worked in that arena for nearly 15 years before my interest in keeping up faded. Finally, I was laid off from my last corporate job and took a year off to decide what to do next. During this time I tried my artwork out at a few local art festivals and got immediate, positive feedback… so began my second career as a full-time artist – partly motivated by the desire to NOT go back into the corporate world of technology. The experience of making art, getting feedback from people on that art, selling art, winning awards – all keeps me going in this second career of mine.”
David paints abstractions infused with unexpectedly rich and vivid colors. His art is inspired by the variety of mountain and urban terrain he has explored throughout his extensive travels in North America and his years of living, working and traveling throughout Europe during his former career as a computer scientist. He draws from his exposure to the colors and shapes of these very different places as he combines paper, brush, oil and water, color, air, surface tension and gravity to create each painting.
David also has a unique art background. “I’ve learned from various artists over the years and spent countless hours experimenting in my studio to develop my own vision and style. My first ‘real’ art class was in Brussels, Belgium where I lived and worked as a computer consultant in the early 1990’s. There was an artist who held weekend art classes in her studio in the building where I lived, so I decided to take one. The artist spoke only a little English (and I spoke only a little French), so it was a true introduction to art and painting, as we mainly made art instead of talking a lot. Since that class, I’ve taken many art classes from admired artists over the years – mainly to expand my experimental nature and technique inventory.”
For as long as I can remember, I have been drawing and painting people. I began my professional career as a fashion illustrator, and over time my art has evolved towards portraiture. I have always found the human face, with its limitless expres-sions, fascinating, and I love the challenge of bringing those expressions to life in my portraits.
My paintings and drawings are a reflection of my own experiences and a tribute to all of the people who have touched my life. My inspiration comes from the people I meet, and the musicians that I photograph. Working in oil, my paintings evolve gradually, taking many layers of paint to complete. My charcoal drawings also evolve gradually, building up over time. The portrait process is a shared experience between myself and my subject, and by the time I’m finished, I feel as though I’ve made a deep connection with my subject. This to me is the essence of portraiture… to reach beyond the photograph and bring my subject to life. When the portrait be-gins to breathe, I know I have achieved my goal.
Portrait work has become, without a doubt, the most meaningful and rewarding work I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I feel that without art, my life would not make sense. I hope to always continue to grow as an artist, and make a positive impact in the world around me by virtue of the art I create.
I’m looking forward to the upcoming Portland Open Studios tour, because I love showing visitors my painting and drawing process. I will be working on both a portrait painting and a charcoal drawing, and my palette will be on display for all to see. Since I use no solvents of any kind, people are always surprised by the pleas-ant smell of linseed oil and paint… no fumes!
Like many artists, Shannon Carlson spent much of her childhood drawing from imagination. “I guess you could say I was always trying to draw my daydreams. Best case, I still do.”
Shannon is a process oriented painter. “The biggest change to my creative process happened when I became comfortable with my own voice, trusted my intuition and came to value where my process is taking me. I’m still on the way to where I’m going as a painter, so, with any luck, my creative process will keep changing and my work will change too.”
I found Shannon’s response to my question about reactions to her work unusual and interesting. “Because my work can have some themes of environmentalism, I occasionally get someone who wants to challenge the meaning of my work, but I welcome any discussions. I enjoy talking to people.”
“Embrace failure as an artist. I still try to remember to let myself fail spectacularly!”
Shannon has some great fun in store for you if you visit her studio this October. “I’m hoping I can get our visitors to pick up a paintbrush and take part in making their own marks on my work. I have always loved collaborative art and responding to the ideas of others. This will, hopefully, make the stop more memorable for visitors and give me a start on my next painting.”
Susan Kuznitsky believes that as an artist she is also an historian. “When I am out painting local scenes on location I feel I am capturing a moment in time that will never happen again. I often find myself painting older landmarks when I go to another town to paint. Some of the structures will probably be gone in the years to come so I feel that I have documented it in a painting that will last a long time. I also do portraits which capture a child or pet or someone’s house in a moment of time that will never exist again. There is such beauty all around us every day. And I feel it is my responsibility to paint it and share it.
“The teaching aspect is also something I feel strongly about. If I can inspire someone to create and reach their own artistic goals, well how cool is that? I am going to be starting a Saturday morning class at OSA (Oregon Society of Artists) where I have been teaching a Wednesday morning class for the past two years. The Saturday class will be open for ages 13 and up. I am working on a grant with help from an OSA board member for scholarship money for underprivileged teens to be able to have art lessons. I am hoping this will make a difference in some small way.”
She started her art journey as a teenager; “a teenager getting into some not such good things as teenagers will do. My mother wisely saw that I was constantly drawing and signed me up at a local art studio for lessons and it totally re-directed my energy and focus and I have never looked back.”
During this year’s Portland Open Studios tour, Susan will be showing her work along with several other artists at OSA. “It will be a very fun place to tour. I will be showing and selling paintings in pastels and oils of all sizes and price points. I will have a couple pieces in progress that I will be working on during the tour where visitors can see the different stages of development. I will also have note cards of the artwork of some of the kids I have taught in the past years to hopefully inspire some younger artists.”