Introducing Artist No. 7 – Ruth Armitage

“I am a painter because I enjoy making beautiful things. More than that, though, my work is a way for me to tell a story. Even though the art is abstract, I think of it as narrative, with each piece telling a personally meaningful tale.”

Ruth’s mom was a painter and always encouraged her creativity. “I had great teachers in high school and after college. I started with community ed classes and have pursed self-directed study with various master classes across the country. I draw inspiration from life, reading, and other artists. I am particularly drawn to work by Diebenkorn, Frida Kahlo, and Emily Carr and Emily Mason.”

Ruth paints in Watercolor, acrylic or oil, depending on her mood and the scale of the work. “I begin

with a general idea or memory, which I narrow to a title or more specific idea. Once I have that, I try to decide on a dominance – maybe mostly warm or cool colors, shapes etc. From that point on, I work very intuitively.” Ruth’s creative process has changed over time. “I have become more abstract in my expression, and have added various media over the years.”


Best advice:

Don’t push the river. Start where you are, and work with your natural abilities and tendencies, not against them.

If you stop by her studio during the PDXOS tour in October, she will be giving a couple of demonstrations and will be serving some great snacks and hot cider.

Introducing Artist No. 95 – Kirk Weller

“For me, doing art is always contemplative, sometimes reverential, and occasionally worshipful.

“Imagine—or maybe remember—coming upon some work of art, some creation, in which an ineffable perception of beauty fell upon you. It might be a particular combination of texture, line, hue, value and contrast born upon some degree of realistic imagery, itself symbolic of something a bit beyond words so that by the time you have been pulled away by the mundane, you are nonetheless changed. Now imagine conceiving of that creation before perceiving it, attempting to create it and ending up with something else equally ineffable but still a startling discovery. I experience this in my studio on a frequent basis.

“Having this opportunity makes me blessed. So I paint mainly to paint. In my studio, I give up my hand to something that allows me to create, but which I experience as discovery.

“It is likely that one day not too far away now, humanity–out of an abject and persisting inability to maintain a sustainable co-existence–will find itself without wild vistas. Instead the playas and deserts and plateaus will be festooned with windmills, solar panels, power lines and vats of genetically engineered algae—palatable for the post-modern palate. I presume these landscape paintings might then say something about not only the world—precious beyond redemption–but about humanity. Maybe, in this way, at long last, we will know what our place is, or should have been.”

Introducing Artist No. 106 – Wayne Jiang

Wayne Jiang has been painting and drawing since he was about 6 years old. “As a child I drew a lot. When I was 12 years old, I started doing Chinese ink painting. In my teenage years to my early 20s I did a lot of watercolor. In college I started painting with oil and eventually switched to acrylic as my main medium in my mid-20s.

“I have a degree in graphic design with an emphasis in illustration from San Jose State University. Before working as a full-time painter, I worked in the software industry as an interactive designer. The intense attention to detail I gained from working as a graphic and interactive designer helped me become a better painter.

“My painting technique is an acrylic glazing layering technique which I developed from looking at old Baroque master painters like Vermeer and Rembrandt. I paint simple everyday scenes and objects to remind myself to be mindful of the present and appreciate the beauty and meaning of my surroundings.

Currently, Wayne is working on paintings of Southeast Portland: Snow scenes from the past winter, night paintings of houses in his neighborhood, and scenes of the Willamette River and Sellwood Bridge.

I asked Wayne if the artistic life was lonely and, if so, what he did to counteract that. He replied, “The artistic life is not a lonely life but rather often a solitary life. I spend months at a time working by myself in my studio. I counteract this solitude by making sure I go to at least a couple of music jam sessions a week. Painting is listening and expressing my inner thoughts, whereas playing music in groups gives me a chance to interact and listen to others. I go to ukulele, dulcimer, bluegrass, and old time music jams. They are a lot of fun.”

Introducing Artist No. 28 – Annie Salness

Annie Salness charted her own journey to becoming an artist. She attended Cal State Long Beach for illustration, where she studied biomedical illustrations. She took a lot of science like plant zoology, human anatomy, and marine zoology. She went to work making drawings for things like medical books. She remembers being asked to draw before and after pictures for breast augmentation and liposuction surgeries.  She is also very athletic, so she also coached with her husband.

“I moved up here and did volunteer work at the church with my art, but I didn’t produce any art. And I didn’t know any artists. That’s a whole different world. I knew coaches and teachers, but I didn’t know any artists. I started networking and going different places and meeting people, and I would take classes on line. I knew I had the art knowledge, but I didn’t know how to market myself. That’s where I feel there is a big lack in art school. They don’t teach you that side of it. It’s really too bad, because a lot of it is business. Then I had the stroke.”

The stroke was a pivotal experience for Annie. She had to change from painting with her right hand to working with her left hand. She feels the stroke didn’t changed her art, but it did help her become stronger as a person. “Things don’t mean that much. I have a better perspective, which will come out in your art. I guess I don’t fill my days with stuff that really doesn’t matter. It takes me a long time just to move from here to there, so I don’t.”

She is working now on her 2018 calendar, which she is calling ‘Flavors’. “I chose the theme of ‘Flavors’ because it would allow me to paint such a wide variety of things—and it would allow my friends to send in their favorite flavor combinations along with their favorite recipes. I like when there is research to do, especially putting together the flavors – ‘jalapenos – what is a cooler way that I can do this.’ I also like the stories that go with [the recipes]. One girl gave me an Indian recipe, so I’m going to research India. What is it that makes that Indian?” She thinks the research changes the way she paints. When she does a commission of a dog, she wants to meet the dog, see how they react. “I’m also working on a St. John’s bridge so I’m looking at the history of it; the original drawings of it. I like to do the history on it.”

She also likes to personalize her paintings. For instance, one patron asked for a picture of Gerber daisies. So she asked if they had something personal, like a vase that had meaning for them, to put in the picture. “It can be a picture on the wall for others, but for you it’s personal.”
Annie has had many memorable responses to her commissioned work. ”People seem to love it, and when I do a commission sometimes they cry. I do a lot of dogs. When they react that way I feel like I’ve done something for that. Three lemons – they won’t be crying over that.”

For the Portland Open Studios tour, Annie will explain her whole layout and also has an area where visitors can work on a canvas. She gives them a lot of things like credit cards, pallet knifes, squeegees, Q-tips, little things like that so they can work quickly and see how many different things they can use to make marks.

Introducing Artist No. 40 – Jennifer Takahashi

Jennifer Takahashi never considered being anything but an artist. “Even as a young child I remember being drawn to pattern and color – from the yummy array of colors in a box of crayons to the sight of a drawer filled with spools of thread. It was and has always been my happy place, a place to imagine and relax. After a childhood filled with drawing and painting, I went to college as a fine art major with a focus in jewelry design. Even though I never worked in that field, it taught me patience and an eye for detail that serves my current painting.

“After college, I worked in cell animation for several years, followed by several more years designing prints for fabrics in NYC. Both these jobs gave me the opportunity to hone my drawing and painting skills. I began painting for myself about 27 years ago. I started with watercolor, a medium I have found my way back to in the last few years.

“When I moved to Oregon 5 years ago, I had a feeling my work might change – and it has! The beauty and nature that surround us here has found its way into what began as mostly still life paintings. I first use a photo collage to create a photo reference for my subjects, which allows me to place a still life into unlikely surroundings. Then I paint with non-classic watercolor technique, filled with saturated color and a load of texture. The juxtaposition of the intimate view within the broader view speaks to the personal versus the public, our inner world versus the outer world… and the quiet beauty that flows through both if we stop to listen.

“Although I have worked in oil as well, this body of work returns me to my love of watercolor. The transparency of the pigments encourages a “lit from within” quality. These works are realistically rendered with a big nod to texture. But their light, color and point of view lead the observer to focus in a way that we don’t do in our everyday existence, taking them outside of pure realism.

“During Portland Open Studios, I will show how I create my collage references and I will also have a painting or two in progress that I will be working on. I look forward to meeting visitors and sharing my ideas and techniques. I love to answer questions!”

Introducing Artist No. 39 – Kirista Trask

Kirista Trask’s forays into the art world as a child were focused on the performing arts, theatre and band. She didn’t experiment with the visual arts until she was in her 20’s. “Even then, I was primarily a crafter and it was not until I went through divorce that my full potential as an artist came to fruition. I then went to the University of Oregon where I studied Sculpture and Business. When I graduated I started to try and figure out what I needed to do to become a “real artist”. Part of that was really defining a solid creative practice and that was how I discovered painting and mixed media art. It was life changing and really defined my direction as an artist.

“My creative practice has become much more clearly defined over time. Parts of my creative practice have expanded, like what things I use to paint with but the majority of it has become very minimal. I am learning to be consistent with my creation, getting into the studio regularly, having a routine and constantly learning new things. Recently I started using more natural supplies in my painting and it felt like I was really opening the door for my creative practice. The biggest thing that has changed for my creative process has been a commitment to my own self care practices. What I am eating, how I am moving my body, and whether I am balancing all the moving parts of my life make a huge impact on my ability to create the type of work I am trying to produce.

“I think Artists play a vital role in society as we have the ability to bring light and emotion to subjects that are scary and/or controversial. I work with the nonprofit St Johns Center for Opportunity where we use community and arts engagement to bring important conversations to our neighborhood. Not only are we using art to start these conversations but we also use arts engagement for community building. In my work with SJCO I have had to really think about what roles artists can play in important conversations about racism, gentrification, and affordable housing. I think for some artists art is a creative path to their own higher self but I also think for many artists it is platform for greater social change.”

Currently, Kirista is developing a coaching program that helps to line up the business side of art with the creative side of art. “Ultimately it is my goal to work with female artists on creating amazing, valuable, and sustainable art careers. I am also getting ready to do a week long artist residency in which my goal is to create a 44 card deck on self-transformation through the dark times. I have been doing research for my residency over the last six months and am really looking forward to really focusing on my residency and what kind of self-evolution might come from that. I am also working with the St Johns Center for Opportunity to curate quarterly arts events that include a Friday night Art walk and a Saturday morning art fair. It has been incredible to work with local business and artists as a community to really create a platform for artists to engage with the St Johns Community.”

Kirista is one of three artists in her building participating in the Portland Open Studios tour in October. “You will find a huge selection of new work, prints and products that will be released right before the tour. If you are so inclined to get your hands a little dirty I will also be working on a couple of collaborative processes that will allow visitors to get engaged in the artistic process as little or as much as they would like.”

Introducing Artist No. 105 – Dotty Hawthorne

Drawing and painting has been a passion for Dotty Hawthorne since childhood when her mother set up a table and art supplies for her five daughters. “At 12 I begged art lessons and went on to major in Art at Wheaton College. Since then I’ve taken workshops with leading artists and have painted professionally since my youngest child started kindergarten. I continue to paint because I love the process and appreciate the insight it gives me into the beauty and complexity of creation, including the amazing effects of light, shadow and atmosphere and the interactions of various colors.

“Over the past 25 years, I have emphasized several different mediums and subjects. First I concentrated on watercolor, painting florals, portraits and still lives. Next I turned to pastel and started painting the landscape outside. I continue to work in pastel, loving the combination of drawing and painting, but have added oil painting. I primarily paint the landscape with occasional portraits, still lives and florals. ”Dotty typically begins a painting on location (plein air) and works for several hours until conditions change. During that time she takes several photographs, and completes the painting in her studio.”

Dotty recently moved from San Luis Obispo, CA, to Portland to be near family. “As a recent resident of the Northwest, I am getting to know the unique landscape of this area, and have been primarily plein air and studio painting Portland and surrounding areas.

If you visit Dotty during Open Studios in October you can look forward to seeing her recent works in pastel and oil from the Columbia Gorge, the Oregon Coast, along the Willamette, several Portland parks, and even from the tulip fields.

Introducing Artist No. 24 – Kitty Wallis

Among other things, Kitty Wallis is a great artist, one of the original artists in Portland Open Studios, and the inventor of Wallis Special Archival Pastel Paper.

Art background: Kitty attended Cooper Union Art School in New York City. Her greatest inspiration is Monet, and she had the privilege of working for months at Giverny in Monet’s Garden.  “I couldn’t ask for a better start.” She considers herself an impressionist.

Her process: Using her photos and plein air pieces as references, she begins the composition using faint charcoal dots and dashes.  “With a large brush and wet pigment I find the light and the masses: an underpainting.  With my pastel sticks I find the life, color and light.”

Memorable responses to her work:  “Smiles, tears, sales, awards, acceptance into San Francisco Art Museum.”

What role does the artist have in society: “Since we are accustomed to find our truth in our work we can be relied on to tell you the truth as we know it.”

The Muse visits during the act of creation, not before.  Don’t wait for her. Start alone.…Roger Ebert

Current work:  Kitty is currently working on a set of paintings of moving water.  “Water is such a beautiful and challenging subject! Especially in a dry medium, as pastel is.”

Introducing Artist No. 17 – Erin Leichty

I’ve been working with Portland Open Studios for five years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever met Erin Leichty. But she’s been invaluable as our link to New Seasons, one of our major supporters, and she’s tireless in her efforts. I’m glad to have this opportunity to get to know her a little better personally.

I asked Erin why she was an artist. “As soon as my hands could manipulate scissors, I began to create art with construction paper and glue, building and creating worlds my imagination could escape to. Growing up, I created art non-stop, but it was never a viable career in my parent’s eyes. They wanted me to be something practical- like an engineer. I tried that- but only made it through my freshman year of college before it became clear that a desk job was not for me. Now I have my art business and I am a contractor and designer for my business, Priority Design LLC. I get to design, build and furnish remodels and new homes.

“I have always been drawn to details, color and texture. There is nothing more entertaining to me than the ever-changing Pacific Northwest sky throughout our four seasons. I love the explosion of ideas that happen when you are creating. Out of nowhere, the BEST IDEA EVER comes rushing in, you grab it and try to make it happen. Sometimes it works, mostly it doesn’t, but there are always things learned along the way. I am a dreamer, a creator, a maker – that is who I am to my core.”

I asked if she found the artistic life lonely. “I found being a full-time artist to be very lonely and isolating, which is why I became a contractor. I love collaborating, but also having my alone time, so the blend of design and building helped me to find a happy medium of being social and being quiet. Building is a lot like creating a commission with a client.”

Her dream project is to do really big, provocative art for commercial spaces. “

I love making people stop and ask themselves a question. I love to make people be present to their own thinking- even if just for a moment because it is only when we are aware of our own stories that we can rewrite them.”

A pivotal experience for Erin was her show “Shadow Stories”, at Waterstone gallery, in 2015. “I decided to think outside the box and instead of an artist talk, I told my own personal story about what inspired my work and my struggle with childhood trauma and a life-long eating disorder. The talk was so well received, I had to do an encore presentation and from that was born my shows that are now chocked full of story-telling events from various writers and readers. I found people were hungry to share their own stories and listen and connect to others. Over the last 3 years of story-telling shows, I have made more friends and connected with more incredible humans than I can count.”

Introducing Artist No. 5 – Ben Dye

Ben Dye’s sculpture The Heron at Fields Bridge Park in West Linn is a great example of the community embracing a sculpture. “They embellish it throughout the year with seasonal themes.” This is important to Ben. “We spend our lives filling our personal spaces with art to enhance the living experience; public art is a way for the community to express those feelings on a greater level. As a member of the local community, I would like my work to inspire others to explore the arts on a more personal level.”

“As a youngster, I loved clay, but never pushed it to any level of competency. The art comes from building things I like.” His artistic career started with needing a hand rail for a property he owned. “With basic welding skills, I built the hand rail; it turned out good and got a few people asking for similar work.

[Art] has become what I do when I wake up and what I am always trying to get back to if forced to do anything else.

With over 25 years in the commercial diving industry, he brings an extensive knowledge of welding and mechanical design to his complex, multi layered projects and uses recycled metals as base material. “99% of the skills I have collected come from the 25 years I was a commercial diver. I seek out colored tanks or cars and maintain the original finish throughout the process.

“For the last 6 years, my focus has been gallery shows and exposure through large-scale public works.” He is currently in the final stages of a large installation [Two 22’ tall structures] for the City of Tigard.