The application for the Portland Open Studios (PDXOS) 2016 Tour is open.

Apply now

Final deadline is 11pm, March 15th, 2016.

Please contact Charlotte Cunningham, Application Manager via if you have any questions or concerns, The application will look fairly familiar to those of you who have applied previously, but there is one significant difference this year – in addition to 3 artwork images we are requesting 1 “at work” image.  The “at work” image should show you either in the process of making work or just in your studio.  These images will be for use in our promotional efforts and will not be scored by jurors.

A few things to know:

  • A studio is anywhere you make artwork that you are willing (and permitted to) open to the public – the studio can be separate from your residence or it can be your living room, basement, attic, garage, et cetra.
  • At the time you apply you must know where you will be making art in October.
  • During the tour you will need to discuss and demonstrate how you make your artwork. We are happy to assist artists in preparing their educational component.

In your application you will submit 3 artwork images and 1 “at work” image showing either you in the process of making your work or you in your studio.

Words of wisdom from Ruth Armitage on choosing art to provide to jurors.

A bit of background for the un-initiated: in an international, juried show like AWS, one sends a digital image, plus an entry fee, and a panel of 5 judges review thousands of entries to select a show of between 100-150 paintings from all over the world. Once the show has been through preliminary selections, the original works are shipped to the venue, and awards are selected, in this case by a different panel of judges.

GIANT DISCLAIMER: My hunch is that my friend asked me to write this post so she could glean my ‘secret’ to success. The secret is: there is no secret. The only way to success is through repeated ‘failures’ or rejections. I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s  Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
So far, my favorite Chapter is titled “Persistence.” If there is one key to succeeding here, that would be it!

Gilbert writes about “The patron goddess of creativity” and how she “can make really weird decisions about who gets her money.” “In short, she may show up for you, or she may not. Probably best, then, if you don’t count on her, or attach your definition of personal happiness to her whims.” This is how I look at it, and how I was able to write “Rejected Again, Hooray.”

I’ve been working to gain entry to this show for about 15 years. It is a tough nut to crack, and I’m not sure I have a lot of light to shed on how to do it. I think a lot of it is luck… Of course luck often finds me hard at work! But for what it is worth, here are my observations.

  1. Believe in your work – this particular painting was rejected from the AWS show last year… I still thought it was among my best work and decided to submit it again… This time it was accepted!
  2. Gain exposure by entering other high visibility shows – if the panel of judges have seen your work before and been suitably impressed, they are more likely to recognize your piece. This piece had been in a national show and won an award.
  3. Save your best work for the most competitive venues.
  4. Strong contrasts and Unity are big selling points – This painting has both.
  5. Thoughtful design choices – this painting utilizes a z shaped design, and shape repetition.
  6. Look for areas of complexity and areas of simplicity – this painting has both.
  7. Listen to what peers say when they view your work. In this case, a respected friend said she couldn’t stop thinking about the painting, couldn’t get it out of her head. Another friend identified it as a quantum leap in my work.
  8. I think there is something to be said for letting the ‘Hand of the Artist’ show… The gestural line work in this piece definitely qualifies, and contrasts with the more regular, geometric patterns.
  9. I can’t stress enough that belief in oneself is the key- even when this piece was “Rejected Again” I still liked it and believed in it. Be persistent.
  10. Go with your gut!

Another reason to believe in your work is that the perfect buyer for a painting might not surface immediately. Often it takes years for an artwork to find its forever home. In the meantime, it is easy for us as creators to feel doubt and insecurity creep in, regardless of the quality of the work, or how we viewed it when we first completed it.

This can be one of the most difficult parts of being an artist: being an objective viewer of one’s own work. Where does it fit within the body of work? Which opinions or critiques does one listen to? Ultimately, the artist must listen to their own instincts most strongly.

I’ll leave you with the words of Honore’ de Balzac:
“All happiness depends on courage and work.”

Karen Lewis: Painter of Water and Air

Recently, Beth Yazhari, Artist No., 11, turned the tables on Karen Lewis, Artist No. 6, who has been interviewing her fellow artists this summer. Here is Beth’s interview with Karen.

When you visit oil painter Karen Lewis and talk to her about her artistic process, you will find that the words “shapes,” “movement,” ”harmony” and “air” recur frequently. You may also find that you are yearning to visit Hawaii after you hear her passionately talk about her relationship with the air and water there!
Karen has a lifelong relationship with water. She grew up kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling; as she puts it, “My number one favorite thing to do is paint, and right now in my life my number two favorite thing to do is snorkel.” The warm Hawaiian waters, as well as the fact that she can have air flowing through her house all the time, inspire many of Karen’s lush landscapes.
When Karen is working at home in West Linn, she is always prepared to encounter a beautiful sunset or inspiring landscape. Her van is well-stocked with all the paints, canvases, and other materials that a plein air painter needs. She is often inspired by a scene while driving, and she has even spontaneously pulled out her easel in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s in order to capture an amazing sky!
Karen’s favorite part of the artistic process is “being outdoors and really looking.” She pays close attention to how the air moves around her when she is painting—the crenellation of moving clouds creating vibrations in the sky or the emotional quality of an interesting shadow under a tree can provide the inspiration for a painting. She tries to capture the many moods of water, and her sweeping brushstrokes beautifully express fluidity and color in motion. Be sure to visit Karen’s studio for interesting conversation and an inspirational breath of fresh air!

Wrap Party – it won't be the same if you don't come!

Every year after the tour ends we have what we call a ‘wrap party’. This is a time for the artists to come together and celebrate another successful year. This year we have decided to open the event to the public and include a silent auction to support our mission. You’ll be able to visit with the artists, and view and bid on artwork. There will be food to purchase in the main pub area.
The party starts on Sunday, November 8 at 5:00 pm at the Oregon Public House, 300 NE Dekum Street, Portland, and ends around 7:00 pm.  Please join us.


We have received reports that a few Tour Guides have printing issues. The issues appear to affect only about 1% of the Tour Guides, but if you have already purchased yours, please check it and let us know if it has these or any other problems:

1) Page 39/40 and page 43/44 are missing.
2) The spiral binding is not properly crimped at both ends making it possible for the spiral to come loose

If you do have problems, please let us know and we will promptly replace the Tour Guide. We are so sorry for any inconvenience this error might cause you.

Also, just to let you know, the paid Mobile Apps ($4.99) will be available around Sept 25th and the free Mobile App will be available around Oct 1st.  If you have purchased the Tour Guide, all you really need is the free app.  We will let you know the minute the app is live at the app store.

We’re excited to see you all on the Tour!

Bringing a new life to the hand work of women through the ages

Karen Lewis had the pleasure recently of visiting Beth Yazhari  in her studio.  Here is an idea of what you could experience in a little over a month when Portland Open Studios opens.
When you enter Beth Yazhari’s studio, you first notice a rich collection of textures and patterns. She delights you with colorful designs, many reminiscent of Persian carpets or Amish quilts.  Then you are drawn in to discover the layers and layers of textures that make up her beaded textile collage paintings.
Beth begins her work on canvas, using acrylic paint in washes textured with cling wrap.  This gives the piece a rich, luminous color field, much of which will be covered in subsequent layers.  Vintage textiles inspire the design, defining the initial pattern of the piece.  She will play with a bit of fabric or lace as if it’s a puzzle, cutting out pieces and laying them out in symmetry– hence the carpet-like designs of the paintings.  Once the starting piece is in place, Beth layers her painting with gold paint, more textiles, stenciling through laces, and thin layers of acrylic paint.  She creates transfers from her own photographs, adding those and painting over them for permanence and color harmony.  And she sews beads on to the canvas, making everything secure so that the painting will stand the test of time, as the pieces of lace and vintage beads and buttons have done.
Beth delights in searching for interesting pieces of vintage textiles.  Her collection of materials is global, embracing Victorian era lace, Indian sari fabrics, embroidery from Pakistan, beads from Africa, buttons from Germany.  Items with character and handwork catch her eye.   Beth’s collections fill a whole closet in her studio, and just browsing through the materials can be a treat.
In creating out of recycled and found handicrafts, Beth is “giving new life to the hand work of women” through the ages, honoring their creativity and giving it a place in our modern life.  Take a trip through time and space and visit Beth Yazhari’s studio!

A delightful montage of textured abstract design

Karen Lewis recently interviewed PDXOS artist #1, Ruth Armitage in her studio.  Here is what she found:

Entering Ruth Armitage’s spacious upstairs studio, you are instantly struck by the abstract work on the walls. Ruth works in a wide variety of painting media: oil and cold wax, watercolor, acrylic.. and all of them exhibit a textured abstract design.

The inspiration for Ruth’s work comes from memories and experiences of growing up on a family farm. “The paintings I do are more personal to me than something merely observed. It’s the personal that keeps me engaged as I create.”

She may begin with an aerial view from memory, or even a title. A thumbnail drawing starts her design, and she establishes the large shapes first on her painting surface, deciding early on a warm or cool dominance of color. The piece then develops in many layers. She adds and textures, using knives, brayers, stencils, drywall tape, steel wool, a kitchen bowl scraper…. tools that she has collected and used creatively many times. Ruth employs personal symbols in her work, but avoids making the piece look obviously narrative. The result is a painting that suggests, rather than shouting, allowing you to discover new passages with every moment of viewing.

Ruth has a full teaching schedule. Upcoming workshops and classes include:
The ABC’s of Abstraction
September 18, 19 & 20th 10-4
in Ruth’s Oregon City Studio: $190 for 3 full days.

A Drop-in painting class on Thursdays
Oregon Society of Artists
Beginning Sept 3, 2015.

Contact Ruth for further information at:

And visit her studio on your tour for a delightful montage of paintings, tools, and processes

Psychological soup

Sara Swink’s studio is every clay artist’s dream: a spacious room with plenty of table space, and organized areas for drying, glazing and kiln.  There she creates her one-of-a-kind clay figures.

Little people and humanized animals decorate the wall shelves, looking down on her workspace.  Sara avoids happy faces, focusing on more ambiguous and mixed feelings in her figures.  The emotions expressed are more reflective of the human condition, where everything is a jumble and consciousness is fragmented.  The narrative quality of art interests her.  “I like to indulge in my own psychological soup.”

Sara’s works begin with a collage, developing an image vocabulary with bits and pieces from magazines.  Dreams and toys from childhood are among the inspiring elements that connect to the images she finds.  A doodling session follows, which helps her to focus on style. Then she is ready to translate her ideas into clay.  The finished clay piece may look very little like the collage that inspired it.  “I always try to insert some fun, even if it’s not conscious,” Sara says, emphasizing that it’s important for her not to be too controlling while she is creating.

She teaches this creative process, which she learned from Coeleen Kiebert, in her spacious clay studio, where she holds workshops, as well as drop-in classes on Mondays and Saturdays.  For more information, contact Sara at 971-271-0480.

Currently, Sara is working on a set of post topper sculptures for New Seasons Market.  For this commissioned project, she first created a set of maquettes so that her client could see what the sculptures would look like.  The full-sized sculptures are now in progress.  She also has an Etsy shop at    where she sells wall-hanging animal figures full of individual personality.

As you visit Sara’s studio, be sure to spend time with her evocative sculptures.