New series starting – interviews with working artists

We’re starting a new series of blog posts this month spotlighting some of our artists.  We’re hopeful that it will give the public and emerging artists a sense of what it’s like to work as an artist in the Portland area.  Kathleen Vidoloff has agreed to conduct the interviews with the artists and we hope to share them monthly.  Our first artist is long-time Portland Open Studios’ artist Diane Russell.

Written by Kathleen G. Vidoloff

I caught up with Diane Russell when she was demonstrating at Blick on Glisan in February.  She shared with me how she ended up working as a full time artist. 

In 2003, she found herself in the middle of a life transition as her employer made the decision to downsize the workforce of creatives.  Diane had to make a life altering decision. Would she continue down the path of illustration, learning yet another version of Photoshop, working in the same avenue of art that she had been doing for 27 years? Or would she venture into something else?

As she pondered her next steps, the longing to leave illustration and pursue painting and drawing full time began to emerge.  She was already doing portrait work while working as an illustrator, but now the decision was clear. She would do what she always wanted to do: pursue painting and drawing full time.  But she needed to develop a plan to make a sustainable income.

Diane admits it’s a financial challenge to be a full time artist. “I had been drawing and painting some musicians but I also added family portraits because I knew I couldn’t make a living with just painting musicians.”

She started out doing outdoor shows, handing out her card, and taking art marketing workshops. She also developed a newsletter to keep people updated on her work.  For her, the newsletter continues to be successful because it keeps people updated on her work. She recalls one instance when she included a picture of a work in progress and ended up selling the piece as a result.  She admits marketing is required to sell art, but is also mindful of the relationship between the art work and the purchaser.

 “Selling art is not like anything else. You don’t go out and try to sell it and you don’t try to close the deal. None of those things apply. It’s more personal than that. So I just let the work sell itself. I feel like if I create something I love that people fall in love with and can’t live without, that’s when they buy the work.”

 Diane also credits Portland Open Studios for her continued success as an artist. She loves participating in the art tour and has done so for the last six years. For her, being able to connect directly with people and show them work they have not yet seen is a huge benefit.

 During the 2015 Open Studios Tour, Diane was approached about showing her work at the Portland Airport, and that conversation resulted in a six month show at the airport’s Concourse E last year.  

 Portland Open Studios creates a unique educational opportunity for the public to witness art in the making, and learn about media, materials and the business of creative endeavor. Through this interaction, Portland Open Studios creates a platform for local artists to thrive, engage and foster a community that values the arts.

 Artists throughout the metro area invite you to their studios during the second and third weekends of October. Visitors experience studio tours, demonstrations of various techniques, and many hands-on opportunities.

 The deadline to apply to be a part of the 2017 Open Studios art tour closes March 3. Apply today!

Liv Rainey-Smith: Revealing Woodcuts

by Morgan Madison

Liv unveils a fresh print in her studio.

Liv Rainey-Smith is a Portland, OR based printmaker.  She was first introduced to the medium while earning her BFA from Oregon College of Arts and Crafts.  I meet Liv Rainey-Smith at Atelier Meridian, the print making studio and arts community in North Portland where she creates her wonderfully imaginative woodcut prints.  It is quickly striking how articulate and well considered she is in our conversation.  It shows a thoughtfulness that comes from a life spent immersed in books and stories.  Indeed, Liv’s interest in these forms of communication and what they can reveal about humanity comes from a very personal place.

As a child Liv faced serious challenges.  She was born with only one ear and a serious heart defect.  At the age of 4 she went through open heart surgery and was in and out of hospitals for her ear up until her early teens.  Liv says; “These experiences helped create a love of reading and creating as well as a fascination with anatomy and mythology.”  These influences are readily apparent in her prints, which are populated with distinctive patterns and fantastical creatures rendered in a crisp graphic style.

Capybara, Woodcut Print, Edition of 30, 8” x 10”, 2010

Capybara is a wonderful example.  Its half rodent/half fish subject sits in regal repose, like some mythological creature.  Liv explains; “The story behind the capybara is that it is the world’s largest rodent, and because it is semi-aquatic it is supposedly considered a fish for purposes of consumption on Fridays and during Lent.  So the print is my ‘early explorer’ illustration of the wondrous rodent-fish of the new world.”  The story and image together reveal enough to set the stage for the viewer’s imagination to take over.  The same can be said for a piece like Egress, whose spirit-like subject swirls in the ether while breathing a plume of fire.  It is a part of her ongoing series Iunges, which depicts otherworldly messengers, angels of communication.  They seem like visitors from some vivid dream.  In fact, Liv cites her own dreams as another source of inspiration for her work.

Egress, Woodcut Print, Edition of 7, 14” x 20”, 2010

This combination of personal experiences with the symbolism of myths and storytelling gives Liv’s work an enigmatic and compelling character.  It inspires a search for meaning that mirrors beautifully the process by which she creates it.  In woodcut printing, ink is applied to paper by a block of wood that has been carved to create a design in relief.  Liv begins most of her pieces with drawings.  However, as she chooses a block and begins to carve Liv pays careful attention to the unique character of each piece of wood.  Its personality and quirks help guide her decisions, and as she reveals the story within the wood block it helps shape the story she shares with us.

To see her process in person and to hear Liv speak about her work and inspiration be sure to make her studio (#62) a stop on your 2010 tour of Portland Open Studios.

Liv’s work will be featured with another Portland Open Studios artist in; Liminal: Paintings by Chris Haberman and Woodcut Prints by Liv Rainey-Smith at Pearl Gallery and Framing, October 7th – November 2nd, with an artists’ reception on opening night.

Her work can also be seen at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, October 1-3 and as part of the Portland Tarot Project show at Splendorporium, November 15 – January 2.

Visit to see her work online.

ENTANGLED: intentional and unintentional interconnectedness

Andrea Benson, Ken Hochfeld, Todd Griffith and Bonnie Meltzer at

325 NW 5 (between Everett and Flanders)
Portland OR 97209

September 2 – 30, 2010
Opening reception 6:00 to 10:00 on First Thursday, September 2
Open house with the artists 4:00 to 7:00 on Thursday, September 16
503- 224-5721

Exhibition postcard

Inspired by the scientific study “Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String”, four artists, Andrea Benson, Ken Hochfeld, Todd Griffith and Bonnie Meltzer, untangle the theme of intentional and unintentional interconnectedness at Anka Gallery through the month of September. The researchers of the experiment Douglas Smith and Dorian Raymer of the University of California, San Diego, studied knot formation. They dropped a string into a box and tumbled it for 10 seconds. They repeated the process over and over with different sized strings of various flexibility. The results were that knots happen without specifically being tied. It is no surprise to anyone who has crawled under a desk to untangle electronics cords; brushed long curly hair or tried to conquer blackberry brambles; that knots happen without provocation. Furthermore, the longest most flexible strings in the most spacious confinements became most entangled. Stiff short strings in confined spaces don’t knot. Stuff bags work because of the confined space while a big box of many spools of sewing thread is always a tangle.

Metaphorically a tangle is used to describe all manner of social, political and emotional issues and problems. Read the news and see more than one gordian knot that needs to be cut or see examples of the “Butterfly Effect”. On another note, think of love, that magical intertwining of lives. What on the surface might seem like a narrow and somewhat trivial subject matter has become a basis to visually express a host of other subjects — nature, human impact on the environment, the conflicts of growing up and world events. Visually and metaphorically the artists are united by their interest in interconnectedness, fragmentation and the beauty in apparent chaos. The theme ties Hochfeld, Benson, Griffith and Meltzer together into a string quartet but they remain distinct in their use of materials and how they tell the story.

In 2008 Bonnie Meltzer heard about the theory and immediately called Ken Hochfeld whose photographs of thickets seemed like a perfect expression of the theory. They decided to pursue the idea for a group exhibition. A short time later Meltzer invited to the exhibition planning two other artists who she knew through Portland Open Studios. Andrea Benson’s encaustic paintings of unraveling dresses wound into balls of yarn and Todd Griffith’s large paintings of tangled balls of string were perfect additions to Hochfeld’s photography and Meltzer’s tangible tangles of crocheted wire and found objects.. The group met over months and wrote a proposal for the exhibition which is opening at Anka Gallery on September 2.


Bonnie Meltzer
The very nature of Bonnie Meltzer’s work is an entanglement. She uses “very mixed media” to describe her sculpture which connects multiple techniques and materials (painted wood, found objects and crocheted wire) into one piece. Crocheted wire, a primary technique she uses, is a deliberate and structured knotting in itself but it often ties the disparate elements of a piece together visually and stucturally. In this series she has explored the taming of everyday tangles — hair; phone cords; thread; head and heart; and past and present.

Todd Griffith
Todd Griffith’s knot paintings and drawings from his series “Transitions and Patience” show controlled chaos. The knots appear to be in nice neat bundles, but on closer inspection the order is illusionary. The string is tangled, and more often than not is escaping from its confines. For Griffith, the knots are metaphors for the confusions, stresses and emotions one faces. The title is apt for this series. Patience is as necessary a character trait for navigating change as it is for unraveling a knotted ball of yarn.

Ken Hochfeld
With the series “Threads”, Hochfeld captures a personal interpretation of nature’s lyrical grace and mystery in found and somewhat created, fanciful circumstances. He imagined these photographs of vine entanglements and branches as visual equivalents to short verses, each with its own particular melody, created with expressionistic brush strokes of reality and imagination. To common scenes of what we otherwise interpret as disorder and confusion, he perceives as a sense of balance, rhythm and continuum, as seen through open windows of photographic frames.

Andrea Benson
Andrea Benson’s figurative mixed media paintings use multiple layers of encaustic and drawing to focus on gesture, stance and a state of mind that is both personal and cultural. In a tattered and constantly ever-changing unraveling world where everything is enmeshed and entangled they explore a point between confusion, entropy and repose.

You can see Entangled through September at Anka Gallery, 325 NW 6 in Portland, Oregon. Two events are planned with the artists: Opening night Thursday, September 2 from 6:00 to 10:00 and Thursday, September 16 from 4:00 to 7:00. Both events are free and open to the public. To see more about the Entangled with pictures of artworks go to the project website at

Ten Years Celebrated in Style with Smiles

photo by Claudia Howell

by Careen Stoll

photo by Claudia Howell

The Gala opening of the 10×10 Show was a wonderful success.  About four hundred people enjoyed a great celebration of Portland Open Studios’  Ten Year Anniversary.   Located in the lofty atrium at City Hall, each diminutive art piece looked  like it had drifted down from the sky.    With 80 of the artists represented from the 2009 tour, it remains a rare opportunity to see the wide variety of work created by members of Portland Open Studios all in one place.

photo by Claudia Howell

Eloise Damrosch, Dan Saltzman and Kelly Neidig. photo by Claudia Howell

The executive director of the Regional Arts and Culture Council Eloise Damrosch placed Portland Open Studios in the wider context of how important the arts is to cultural growth.  Dan Saltzman, City Commissioner, introduced Portland Open Studios and accepted our gift to the city.  Sadly, Mayor Sam Adams, who has championed the arts, was sick and unable to attend.

Kelly Neidig and Scott Conary next to Conary's painting "The Dock". photo by Claudia Howell

Commissioner  Saltzman read the Proclamation, officially designating the second and third weekends of October Portland Open Studios weekends.  Kelly Neidig, President of Portland Open Studios,  accepted the honor on behalf of Portland Open Studios, said a few words of celebration and thanks, explained the Purchase Prize, and introduced Scott Conary who had painted the work to be gifted to the City.   Entitled “The Dock”, Scott’s work was revealed to the gathering amidst another cheer.

Kelly Neidig and Bonnie Meltzer. photo by Claudia Howell

The founder of Portland Open Studios, Kitty Wallis, said a few words about watching the organization grow.  Also gifted was a special honor to Bonnie Meltzer for the ten years in which she tended to countless large projects and small details in service to the organization as director of communications and “right-hand person”.

In the words of Kelly Neidig, “The reception at city hall was a great example of how Portland Open Studios unites the community with artist.  It was a fun reception, I loved talking to all of our artists and meeting new artists.”   She speaks to the heart of why Portland Open Studios was honored by the city, as does Kindra Crick who helped organize the show: “It was wonderful to celebrate ten years of an organization that shows people the behind the scenes of how art is made.“  Portland Open Studios is a truly unique opportunity in experiential education.

photo by Claudia Howell

We would like to give a special thank-you to the excellent music provided by Jim Boydston, Daryl Davis, and Steve Remington of Manzanita. Many thanks also to our generous sponsors: Storyteller Wine Co, Full Sail Brewing Co, and Artemis Foods, Inc

Thanks to all the artists, past, present, and future, who attended the opening, and those who purchased art!  Twenty percent of the proceeds from the show go directly to the Kimberly Gales Scholarship for young artists.  Please consider supporting the 2010 Portland Open Studios tour by becoming a sponsor and receive ten Tour Guides to the two weekend event in October!

Artist Barbara Pannakker photo by Claudia Howell

This unusual show could not have been possible without Pollyanne Birge from the Mayor’s Office and the dedication of  Kindra Crick and Shawn Demarest, board members who went above and beyond to create a memorable show.  Careen Stoll provided some last-minute assistance with the press.  There were also numerous volunteers before, during, and after the show. Many thanks to all!  The show will remain up in City Hall until March 31st.

photo by Claudia Howell

Over a Dozen Portland Open Studios' Artists Show their Love

The Portland Love Show began in February 2006 at Launch Pad Gallery with the goal of creating a safe and engaging space to highlight the many different types and attitudes that abound about Love.  Now in it’s fifth year, it has outgrown that eastside Portland gallery space, and comfortably  shows over 300 artists in the Olympic Mills Commerce Center.

The February 12th opening night filled the large space with hundreds of people enjoying the art, live music and potluck spread of food.  Both the opening and closing events are free and open to the public and guests are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate the Oregon Food Bank.

The Friday March 12th Closing Party promises to be just as exciting and is  from 7:00 pm – 12:00 am, at the Olympic Mills Commerce Center:  107 SE Washington St., Portland, OR.

Kindra Crick's encaustic mixed-media
Upper left, 'Tied' by Kindra Crick in encaustic. Photo by Alex Crick.

Many present and former Portland Open Studios’ artists show work in this once a year salon style exhibition.  Theresa Andreas-O’Leary, Kindra Crick, Shawn Demarest, Adrienne Fritze, Jason Kappus, Ryan Kennelly, Bonnie Meltzer, Mark Randall and Kelly Williams are represented from the 2009 tour and Chris Haberman, Toji Kurtzman, Amelia Opie, Shanon Playford, Sam Roloff, Amy Stoner, Quin Sweetman and Anna Todaro from past tours.

Bonnie Meltzer
'Past & Future Loves' by Bonnie Meltzer. Photo by kerosene rose.

The theme of Love inspires works that ranges from love to lust, representational to abstract, and serious to humorous.  There are many clever plays on this theme along with some creative interactive works.  If you have not been to this event, you will not want to miss the closing party that goes from 7:00 pm – 12:00 am, this Friday March 12th.

Ryan Kennelly
'H1N1' by Ryan Kennelly. Photo by kerosene rose.

Mark Randall
Mark Randall's large mixed-media work, center. Photo by kerosene rose.

The event is put on by Launch Pad Gallery and Portland City Art who also share the love by collecting cans of food for the Oregon Food Bank throughout month and at the closing on Friday, March 12th and by donating 10% of all bar sales to American Red Cross Haiti Disaster Relief.

You may RSVP to The 5th Annual Portland Love Show on Facebook or find more artwork from the show and information at

See more images of the Love Show, before the event opened, from kerosene rose on flickr.

Portland Open Studios to be Honored at City Hall March 4th

Celebrate local art on First Thursday, March 4th when Mayor Sam Adams will honor Portland Open Studios with a Proclamation and unveil the organization’s 10th Anniversary Purchase Prize gift to the City of Portland. The 10 x 10 Show (all art 10 inches or less, in all media) features artworks by over 80 artists in the 2009 Portland Open Studios tour.

Click on the thumbnail to see the official document!

The event is free and open to the public. Artwork is for sale with 20% going to the Kimberly Gales Scholarship fund for young artists. Enjoy music, refreshments, and this rare opportunity to see an array of art by Portland Open Studios’ artists.

For a decade, local artists have created opportunities in experiential education by opening their doors to the curious public and sharing their working methods. Portland Open Studios is a unique and mutually beneficial exchange of excitement and learning about art.

Portland Open Studios is being recognized and honored by the City of Portland because of its commitment to provide art education to all members of our community, adults and children alike, and for its dedicated support of local working artists.

Visitors on the tour constantly encounter treasured and unique educational opportunities. For example in 2007, Justine Avera visited the studio of that year’s scholarship winner Jennifer Mercede with her family. Justine wrote later that Anne was so moved by the experience that when the family got home, she and her daughter painted together for hours, and that those paintings in turn became the basis of Justine’s new artwork.

Portland Open Studios has been a springboard for many of its artist’s careers.  It seeks to incorporate a wide variety of voices and media, thereby representing a cross-section of the visual arts in Portland.  It fosters growth of all participating artists through workshops and encourages emerging artists to participate by offering the Kimberly Gales Scholarship.  This scholarship is available to applicants between the ages of twenty and thirty, waives the tour’s membership fee, and pays a $100 stipend.  Recipients’ work is highlighted in the Tour Guide, providing exposure for the young artists.

In 2009, for the tenth year anniversary, an exciting mentorship program was introduced, connecting art students in the public high schools with participating artists. Over twenty artists on the tour mentored forty-five students, giving them an inside view of their studio and business practice.  These young apprentices may become the future creative capital of Portland.

Many thanks to our generous sponsors: Storyteller Wine Co, Full Sail Brewing Co, and Artemis Foods, Inc

Join us to celebrate a decade of accomplishments in the local Portland arts community on March 4th at a Portland City Hall ceremony and exhibition. Refreshments generously provided by Storyteller Wine, Full Sail Brewing Co, and Artemis Foods.  Music entertainment includes Jim Boydston, Daryl Davis, and Steve Remington of Manzanita.
All past, present and future Portland Open Studios‘ artists and supporters are encouraged to attend.

If you wish to RSVP or invite others, you can do so via Facebook

Helen Hiebert awarded RACC grant and opens a new installation.

Portland Open Studios artist, Helen Hiebert was awarded a 2010 Regional Arts & Culture Council Project Grant. With this grant, Helen will produce a suite of six handmade paper and string drawings in an edition of ten which are based on images of knots. Each collection of six drawings will be housed in a clamshell box commissioned by a well-known box maker and letterpress printer, Sandy Tilcock of Lone Goose Press in Eugene. One suite will be framed and exhibited along with other artwork by Helen at 23 Sandy Gallery in November 2010. In addition, Helen will conduct a free lecture, demonstration and papermaking workshop.

‘Double Knot’ by Helen Hiebert
The installation called the ‘Mother Tree’ is a life-size handmade paper dress created on site at the Portland Building from February to March. Day after day, the artist and a sewing circle will gather in the Portland Building and crochet more strands which will pile up on the floor, filling the area as a tree’s roots would fill the ground beneath it. The strands, as they cascade to the floor, will turn into roots symbolizing the mother as a provider and nurturer throughout human development. Helen’s installation is being created from now until March 2010 as part of the Portland Building’s Installation Space program funded by RACC.

‘Mother Tree’ by Helen Hiebert

Stop by and view the installation before the 10×10 City Hall show, Thursday, March 4th. The Portland Building, 1120 S.W. 5th Avenue is open until 6 pm weekdays.

Subjective, by Becca Bernstein and Gwenn Seemel

Gwenn Seemel and Becca Bernstein, winner of Portland Open Studios first Kimberly Gales Scholarship for Emerging Artists, have collaborated on an exhibition of portraits.

Below, Artist by Becca Bernstein

In this exhibition, Becca and Gwenn have painted themselves and each other, as well as their parents, partners, and other relations. Subjective consists of two views each of ten subjects: twenty paintings of loved ones immortalized once by a stranger and once by their kin. This series proves that there is much more to portraiture than mere imitation.

North View Gallery
Portland Community College Sylvania Campus
12000 SW 49th Avenue, Portland, OR 97219

Open: 7 January through 5 February 2010
Hours: Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Reception: 13 January 2010, 12:30 to 2:30 PM

Read more about this exhibition:

The Oregonian – “They shared an ability to see their portrait models as more than just flesh and figure.” – Margie Boulé

Willamette Week – “It’s an intriguing concept.” – Richard Speer

Portland Mercury – “Their blind collaboration captures the subjectivity involved inportraiture, battling its reputation as a mere act of replication, alesser form of photography.” – Visual Arts Readers’ Pick

Jewish Review – “While portraiture is perhaps one of the most traditional art forms, Bernstein and Seemel’s concept and methods are intended for a contemporary audience who expect more than just a pretty face from art.” – Deborah Seldner

Hungry Eyeball – “The paintings are a tangible result of the relationship between the subject and the artist.” 

The Portlander – “In portraiture, the relationship between artist and subject changes everything. In Subjective, everything is relative.”

Subjective will also be traveling to the following venues:

March 2010 – Corvallis Art Center, Corvallis, Oregon
April 2010 – Pence Gallery at Pinckney Center, COCC, Bend, Oregon
Spring 2011 – Edmonds Art Festival Museum Gallery, Edmonds, Washington