Introducing Artist No. 9 – Melissa Gannon

A love of color is a driving force behind Melissa Gannon’s art—first in watercolor then acrylic, pastel, mixed media, and oil.

Melissa enjoys painting nature. Her inspiration comes from travel, hiking, and exploring her local area. Her home in the Pacific Northwest provides ready access to the coast, rivers, mountains and desert. She loves painting outdoors—portraying a perfect peaceful place in the woods, a bird surveying the world, or the vibrancy of a bunch of daisies. She finds that observations made in plein air painting enhance her studio work.
Along with creating art, Melissa shares her skills and knowledge through classes and workshops. She began teaching in 2001 and finds that it enhances her work as she strives to find challenging material for the fast-growing skills of her students. Some of her students have attended her classes for over ten years, and she loves seeing their artistic expression grow.

Galleries exhibiting Melissa’s work include Earthworks Gallery in Yachats, Oregon, Infusion Gallery in Troutdale, Oregon, Aurora Gallery in Vancouver, Washington; and Ryrie & Me in Reno, Nevada. She participates in local shows including the Gresham Art Walk and the Oregon City Festival of the Arts.

“Each painting is a journey of discovery. Influenced by the Impressionists, I love to explore layering and arranging colors into vibrant patterns of light and beauty that unfold onto the canvas and reflect the joy inherent in the world around us. Nature is the primary model I paint from. I’m attracted to the shapes formed by light and shadow, the mosaic of sun-dappled leaves, or the visual delight of a meadow of wildflowers seen from a mountainside trail. I seek to share the wonder of these experiences in my work and bring a piece of nature’s bounty indoors for all to enjoy.”

Introducing Artist No. 44 – Poppy Dully

Poppy Dully is a painter, printmaker, and book artist. She has a degree in design and cultural anthropology from UC Berkeley, a Masters in Public Health from UC Los Angeles, and for over 20 years she worked in fundraising and non profit management. “Since 2002, I have devoted myself to my art. I started with pastels on paper. With the guidance of talented mentors, I developed my drawing, painting and print making skills. I paint principally with oils on canvas or wood panels. I recently acquired a 24″x 36″ Ettan etching press for my studio. Book arts evolved out of my interest in printmaking and my love of books.”

“I just completed a major commission for Oregon Health Authority, Center for Health Statistics aka Vital Records, at the Oregon State Office Building in Portland. The CHS representative found me through Portland Open Studios in January. I replied to an inquiry, met with the project manager and staff and worked closely with them for the next five months on creating four works of art for the public lobby of their offices. The work includes three monotypes, a triptych called Life Cycles: Early Years, Middle Years, and Later Years and a 3’x5’ acrylic painting titled Passages of Time. All the work is installed in the 2nd floor lobby and available for public viewing.”

As a printmaker, Poppy’s work begins with research to find books that she is interested in reading and that lend themselves to visual interpretations. “I research the books, related films, information on the author, and film history. I am particularly attracted to older films and those with dramatic cinematography. I print on the pages of the selected book, using monotypes that are created with oil based ink on Plexiglas panels. These monotypes can be printed up to two times, first the original run and the second, the ghost, so the edition (if there is one) is unique and one of a kind. The pages are then adhered to an accordion paper panel which can be pulled out to view the story through the printed page and the related imagery. The printed pages are attached to the original book covers.

the crucial job of artists is to find a way to release materials into the animated middle ground between subjects, and so initiate the difficult but joyful process of human connection.” poet Ann Lauterbach

For the Portland Open Studios fall tour, Poppy will set up a work table in the center of her studio for use by her visitors. “I provide instructions on simple books to construct and lots of materials to make these books unique and personalized. The guests can take their books home – all ages enjoy this participatory activity.”

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. 55 – Leah Kohlenberg

Leah Kohlenberg, Vice President and upcoming President of Portland Open Studios, took some time from her busy schedule and answered a few questions for us.

Art is now her main occupation, and she tells me she makes half of her income teaching art, half selling paintings.  But she didn’t get there through the normal channels.  Her arts education is as eclectic as she is.  “I am primarily self-taught, but I deeply value art education.  I take as many classes as I can, and learned a lot at the Gage Academy in Seattle, and PNCA in Portland.  I spent five years in Eastern Europe meeting and studying with some great artists:  Lado Pochkhua, from the Republic of Georgia (and lately, Brooklyn); Suren Nersisyan, from Armenia (and lately, LA);  Zara Manucharyan, and Hakob Hovannisyan, also great painters from Armenia;  And here in Portland, Don Bishop, who has taught me the little amount I know about plein air painting.

“I was not one of those kids who drew and painted growing up. I was a journalist in my previous life, and I loved it.  By the time I was 30, I’d worked for small dailies all over the country, helped cover the Hong Kong handover to China for Time Magazine in Hong Kong, and was sent to Mongolia on a Knight Fellowship to train local journalists.  Yet I still felt something was missing – perhaps the visual-spatial side?

“I moved back to the U.S., bought a fixer upper house, and immediately painted every wall in every room a different color. Someone came to visit and said ‘You are an artist.’  I denied it, but secretly began pulling out pieces of wood leftover from house projects, and began painting, using all that multicolored house paint.  I was hooked immediately.  I had no idea what I was doing – I couldn’t draw to save my life, though my painting was always a little bit better – but I vowed to learn.  That was 16 years ago.”

How she works:  “I work in layers – building paintings up from simple, but strongly contrasted bases, working in details on the top layers.  I love glazing!  I am trusting my initial strokes more, and letting them come through the final works.  I used to think they were messy.  And, well, they are … but that’s me, so I don’t fight that so much.”

Art is a discipline and a proper job.  You should do it whether you feel like it or not.  Don’t wait for the muse to strike.  Work, so the muse has plenty of opportunity to strike.

Her professional goal: “To be selling with five galleries around the world who keep me busy, including one in Berlin!  To be in museums before I die.”

She is currently working on several series which you will see if you visit her during the tour: “I just returned from a trip to Scotland and England, and I stayed on a farm, so I’m painting abstracted cows (very enjoyable) in oil. I’m also working an acrylic series of paintings of the city at night, as photographed by my boyfriend, Rob Forrester.  I love portraiture, too, so I have a half-finished painting of my friend Leslie Yates which I am vowing to finish. Too much to do!”

Speaking of the tour, “This year is going to be great!  I am sharing my studio with two fellow open studio-ites, the talented jeweler, Melissa Moline, and landscape painter/abstract artist Don Bishop.  We’ll have live music playing on the lawn outside, and a bar in the back.  Watch out, you might never leave!”

I’ll be there – will you?

Introducing Artist No. 32 – Bob Heath

“I’ve had a fascination with art glass for as long as I can remember, probably starting with the stained glass windows in the church I attended as a child. I also fondly remember the tree that my grandmother kept decorated with brightly colored bottles hanging from strings. Blown glass balls and intricate glass paper weights intrigued me as an adult. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I finally decided to try it myself and my wife and I enrolled in a stained glass class. I really loved the process and the magic that happened when you put lead or foil around pieces of glass then put them together to create a picture. Then I discovered glass fusing and the myriad possibilities that it held for different ways to manipulate glass and there was no looking back. The technical side of glass fusing appealed to the engineer in me and I found myself always thinking about new techniques that I wanted to try and working out processes to achieve specific designs. That’s still what drives me today, over 20 years later. I imagine things that I want to make out of glass, then spend days, weeks, sometimes years, figuring out how to do it.”

Bob Heath is a retired software engineer. While he doesn’t have a formal art background, “There are a number of excellent glass art schools and organizations here in Oregon and I’ve been very fortunate in opportunities to learn from dozens of truly gifted glass artists and instructors. I continue to be fascinated by new techniques and there are always more classes on my horizon. There is actually a lot of room for artistic expression in engineering design. I was always trying to achieve “elegance” in my software designs and I think that’s art. Unfortunately, it was often art that could only be appreciated by another software engineer. My engineering background continues to be a strong influence on my glass art. I love to play with processes and combine techniques from multiple disciplines to try and achieve something new.

“Where possible, I like to start by making a drawing of what I want a piece to look like. This is usually done on a computer where I can easily edit and play with shapes, sizes and colors. For complex pieces, I use the computer model to dissect the work into component parts which can then be constructed separately. I take extensive notes about each kiln firing I do, so when I’m finally ready to convert the computer image into glass, I have a reference library of previous work to consult in order to get just the effect I want. If I am doing something new, I’ll often do some test pieces first to work out the details before committing to larger work.

If you visit Bob’s studio during the PDXOS tour, you can look forward to a fun, hands-on activity. ”We have on hand some basic glassware, including simple water glasses, wine glasses and beer glasses. For a small fee, visitors can choose a glass then decorate it with vinyl stickers made with a wide variety of punches that we have on hand. Then they can take their glass to the sandblast cabinet and frost everything that isn’t covered by a sticker. After that the stickers can be removed to reveal a permanent design in the glass. In the past, we’ve had everyone from children to seniors give this a try and they all had fun and left with a treasured memento. Some people have even used this opportunity to make Christmas gifts and we’ve even had people come back a second day to make more.”

Introducing Artist No. 91 – Amanda Triplett

Amanda Triplett was always intuitively creative growing up. “I learned needle craft from my mother and I grew up doing a lot of theater and dance. I was notorious for making creative messes and spending my math class doodling in my notebook. When I got to college, I took my first real art class and fell deeply in love with painting and studio time. Sculpture followed after that.  Creating art is what feeds my soul. It’s also something that is innate within me. I’ve always done it. I’m happiest when I’m making work and I can’t help myself from doing it.”

I asked Amanda what inspired her work and she replied

“I think Nature is my greatest inspiration: biology, trees, the cosmos and the beautiful, unspeakable thing that binds it all together.”

Right now she’s working on larger scale, fiber installations. “I’m expanding into doing more installations of sculptural fiber. I really enjoy creating more immersive art experiences. I’m also working on some tiny pieces for my Specimen series. I like working on both macro and micro. Working tiny allows me to develop techniques and work with details. Working with large scale installation allows me to create a full, juicy experience for viewers.”

If you visit her on the tour, you can expect a range of different projects. “I will have my tiny Specimen series displayed. They are small, circular pieces, with lots of juicy details, embroidery, lace and beading. They are affordably priced and are excellent entry points into collecting my work. I also will have a larger installation downstairs in our spare room where you will be able to experience some of my larger scale work.”

Amanda shares her time right now between taking care of her family and making art.  “Right now I balance being a stay at home mom with making art. My hope is to expand my art business so that when both my kids are in elementary school I can continue to do art full time.”