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. 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. 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.”

Introducing Artist No. 51 – Plastorm

Plastorm is an artist I want to get to know.  How about you?  Here are some answers to a few random questions I put to him.

“As far as any formal art background or education, I have none. I earned my degree in Film and still work as a Video Editor. The interesting thing is, my editing and painting workflow is not that different. Each thrill me with the daily complexities of assembling order from chaos.

“Another ‘game-changer’ in terms of securing a proper foundation for the production of art was reading Stephen King’s, On Writing. I read that with exclamative lightning bolts flashing over my eyes. His description of the creative process mirrored what was already percolating in my brain. Hearing very much the same from him made those thoughts trustworthy!”

The name Plastorm came from a dream I had while still in high school, featuring three green lizards carrying briefcases. It’s been with me ever since.

“The most memorable and cherished response [to his work] will probably always be from the owner/operator of Outsiderart.info: “Plastorm creates mythicons, colorfully drawn with caveman eyes and mathematician hands.”

Is the artistic life lonely? I asked.  If so, what do you do to counteract it?

“Yes! Nothing. I embrace it joyfully. An old friend once told me, ‘There’s a difference between being alone, and being lonely.’ Like many painters/artists, I need a great deal of alone time; I cherish and horde it like gold. With my own painting process, it can often take hours of various warmups or busy work just to finally get my synapses firing adequately. Luckily, I’ve got a great relationship with someone who loves his alone time just as much as I do. But here’s the key: if he wasn’t there  I WOULD be lonely. Just knowing he’s there keeps the fires lit in the solitary confines of my backyard studio. As such, there’s no other place in the world I’d rather be. I’d also be remiss to forget to mention my two dogs. I don’t think it’s possible to be completely lonely with two Golden Retrievers!”

A good painting talks to me as if I’m taking dictation. It’s the most miraculous experience in the world!

Next I asked him what research he did before starting a project.

“Strangely, research often happens while in the middle of a project. As mentioned, I’ve co-opted Stephen King’s metaphor for the writing process as I don’t think there could be a better description. He views the writing process as an archeological excavation. The moment I read that, lighting struck! Yes! Painting IS like digging for fossils. You brush away the dirt and clutter to reveal the bones underneath. For myself, those bones frequently reveal stories and structures that feel pre-built and whole. My job is to simply get out of the way and let those discoveries unfold. When all is said and done, I have uncovered myths, legends, and history that, to my knowledge, were previously unknown to me.”

What couldn’t you do without?

“Podcasts, The Simpsons, carbonated water, popsicles, my Adderrall prescription, and Investigation Discovery!”

Now don’t you want to just crawl into that brain and hang out for awhile?

Introducing Artist No. 11 – Rick Wheeler

Rick Wheeler has been a working artist for most of his adult life. “My art career includes working as a ‘commercial’ artist, doing illustrations for clients around the country, as well as being an art instructor to several art organizations and private students for about the last 20 years. This is balanced with my studio work, which includes painting (acrylic and watercolor), drawing (varied media), and mixed media projects (found objects). My work has been jury selected to a number of national and international exhibits, and has been collected by local, regional, and international clientele.

“My style of work also covers a broad range of interests, from tight realism to a looser, more painterly approach to my work, as well as outdoor/plein air work. Subjects range from landscape, wildlife, to figurative. Exploration in media, subjects, and style of work is one of my great pleasures as a visual artist. As a result, I can’t be easily categorized. And I’m okay with that.”

Rick is looking forward to seeing you all at his studio during the PDXOS tour, and he plans to be working on a painting in his studio so he can share his technique with his visitors.  “I find working with the public in this way an enjoyable opportunity to exchange ideas.”

Introducing Artist No. 10 – Chas Martin

Chas Martin, PDXOS Artist No. 10, is not an artist to be pigeonholed in one medium or another.  When I asked him what he had in store for his visitors this fall during the PDXOS Tour, he replied “Visitors will see the evolution of a story in progress. Visiting my studio is like hanging out backstage at a theater. Some characters are in costume and ready to take the stage. Others are still getting their makeup. Developing a sculpture is like a conversation between director and actor. I explore how each nuance amplifies the character’s story. That exploration can include pencil sketches, a maquette, a few watercolors, a wire frame armature, maybe a few photos for reference or a collage of the stage. I may even paint a specific background for each character to provide additional context to their role.”

He has been an artist since he was about 13, when he started drawing rat finks and funny cars with huge engines and fat tires. He tells me that “art is as important to me as exercise or eating. I think the act of making things, especially things that come from our inner thoughts, makes us balanced and healthy.”

 Chas studied visual communication at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and has worked as a graphic designer, art director, set designer, wood carver, web designer, and instructor. “Visual communication has remained at the core of everything I’ve done my entire career. I’m inspired by prolific people who have figured out how to support themselves without compromise so their art form can breathe and grow daily.”

He is currently creating a cast of characters “sculptures of archetypes who all play a role in an epic narrative. They are actors in my personal mythology. They are all part of my own epic hero’s  journey.“  His dream project is “to merge imagination and realization into a revelation. I want to create a garden of larger-than-life sculpted characters and translucent panels. Walking through the garden produces a dreamlike experience where archetypal spirits and primal images induce magic. It’s both concrete and ethereal.  It’s an experience that releases your dependence on physical limitations and strengthens your ability to visualize and realize your own dreams.”