Introducing Artist No. 43 – Susan Kuznitsky

Susan Kuznitsky believes that as an artist she is also an historian. “When I am out painting local scenes on location I feel I am capturing a moment in time that will never happen again. I often find myself painting older landmarks when I go to another town to paint. Some of the structures will probably be gone in the years to come so I feel that I have documented it in a painting that will last a long time. I also do portraits which capture a child or pet or someone’s house in a moment of time that will never exist again. There is such beauty all around us every day. And I feel it is my responsibility to paint it and share it.

“The teaching aspect is also something I feel strongly about. If I can inspire someone to create and reach their own artistic goals, well how cool is that? I am going to be starting a Saturday morning class at OSA (Oregon Society of Artists) where I have been teaching a Wednesday morning class for the past two years. The Saturday class will be open for ages 13 and up. I am working on a grant with help from an OSA board member for scholarship money for underprivileged teens to be able to have art lessons. I am hoping this will make a difference in some small way.”

She started her art journey as a teenager; “a teenager getting into some not such good things as teenagers will do. My mother wisely saw that I was constantly drawing and signed me up at a local art studio for lessons and it totally re-directed my energy and focus and I have never looked back.”

During this year’s Portland Open Studios tour, Susan will be showing her work along with several other artists at OSA. “It will be a very fun place to tour. I will be showing and selling paintings in pastels and oils of all sizes and price points. I will have a couple pieces in progress that I will be working on during the tour where visitors can see the different stages of development. I will also have note cards of the artwork of some of the kids I have taught in the past years to hopefully inspire some younger artists.”

Introducing Artist No. 21 – Anna Lancaster

Anna Lancaster has been creating art since she was 6 or 7 when her dad and brother started teaching her to draw in grade school. She was self-taught until 1993 when she starting taking lessons from a retired portrait artist, Carol Stone. She’s taken workshops with Scott Christenson, Eric Jacobsen, Eric Bowman, Jennifer Diehl, Za Vue and Thomas Jefferson Kitts. “Being so incredibly right brained, painting and drawing have been the only things I feel that I have really done well, all of my life.”

Anna paints from live observation, starting with a 5×7 or 6×8 achromatic thumbnail in oil, taking 30 to 45 minutes to establish a value and shape design, then executing the painting in color. She is studying design to help her compose more design driven paintings. She’s also been painting daily for the past five months. She creates Plein Air Landscapes, Portrait/Figure and Still Life paintings.

I asked Anna what role the artist plays in society? I loved her answer. “Encouraging people in profoundly discouraging and tragic times. Rejoicing with them in times of blessing. Working to try to help them see the loving face of God”.

Anna has been busy this summer. She participated in the Little Gems exhibit for Washington Plein air painters, the Art and Culture Showcase in Washington County, and received a second place in Tualatin’s 2017 Annual ArtSplash Show. She was also written up in Oregon Art Beat’s feature ‘Pacific Northwest Plein Air Invites Painters to Get Outside’.

If you visit Anna during the PDXOS tour this fall, you will see her painting ‘Alla Prima” which means painting wet over wet. “I was trained in the traditional indirect painting of layers with a high contrast underpainting. I learned the Alla Prima method to be able to paint en plein air quickly from live observation.”

Introducing Artist No. 20 – Lisa Wiser

Lisa Wiser grew up with art, in the home she and her husband now own. Her dad had a potter’s wheel in the room downstairs and she was always busy doing ‘craft’ things. She started college as a painting major, but in her junior year her mom gave her the advice ‘That’s great you want to be a painter but you might want to think of a way to support yourself, and I don’t know if that’s the best way.’ She agreed and got a degree from the University of Oregon in art education instead. “I liked kids and I’d worked with a lot of people and it was just kind of a natural thing. I did craft things, and I grew up with art. I grew up in a really creative family, so it was easier for me to do that. I couldn’t do math; couldn’t write.”

A pivotal year for her education was a year of study in Perugia Italy. This year affected her style “hugely”. She saw a lot of religious art, not Catholic, but learned a lot about it. “I did a whole series of works that were mostly still lives with gold leaf. Really fun.

“So I taught for three years and couldn’t stand it, ended up getting married and had three kids. Then I ran into my high school art teacher, who needed a sub. So I ended up subbing for about 17 years, in Tigard and Lake Oswego districts. I enjoyed it, and just quit 3 years ago.” She had started to do more painting, would get on a roll, and then have to sub for a couple of days. Going back to her own art then was like “climbing a hill, really hard to get going again. I was having some success with painting and thought that was just getting in my way.

“I have painted in oil, acrylic, newer products which are known as slow acrylics that dry slower for outside, and water soluble oils, which is currently my favorite thing. I have been doing photography for years.” She showed me one of her favorites, which I took for a landscape, maybe a field of wheat. But it turned out to be a close-up photo of a horse’s mane – amazing.

2016.40×30.Acryliconcanvas

 

For the last three years she has been working on, showing and selling central Oregon landscapes, typically grasslands with water and background. She frequently leaves home to go painting in eastern Oregon for weeks at a time. Schleps all her stuff over there, like a portable studio. She likes to paint plein air. She works from photos that she takes which is a key piece to her studio work. “I take landscape photos and make adjustments to them, then I copy them almost exactly. True artists say you need to change it up, but the thing is I’m out there hiking, and walking and I take the photo, and I see it as a painting when I’m out there.

“If I could live outside I would live in a tent, because I love to be outside – it’s probably from growing up in this house, because there’s a door in every room and lots of big windows. And that’s why the plein air painting is a natural for me. Because I can be outside. I don’t mind the rain, I have a big umbrella. I typically get up first thing in the morning.  At 3 pm I hit that hammock right there.” A lot of her paintings show that she paints in the morning. The bigger pieces are typically studio work and she takes the photos at all times of day.

She works simultaneously on different series. “I also do an abstract series that I show in the Big Five Hundred show.” What she loves about the abstract art is that it frees her completely from copying, “so it’s like a break from my landscape work. Totally manipulating paint with shade and color and, it’s just designing. And I come from the design background so – not all of them turn out – maybe one in five, so I just go back and do something else”

I asked about her process. “I arrive on the scene, scope out what I want to paint. I photograph before I start, so I have that initial look. I’ll set up and paint for a maximum of two and a half to three hours – because then the light changes so much. I take photos throughout so that if I have to come back and work on it I can kind of have a direction to go in adding finishing details to it. My goal however is to complete the painting when I’m out there, because I’m so bad. All those paintings tacked up in my studio wall are all pieces that I did over the course of 4 days, 8 paintings. I did this amazing amount, and then got exhausted. But most of those I was able to complete, not all of them. Some of those paintings I will then, because I have the photo, and if it was a successful painting out of doors, I will do a large studio piece, which are typically more detailed. And I’d say that process is different from when I was not painting as much, but my process is pretty much the same. Even in college I painted outside, even in winter. I have a painting I did in freezing ice. I had the back hatch of the car open, the painting canvas in the back of the car, then I just looked out at the scene and painted it. I didn’t finish it though, I finished it when I got back. I prefer not to do that anymore though.

“I do research. I have a lot of painting books, and I am a ‘researchaholic’. I will look at my subject, and if I have certain trees, or a certain shadow pattern, or if there’s a structure and I want to approach it differently, I will look at examples, and I consider looking at other people’s artwork research as well as reading – there are some famous landscape painters who have published how to books, but they are not really how to, they are basically what to look for and how to pull things off. They do a section on clouds, or a section on trees, and if I get stuck in the middle of a painting I’ll just sit down and read or get on the internet and read or look at demos. That‘s actually one of my favorite parts of working. I do one or two professional workshops a year with professional artists that teach. So that’s another piece of research.”

Best advice –

Simplify. I like to make things complicated. Simplify. Every person I’ve taken anything from has said ‘Simplify.’ Simplify the color, the lines, the pattern, the composition, especially in landscape paintings. And the reason that is the best advice for me is because I’m still trying to figure it out.

Lisa has a dream project. She wants to put together a show. She’s done some curating and has always wanted to collaborate with other people to create a show that has some component that runs between all the participants, so it’s cohesive. She has two friends that she spent some time with last spring and she suggested that they do a show together that they create work for specifically. They are in the process of getting it set up. In fact, they’ve already titled it ‘Three Squared’ and then subtitled, ‘Line, Layers and light’. The one component that will connect it all is the format which will be a square.

Be sure to include Lisa in your tour this fall – you won’t regret it.

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. 36 – Susan Harrington

Susan Harrington grew up in a family that loved to create. With a father that was an engineer and a mother who was a self-taught artist, her developing years were spent in an environment that included all sorts of designing, building and making activities. She discovered her love of art in her teens in the field of ceramics and also worked in textiles, printmaking and drawing before she found her true love – painting.

Born and raised in Oregon, she studied with Douglas Campbell Smith, Nelson Sandgren and James Kirk before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area where she studied with Ralph Borge, Charles Gill and Harry Krell while obtaining her BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts (now called the California College of Arts – CCA). After graduating, she spent several years painting while working in Membership and Development at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and obtaining her MA in Education.

She currently maintains a studio in a community of artists in the industrial area of northwest Portland and shows her work regionally.

“I see one of the roles of an artist is to share our interpretation and experience of the world to inspire people to feel and encourage people to think. My recent paintings center on my environmental concerns by following two themes, one theme being a dystopian look at our human impact on the planet and the other theme being a utopian vision about the regenerative strength of nature and the interconnectedness of all things. These paintings are about the random, organized chaos that happens when seeds are scattered, rain falls and sun shines. They’re about the Darwinian qualities that are inherent in adapting to survive and the harmony and disharmony between human beings and our natural earth. They’re about creating a space for the viewer to be in, feast upon and visually wander. They’re about hope, because nature is amazingly resilient in spite of the abuse we bring upon her. More than anything they’re about joy, and are my celebration of the beautiful gifts that surround us.”

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. 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. 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?