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. 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. 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?