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.



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. 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. 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. 31 – Anji Grainger

Anji Grainger is currently working on a body of work exploring the world of raindrops. The series is called Pacific Northwest Raindrops.

“If we look closely, there are many wonders to see inside a raindrop – its own little world so to speak – but actually it is  refraction of what is around us.  In this painting series my goal is to give the viewer a look into the tiny world of raindrops and to create a feeling of magic and mystery.  The challenges I face are accomplishing the combination of the exactness of a raindrop with the blurred and distorted effects that happen in the refraction process of a round and clear sphere.  With watercolor as a fluid medium, it was very difficult to get sharp clear lines so it took many hours of working slowly to achieve my goals.

“My work derives its inspiration from the magic and wonders of nature.  I paint with the movement of nature and visualize the growing twists and turns of a twig or a leaf.  I try to capture the stillness of an early morning walk in a field, along a river or in a forest.  I also focus on detail whether it’s simply the blending or bleeding of two colors like one would see on a ripening peach or the finite lines and edges of a raindrop. My current explorations are in the discovery of how elements of nature and texture react in watercolor to leave beautiful patterns and surprises in unique patterns on the paper.”

Four years ago Anji quit her day job and began a full time career as an artist and instructor. “It was a leap of faith and has taken many hours of hard work. This last year I made it past the earnings mark and had a great year supporting myself solely as a working single artist.”

To see her beautiful paintings, and visit with her about her art and her process, stop by her studio during the Portland Open Studios tour this fall.

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. 12, Winifred Martinson

Winifred Martinson is also new to the tour this year.  She describes herself as “California born and bred”.  Unbelievably she only began learning the techniques of making art as an adult.  “I paint realistically what I think is beautiful in nature, in an atmospheric and ethereal style.  In the 1980s I learned from workshops with Zoltan Szabo in Los Angeles, from Life Drawing courses at Pasadena City College, but mostly I am self-taught.  “Mr. Szabo’s work still inspires me.  His subtle color choices and impressionistic style have a strong influence on my work.  When I teach, my students for the most part learn from those techniques. His advice to limit the number of colors used is basic to my style.

“I usually paint indoors, from a sketch or photo of a subject that somehow resonates with me.  I often paint animals or birds, beginning with the eyes.  If I can’t love the effect of the eyes, the painting will be abandoned.”

A pivotal point in her artistic career occurred in 2001 when she moved to McMinnville. “I was encouraged by the Hidden Treasures Gallery, The Currents Gallery and The Pacific Frame and Gallery to go public with my large privately held body of work.”

If you visit her on the tour you’ll be able to watch her working on a current project.  She also plans to have a children’s station

Introducing Artist No. 96, Rachel Austin

Rachel Austin has always enjoyed making things – art, crafts, furniture, food. “Painting started as a side hobby for me and grew until it became my focus. I think I have a good understanding of materials and what I can do with them – that helps me figure out the best ways to turn my ideas into real pieces. I am a self-taught artist with an education background in management and finance. Art has turned out way more fun for me and I love being able to spend my day painting and creating.”

“I’ve been on the Portland Open Studio tour in past years, but never with this series. The Shadow paintings are a newer body of work that I’m excited to demo and share. The paintings are of plant shadows in watercolor and acrylic. I love the modern and peaceful feel to them.”

Rachel has been a full time artist for the last eleven years and feels very fortunate to be able to create art for a living. “My paintings, cards and prints are found in 40+ shops across the country in addition to my own website. I do a lot of custom paintings for individuals and businesses these days. I recently finished a hotel refresh with the Marriott in Seattle and have my artwork in all the guest rooms. My paintings are also on the sets of The Mindy Project, Portlandia, Grimm, Man with a Plan, and Parenthood.”

She does all this from a simple studio in the basement of her 1925 bungalow, “which is flooded with light and has lots of room to make a mess. My eight year old daughter is able to come down to hang out, create or read whenever she wants. I love getting to work at home and finding a balanced life between art, family and other creative pursuits.”

Her greatest inspiration these days it is gardening. “Gardening is a relatively new hobby for me that I’ve become obsessed with. I volunteer a few hours a week at the Garden at Elk Rock in SW Portland, tend my own garden and help others plan out their spaces. I love reading about gardens and plants and visiting other gardens whenever I can. I think of gardens as an amazing slow growing sculpture. The shadow series is completely inspired from time spent in nature and abstract beauty of the shadow in the garden.”

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.”