Celebrate spring with Whidbey's studio tour

Oak Harbor welder Steve Nowicki will be showcasing pieces at his Shock-N-Awe studio during the tour this weekend. Nowicki’s work is inspired by nature found in the Pacific Northwest. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor welder Steve Nowicki will be showcasing pieces at his Shock-N-Awe studio during the tour this weekend. Nowicki’s work is inspired by nature found in the Pacific Northwest.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Spring means picturesque sunsets, new colors and new life. And though the official start of the season isn’t for a few weeks, local artists are offering a visual sneak-peek of pretty pastels and fresh perspectives.
This weekend marks the eighth annual Spring Art Studio Tour sponsored by the Pacific NorthWest Art School. More than 30 artists will be opening their studios and letting the public in to watch them work, ask questions, buy art and get inspired.
Event organizer and painter Gerry Roberts said studio tour newbies and veterans alike will get something out of this year’s event because new pieces are always getting produced.
“The way I look at it, it’s a new show every time,” Roberts said. “I think that’s the approach every artist takes. There’s some artists that weren’t in the spring and summer shows last year and most of the time people who do the tours don’t have time to see everything ... the island by and large has a net gain of good quality artists; we see continual growth in that area.”
Roberts will in his Coupeville studio during the tour and will have a new painting to show. Although he wouldn’t reveal the piece’s details, he hopes it’ll “raise a few eyebrows.”
Coupeville resident Pennie Allison Rees, a new addition to the tour, will also be painting this weekend. Rees has been involved with art her entire life and moved to Whidbey three years ago to take advantage of its beautiful boat scenes. From 2001 to 2006 Rees sailed the southern Pacific Ocean on a sailboat and spent time living in Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.
She focuses on watercolor and makes her paintings on rice paper.
“The rice paper adds a different texture,” she said. “As the light of the day changes, so does the painting.”
Although Rees said working with the uneven medium can be more challenging, the look of the finished product makes it all worthwhile.
“An artist once told me if you stop when it’s a pretty picture, you’ll never have a grand picture,” she said.
In addition to painters, the show will feature glass artists, sculptors, woodworkers, photographers, textile and fiber artists and others.
Oak Harbor Welder Steve Nowicki will be participating for the second time in the spring tour. Nowicki began dabbling in metal work 35 years ago when he made jewelry out of horseshoe nails. But soon, “life got in the way” and Nowicki stopped creating.
After running a painting business on Whidbey for 32 years, he got back into his hobby by taking a metal working class at Skagit Valley College. Nowicki took the class to learn how to fix up an old car, but his love for welding was rekindled and he began making home and garden gifts, and soon Shock-N-Awe Metal Works was born.
“The name Shock-N-Awe was suggested by my daughter who upon seeing my first piece said, ‘Dad, I am either in shock or awe of your metal work, mostly shocked,’” Nowicki said.
His work centers on plants and animals found in the Northwest. During the tour he’ll be welding and mingling with visitors. He said people should come out and take advantage of the free lessons they can learn from the artists.
“People will see that even an old fossil like myself can be creative and they should try new things,” Nowicki said. “There is life after retirement. You will see lots of examples of my failures around the shop, but I still love it and go at it full bore every day.”
The studio tour is free and lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, March 5 and 6. For a list of artists, studio locations and directions visit

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