Art in action

The oil paintings that Coupeville artist Kelley Mohs creates are vivid stamps in her passport of life. Each bears the influences of places she’s lived — either topographically, with its artistic style, colors or mood. They are snapshots of the artistic voyages she’s taken.

There’s the flat horizon lines reminiscent of her hometown of Bismark, N.D.

“I still like the flatness of things and how it reminds me of home,” she said.

There’s the expressionism that surrounded her while living in Germany. Many also have the delicate touches and negative spaces defined by her years in Japan.

Next weekend, the Whidbey Allied Artists’ fifth annual Spring Studio Tour will invite art lovers to take an artistic voyage of their own. The tour will feature 27 artists at 20 different locations, including a group showing at the historic Crockett Barn, which will also be the site of the pre-tour artists reception Friday evening.

Tourgoers will not only witness creation, but they are invited to ask questions of the artists doing the creation. The artists will be the guides, inviting guests to come, stay a while and learn what their art is all about.

“You definitely see the influences of where I’ve been in my art,” Mohs said.

All these influences play favorably into the landscapes Mohs prefers to create, minimizing any figures to a few stoically holding ground. Animals are always playful, such as her sheep that are running coyly away or Sweet Willy, the cat that helped her see a colorful light.

“He was my breakout piece,” she says of the feline’s portrait. “This was when I learned to really let go with color.”

And she likes to keep that color fresh, refraining from much mixing. Bright, bold. Keeping away from dark and going to the light.

“In some ways you can never get rid of the dark,” she said. “But I love a lot of vibrancy.”

Kelley Mohs’ studio is her sanctuary in which she prays to the artistic gods daily.

“You need to spend every day in the studio,” she said. “A lot of things will work out, many will not, but at least you were there exercising your creative thought. Even getting away to clean your studio can be beneficial.”

Thanks to support such as a grant from the Coupeville Festival Association, the Spring Art Studio Tour is free to the public. The size of this self-guided tour has remained modest over the years to maintain its approachable nature.

“We like to limit it to a handleable number of studios,” said Gerry Roberts, a participating artist. “What that number is is still being determined and that mostly by patron feedback.”

Feedback has already given birth to a new idea — a summer studio tour that will invite people to tour Whidbey art studios Aug. 23 and 24 with a reception the evening of Aug. 22.

Like its summer counterpart, this spring tour represents the varied arts and artists that are found on Whidbey. The studio locations stretch from just north of Oak Harbor to just south of Greenbank. The artists represent media ranging from the colorful oils of Stacey Neumiller, hand-thrown pottery of Dan Ishler, shaker-style wood furniture of Gary Leake and just about everything beyond and between.

Mohs and the other tour artists will welcome guests into their studios to ask questions, absorb their techniques, observe creation and for some, even have a hand at creating art of their own.

When guests arrive at Mohs’ West Beach-area home they will be invited in to get their hands on a lesson in art, each with his or her own mini canvas to work oil bars.

“The appreciation is a lot greater when they see the finished art if they know the process behind creating it,” Mohs said.

A few years ago Mohs did the same thing, that time inviting each guest to contribute to a larger, group piece. She still has the painted bouquet that came from it.

“It’s really enjoyable,” she said. “And it’s nice to see people who never thought of themselves as artists get into it, often much easier than the artists themselves.”

If painter Gerald Roberts had the opportunity, he admits he’d definitely sneak away from his studio that weekend to take a peek at the work of other artists on the tour. Only when hard pressed did he divulge the answer to some of his favorites. Among them was metal artist Brian Yates. Never heard of him? If you’ve driven into Oak Harbor from the south, his work is more familiar to you than you thought. His big, grey, red metal-roofed barn is one landmark. The pod of metal orcas swimming through the yard are another. Come studio tour weekend visitors can also get an up-close glimspe at Yates’ abstract paintings on canvas and metal.

“Even if people are familiar with an artist, studio tour weekend is an opportunity to learn something new,” Roberts said. “It’s a very fertile group for creative people.”

Mohs can’t wait to meet the visitors who will arrive next weekend, March 1 and 2, as part of the spring studio tour. She likens it to an awakening, the first big event weekend of the year in which people emerge from their houses, socialize and meet their neighbors.

“Go out with the idea of having fun,” Mohs encourages. “Take advantage of it being a small tour and take your time at the studios.”

Talk to the artists, ask lots of questions, watch the details.

“There’s no frantic schedule here, just lots of time to talk about art,” Mohs said.

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