When seen through the artistic mind of Randy Emmons, Whidbey Island scenes enter a new world of swirling colors and a vibrancy that lingers in the mind long after viewing. Emmons’ art can remain in the spotlight year round in an affordable way with his recently released 2013 calendar depicting local barn scenes, and his new book, “Whidbey in Watercolors, Images of a Wiggly Island North of Seattle.”
Emmons paints everything local, from a line of mailboxes to Race Week sailboats to shops in downtown Coupeville, and he adds his own touch with color and design elements.
“I try to make it as much design as it is a representation of an actual place,” Emmons said of his watercolor art, noting the curves he adds to normally straight roofs, or the defined swirls of vibrant color forming the waters of Deception Pass.
“I like things kind of design-y and wonky,” he added. “There’s not too much that’s normal about it.”
Emmons’ favorite images can be found in his new book. While his favorite piece of work changes constantly, the final image in the book is a top one for Emmons. It depicts the view from Deception Pass Bridge with a boat sailing and leaving swirls and waves of many hues of blue in its wake.
“Also, I don’t think the colors are too close to what they are either. I exaggerate the color a bit,” Emmons said of his art.
As to why he paints Whidbey scenes, Emmons said, “It’s right here in my yard…. People like to see the local scenes, especially the tourists.” Through his art, tourists can connect to the place they came to see, he added.
“I don’t think a lot of Whidbey artists paint local scenes, a couple do,” Emmons said, adding that this sets him apart, as well as his use of flat brushes, which makes the brushwork visible in the painting, something watercolor artists don’t usually do.
“I like the idea that people can look at the painting and there’s enough of the scene that people can say, ‘I know where that is,’ but it’s still my design,” Emmons said.
In looking at his work from the 1960s, Emmons said his art was similar in style and subject to what he creates now.
“Maybe style is built into you. Maybe you can’t do anything about it. People paint a certain way because that’s the way they see things,” Emmons said.
Barns and books
This is the third year Emmons is selling calendars. The first year, the 100 copies he ordered sold out in a month. All but two of the 200 he ordered last year sold so he ordered 200 again this year. They are available for purchase at Penn Cove Gallery in Coupeville and Island Drug and Garry Oak Gallery in Oak Harbor.
This year’s theme is barns. The calendar features barns from Dugualla Bay to Zylstra Road and more.
“Someone asked me what I was going to do when I finished painting every barn on the island, and I said I don’t know, maybe paint them again,” Emmons laughed.
This is Emmons’ first year selling books. For many of the images, he includes the photograph he drew inspiration from so viewers can compare the finished product.
His motive to create a book was his recent fight with cancer.
“Being locked up, a book was good entertainment to put together,” he said.
The book is available for purchase at Penn Cove Gallery and Garry Oak Gallery.
Emmons majored in art in the 1960s but gave it up for a career as a Navy photographic officer.
“That’s the closest thing to art in the military,” Emmons said.
That job took him to Malaysia, Singapore, Africa and more, before he ended up on Whidbey and took up painting again in 2006. Emmons said this isn’t unusual; many artists he has talked to begin their art career after retirement.
During a childhood rich with art, Emmons said he always believed he was going to grow up to be an artist.
“It took a long way to get to it, though,” he said.
Now, Emmons is in his studio at his house every day, putting paint to paper. When he paints, “it’s great, it’s wonderful,” Emmons said.
“It’s like, wow, I can’t believe I produced that!” he added, laughing. “That was pretty good. I don’t know how I figured that out.”
He isn’t the only one impressed by his work. Emmons earned Best of Show at the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival juried show, among other awards. His art is available at Penn Cove Gallery and Garry Oak Gallery as well as a gallery in La Conner.