Tina Christiansen hangs her paintings at the Oak Harbor Library where she’ll be the featured artist through August. She’s assisted by librarian Nancy Luenn. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Color, light and form pop in “Wet Paint” art show

After 40 years: ‘I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of painting.’

Tina Christiansen likes to paint what’s in front of her — glaciers in Alaska, hummingbirds flitting by feeders, flowers bursting on the scene.

Known as “plein air” — meaning open air — style of painting, there’s one environment where that’s not so easy.

Under water.

“I do paint a lot of plein air,” said Christiansen, selected as the featured artist at Oak Harbor Library for July and August. “Obviously when I’m snorkeling I can’t do that.”

This is the third year the 62-year-old Oak Harbor resident has been selected to display her art on walls surrounding the library tables, chairs and information desk.

“The first year was her silk scarves and last year, she displayed a variety of paintings,” said librarian Nancy Luenn, who selects the rotating art display. “Tina has lots of work and she’s very talented.”

Christiansen’s show called “Wet Paint,” includes scenes both above and below water awash in color, light and form.

Among the selections: Small watercolors of Hubbard Glacier in Alaska, some painted from the deck of a cruise ship, large vibrant acrylic-layered scenes of an Anna’s hummingbird looking translucent in flight and a spotted leopard whipray scouring the bottom of the sea are among the dozen selections.

“They’re poisonous, that’s why they’re so pretty,” Christiansen commented while hanging her paintings with Luenn last week.

An architect who’s worked in California and Colorado as a city planning director, Christiansen said she was first introduced to painting as an architectural student.

“I had a Japanese professor tell me that If I worked with water colors for about seven years, I might be able to paint something good. If I stayed with it and painted for thirty years or more I might paint something great.

“I am at about 40 years of playing with paints now, so I am hoping that I am doing something great by now.

“I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of painting. I have so much that I still am trying to capture and learn.”

Experimenting in water colors first, Christiansen started painting on flat surfaces instead or an easel.

“I often use water color style washes in my acrylic paintings, and it must dry on the flat to keep the colors from running,” she said.

A self-portrait called “Rowing Home in the Fog” shows the style made famous by Monet and others —- impressionism.

Rowing into fading light toward Oak Harbor, colorful streaks and smudges of setting sun fall like fireworks onto the water. The rowboat is a vintage wooden scow, a lantern placed on its bow. “I used a little bit of creative license,” she laughed.

Impressionism uses juxtaposed dichoric colors “to create another color entirely” as the eyes move between the different primary colors, Christiansen said.

“This tension between colors is what impressionism is all about.”

The hummingbird painting shows numerous styles of painting that mixes heavy paint strokes with feather-light brushstrokes.

“It’s an oriental style of brushstrokes for the birds, and a bravura style of brushstrokes for the flowers in the style of realism,” she said. “It has a yen and yang composition.

“It looks like it might be easy, but it’s the most difficult form of painting. I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to get it right.”

Christiansen likes to share her passion for painting with others, some whom may never consider themselves “an artist.”

“I like to do demonstration painting. I even get people to play, I find when they pick up the brush, their creative impulses come out.”

Retired four years ago, Christiansen moved to Oak Harbor to be near her father and stepmother. She’s often out crabbing on their 29-foot lobster boat. Peering into the sea and imagining what’s below is similar to how she views the creative world.

Art is about discovery, she says in her artist’s statement.

“For me, it’s not just a painting of what lies on the surface of what we see. It is also what lies beneath. The Japanese call this ‘the space between.’”

• Water media artist Tina Christiansen exhibits watercolor and acrylic paintings at Oak Harbor Library through August. Christiansen’s work can be viewed at www.TinaChristiansen.net and www.artbytina.net

This painting showing a leopard whipray is one of many seascapes found in Tina Christiansen’s art. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

A butterfly appears to melt off the canvas as Tina Christiansen applies layers of acyrlic paint. Photo provided.

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