Lifestyle

2 days, 24 studios: Tour shares Whidbey artists' habitat

Sculptor Ron Ward displays a whimsical “self-portrait” made in his shop near Greenbank. The sculpture is displayed in the field outside the Cottage Inn Gallery. Ward is one of 38 artists participating in the Spring Art Studio Tour March 6 and 7.  - Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ward
Sculptor Ron Ward displays a whimsical “self-portrait” made in his shop near Greenbank. The sculpture is displayed in the field outside the Cottage Inn Gallery. Ward is one of 38 artists participating in the Spring Art Studio Tour March 6 and 7.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ward

Creating art can be a lonely business, woodworker Gary Leake said, but two days each spring, artists across North and Central Whidbey open their studios to the general public.

The event is known as the Spring Art Studio Tour. It runs March 6 and 7 and aims to connect people to artists and their creative processes — a part of the local art scene they usually don’t find in galleries.

“It’s not howdy tawdy, with wine and cheese and everyone dressed up. It’s more about sawdust on your pants and paint on your hands,” Leake said. “It adds to the experience of collecting.”

This year, the two-day tour has grown to include 38 artists in 24 locations, from woodworkers to weavers, bronze artists to painters. They live along the wooded byways between Oak Harbor and Greenbank.

Though it’s designed the same way as the island-wide fall studio tour, it’s a smaller version. The locations are in close driving distance and the planning is relaxed. Rather than pick-and-choose sites, many people can see all their favorite artists in the two day period, Leake said.

And this event is free.

“Whether you’re local or off island, you can do it on a limited budget. It’s like going to a free art museum in a way,” Leake said.

Many artists plan as early Christmas to prepare new pieces to show the public, he added. All the artists participating in the tour will be on hand to demonstrate techniques, answer questions and, in some cases, offer hands-on activities.

For emerging artists, or those who may not have a place that’s easy to get to, artists have invited friends into their studio.

At the Cottage Inn Gallery, just south of Greenbank, Ron Ward and Pamela Winstanley share space on an impressive 10-acre lot. However, their mediums couldn’t be more different.

Ward sculpts in clay and wax, then casts his work in bronze. It can be a 12-step and several month process, and his pieces sell from $30 to $6,000.

Down the hill from his workshop, Winstanley creates vibrant, soft textiles which are painted, printed and hand sewn.

Displayed together in the Cottage Inn Gallery (also on site), Ward’s whimsical, practical or unexpected pieces mesh well with the silk paintings and garden flags.

Another unique artist partnership is Leake and photographer Karen Leads. Leake’s Morris Road studio is low-lit and low-tech, with special pieces of wood waiting for their turn. Most of his tools were used by his father and grandfather when they made furniture.

On the tour, Lead’s bright photography will hang on the studio’s old walls.

“There will be lots of shades of brown and this colorful photography,” Leake said.

Leake adds there will be plenty of mediums to explore next week. People will also likely walk away with affordable deals on art works.

To simplify the selection on the day of the event, a full-color tour map can be found in local art shops, or online at www.whidbeyworkingartists.com. It outlines the routes and gives a small description of the artists.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 6 and 7.

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