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Artists’ studio tour starts next weekend on Whidbey

Artist Kay Parsons looks over her painting entitled Honey and Perfume. She plans on finishing a painting of Pat Austin roses during the tour.  Parsons often finds inspiration for her paintings in her garden.  - Katie McVicker / Whidbey News-Times
Artist Kay Parsons looks over her painting entitled Honey and Perfume. She plans on finishing a painting of Pat Austin roses during the tour. Parsons often finds inspiration for her paintings in her garden.
— image credit: Katie McVicker / Whidbey News-Times

Get ready islanders; here’s your chance to witness the madness behind the masterpieces, and maybe even pick up a tip or two.

Next weekend 18 local artists from painters to potters are going to allow visitors a behind-the-scenes look at their process during the Summer Art Studio Tour.

Artists will be set up at 13 different studio locations between Oak Harbor and Greenbank and guests are invited to drive out, watch them make their crafts and ask questions about their techniques.

Painter Gerald Roberts, an event organizer and participant, said the tour is a unique experience.

“Generally people just see work in shows and galleries, but that’s not the same thing as going into an artist’s studio and seeing how the artists work and their motivation,” he said. “There’s really a personal connection, and I think some of the artists really like that.”

Roberts said the studio tour is a good way for lesser-known artists to get exposure and mingle with the public. He will be working on a painting during the tour as will Kay Parsons.

Parsons has been painting for about 25 years and is a nature enthusiast. She has a 3,000 gallon Koi pond and 70 rose bushes on her property.

“I love dirt just as much as I love to paint,” she said.

Though Parsons doesn’t recall anything in particular that brought her to painting, she says she couldn’t imagine what her world would be like without it.

“At this point in my life, I would be distraught if I couldn’t paint,” she said.

Ellen Vlasak will be sharing Mary Burks’ studio during the tour. Both women work with textiles, but while Burks creates fiber art, Vlasak concentrates on wearable accessories.

Vlasak thinks it will be interesting for visitors to see how two artists can incorporate similar materials into such different pieces.

“It should be a great time,” she said.

For photographer John Olsen, the studio tour is an opportunity to show people the art of composing high quality pictures from scratch. He plans to set up a camera and a subject like a car or motorcycle and teach people how to set up proper lighting for studio shots.

Unlike many photographers, Olsen tries to stay away from using digital cameras and prefers to develop and process his own film. In the past 26 years, he’s installed 10 dark rooms.

He said he likes using film because it makes the shoot more of an experiment.

“You can’t just kind of go out there and wing away with a thousand digital pictures,” he said. “You’ve got to wait and get it or you don’t get it at all. There’s more of a challenge to it and maybe it’s less forgiving, but once you get it, you’re really grateful.”

This free event is being put on by the Whidbey Working Artists group. The tour is self-guided and lasts from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on July 17 and 18. More information about each of the individual artists, as well as an interactive map of the studio locations, can be found online at www.whid

beyworkingartists.com.

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