Inside the Studios: A Glimpse at the Whidbey Working Artists Open Studio Tour

Posted in Feature, More Stories, Visual Art

Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
August 26, 2015

Experience the plethora of working artists Whidbey has to offer this weekend at the Whidbey Working Artist’s Open Studio Tour. From Clinton to Oak Harbor, artists will open their doors for visitors to view their workspaces, see finished and unfinished pieces and feed their artistic curiosities. With over 50 working artists participating in the tour, the only question is—who will you visit first?

Perhaps Lane Tompkins, a stone and metal sculptor working out of Freeland Art Studios… Tompkins discovered his artistic calling post-retirement, and knew immediately that it was how he wanted to spend his time. Beginning with representational sculptures of horses and camels, Tompkins soon developed an interest in the abstract. He now sculpts more organic forms, and is currently working on a series of wall sculptures from Carrara marble.

“Specter,” marble sculpture by Lane Tompkins (photo by Michael Stadler)

“Specter,” marble sculpture by Lane Tompkins (photo by Michael Stadler)

Interestingly, he hollows out the interior of his marbles to decrease their weight, a technique drawn from the work of Elizabeth Turk. When asked about the source of his creativity and ideas, Tompkins, a delightfully pithy and adventurous conversationalist, replied with a laugh, “There’s nothing mystical about my work. I don’t want the stone to have anything to say about it, I just want to create this form out of stone.” His studio is well worth a visit just for the discussion, let alone his sculpture.

If you prefer paintings to the three-dimensional arts, Karin Bolstad’s studio in Clinton might take your expectations of painting and throw them to the wind. Formally trained as an illustrator and graphic designer, Bolstad described herself as “more of an illustrative painter than a painterly painter.”

“The Fortune Teller, Mixed Media Acrylic, 24” X 36” by Karin Bolstad, 2015 (photo by Karin Bolstad)

“The Fortune Teller, Mixed Media Acrylic, 24” X 36” by Karin Bolstad, 2015 (photo by Karin Bolstad)

In the true nature of an illustrator, she uses her medium to tell a story: her story as a woman. Bolstad said she has always painted the female figure, and uses her art to add to the feminist conversation. “Though I do art because I love it and it’s what I do, I feel like it also has a purpose. I’m telling the female story through my own stories as a woman.”

A perfect example is her Gothic Romance series, inspired by the covers of novels she read as a teen. On the cover, the female character was always portrayed running fearfully away from a haunting scene. “In mine, they’re not scared. They’re part of the scene,” she said.

Bolstad’s style is drawn in part from the Byzantine era and her studies in Greek iconography, and her subjects are a surefire conversation starter. Located at Blueschool Arts in Clinton, Bolstad’s studio is a must-see.

But what about the very material we paint on? A visit to Mary Ashton’s workspace in Freeland might reveal more than you imagined about the art of papermaking. As she wrote in her artist statement, “It is one of our great communication tools for visual and literary art, education, business, important news, as well as our inner thoughts and emotions.”

A selection of papers created by Mary Ashton (photo by Mary Ashton)

A selection of papers created by Mary Ashton (photo by Mary Ashton)

For Ashton, paper is about both the product and the process. Trained in both Western and Japanese methods, she’ll have a “Hollander beater” set up so she can demonstrate the Western papermaking process. Recently, Ashton has focused her energies on teaching papermaking methods. “Hand papermaking is kind of dying out, and there are so many fewer papermakers,” she said, “so it’s important to pass along that tradition.”

The Hollander beater Ashton will use for demonstrations during the tour (photo by Mary Ashton)

The Hollander beater Ashton will use for demonstrations during the tour (photo by Mary Ashton)

People often ask her what you can do with paper. Her response is always “Well, what do you do with paper?” Ashton hopes that visitors will come away with “a new understanding of things in our every day that are special.”

The studio tour is more than just a visit to artists’ workspaces. It’s an opportunity to start a discussion, to ask new questions and to see the art-making process for yourself. “I want people to come away with the understanding that this is a working art—a practicing art—not a given art,” said Tompkins. “You get better by doing it, and anybody can do it. ”

Experience the Whidbey Working Artists open studio tour for yourself from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 29 and 30. WWA is a proud umbrella organization of the Whidbey Island Arts Council. For more information, visit

Read more about other Tour artists in this feature WLM Contributor Deb Crager here.

Image at top: The Fortune Teller” by Karin Bolstad (photo by Karin Bolstad)

Arryn Davis is a voracious art historian and an educator at the Burke museum. Her interests include Tolstoy, Athenian Caryatids and international methods of brewing coffee.


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