BY PATRICIA DUFF
Whidbey Life Magazine, editor
Aug. 19, 2013
Phyllis Ray is a painter whose full-on love affair with Langley began three years ago when she stumbled upon Studio 106.
“When I met Studio 106 it was covered with weeds and you couldn’t even see the building,” Ray said on a recent morning in the studio.
“I made my way through the weeds and peered in here. My heart started to beat faster,” she added.
Ray had been looking for a place to paint since having moved permanently to the island after 30 years as a frequent visitor from her Seattle-area home. Now, with a condo in Langley, she was ready to devote herself to the activity that is most significant to her.
“I simply want to paint,” Ray said.
That is what she does everyday at Studio 106, when not off painting en plein aire in summer, at which time she might post a gone paintin’ sign on the door.
The studio is located in downtown Langley at 106 McLeod Alley behind the Whidbey Island Soap Company on First Street. Ray shares the studio with fellow painters Faye Castle and Barbara Barry. You’ll find all three painters at Studio 106 during the Langley Artwalk on the first Saturday of each month, when they throw open the doors and invite visitors in to chat, see the work, relax on the overstuffed studio couch and have a glass of wine.
“We’re always creating new work and all three of us strive to get better,” Ray said. “We keep our prices low because we have no commissions to pay and we want people to be able to afford to have original art in their homes.”
Ray and Castle are both members of Women Painters of Washington,” of which Ray was a past president. All three painters are members of Whidbey Island Sketchers and of Langley Artists Connect, a small group of artists who are dedicated to supporting and publicizing fine arts in Langley, as well as various other arts organizations.
Studio 106 has become for them not only a haven of art and a place to work and learn, but also a women’s clubhouse of camaraderie of sorts. Castle knows how valuable a cohesive group of artists getting together can be. She came up with the idea for the Whidbey Island Sketchers as a sort of “bookclub for sketchers.”
“I always wanted to start a sketchbook club, and ever since then we’ve been meeting once a week. The theme is to see the world one sketch at a time,” Castle said. “What a healthy way to be in the world. You remember more.”
Castle said artists need a community and she was thrilled when serendipity brought her to Ray’s door.
The unique character of Studio 106 began to attract a following almost immediately, Ray said, and soon she had a small following popping in and out, including her friend Faye. Castle joined as a partner in the space by the second year. Barry, an old friend of Ray’s from Seattle, soon followed, moving to the island about a year and half ago.
“Studio 106 is an ongoing, alive thing,” Castle said.
“Not only do we work here, but we invite people to stop in when we’re working and friends will stop in to sketch with us,” she said. “It’s a place to come and focus and to leave behind all the home distractions; but also it has this other life – a community life.”
Classes are held occasionally at Studio 106, but the artists are happy to have each other when they are working, to learn from each other or to just hash out the events of their lives.
As for the art, Ray and Barry sing the praises of Castle, whom they say is the most advanced of the three.
“Faye is the best artist of the three of us,” Ray said. “Her sense of color is unbelievable. It’s a special gift with her. I’ve learned a lot from Faye.”
“Faye is what’s known in the painting world as a colorist,” Barry said. “She teaches color; she’s a topnotch pastel artist, as well,” she added. Indeed, Castle was named a “Distinguished Pastellist” by the Northwest Pastel Society.
But also, Ray said, the advantage of working together in the studio is that everyone brings something to the table and that all of them are learning from each other all the time. As Barry said there is so much involved when one paints, including being able to see and understand color, form, value and contrast.
“My strengths are composition and value,” Ray said,” Faye helps me with colors and I help her with value.”
One of Ray’s ongoing projects is her “Love Affair with Langley” calendar, which is available for sale at Studio 106, Moonraker Books and the Langley Clock Store. Her next calendar will include the interiors of Langley, and her ideas for future calendars are continually evolving. She also does a blog at “A Ray A Day: Daily Paintings by “Phyllis Ray.”
Studio 106 will be part of the Whidbey Open Studio Tour coming up Saturday, Aug. 24 and Sunday, Aug. 25 and Ray will also be part of the Brackenwood Gallery’s December show.
Oil painter Barry will be the featured Studio 106 artist at the Saturday, Sept. 7 Langley Artwalk, when she will show her best animal portraits, some of which will be featured in the “Whidbey Animal Stars Calendar.”
Earlier this year, Whidbey pet owners submitted photos of their animals as candidates for portraits by Barry. At the September Artwalk, visitors can vote for their favorites, which will be featured in the 2014 calendar. Animal lovers are encouraged to attend the show, where ballot-box stuffing is encouraged. The calendar will be released in October, with 10 percent of proceeds going to benefit Drewslist, on which Barry first announced the call to pet owners.
Castle, who is a prolific artist, has been seen at many shows on the island and teaches sketching classes at the Whidbey Fine Arts Studio in Langley. She was most recently featured in the juried art show at the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival, at “From Here to There” at Brackenwood Gallery and recently self-published “Sketching Whidbey,” a blurb book of watercolors she made of her favorite places on Whidbey Island.
The conclusion reached after speaking with the three painters of Studio 106 is that painting is the thing, and community is the other thing. They are a welcoming lot and their bright, happy studio with the red sofa is a place to stumble into, sit down and enjoy oneself.
“People tend to come towards the end of the evening at Artwalk, because we stay open later if its busy,” Barry said. “It’s the only place where you can sit down and have a glass of wine and have a casual, social visit.”
Ray seconded that notion.
“It is one of my favorite places on earth,” Ray said. “We always have fun at Studio 106.”
Studio 106 is open when the painters are there or by appointment.
- Visit Studio 106 on the Whidbey Open Studio Tour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 24 and 25.
- Langley’s Artwalk is from 5 to 8 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month; the next one is Saturday, Sept. 7.
(Pictured at top, Barbara Barry’s oil portrait of “Lily.”/Photo courtesy of the artist.)
Patricia Duff is a freelance writer, an award-winning journalist, and the editor of this magazine. Reach her at email@example.com.