BY DEB CRAGER
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
August 5, 2015
Were you thinking you may have missed your opportunity last weekend to get artwork that speaks to your heart? It’s not too late!
Many different pieces will be available across Whidbey Island during the annual Whidbey Working Artists Tour at the end of this month. Spend a weekend driving scenic vistas while you check out actual studios where artists work. You’ll see everything from sculptures to oil paintings, photography, jewelry, ceramics, mixed media and more. This year, the tour has expanded to include more artists from one end of the island to the other and the peaceful island surroundings can’t help but inspire the artists and those who visit.
“I think those coming will be glad they came; there are some fabulous artists,” said Kay Parsons, Tour Coordinator. “Driving the back roads and seeing the artists in the process of doing their art is one of the best parts of the tour.”
“What I love about the tour is that we’re all working artists. We make our living doing this,” said Teresa Saia, who paints in oils and pastels. She described herself as a contemporary impressionist who uses lots of color. “I didn’t know I could draw until I was 30,” she said, adding that she started with calligraphy, moved into watercolors and then into pastels and oil painting.
“Painting is truly my passion in life,” she said, describing her vision as she expresses the light and color around her. “I love what I do, and I’m always looking for the next thing that inspires me.”
Sculptor Lloyd Whannell shares a studio with 11 other artists and believes the tour allows visitors to see the large-scale process in his medium—stone. “You can see ongoing works and look over our studios and tools, and see the inside story of sculpting,” he said. When he first started taking art classes, he found himself trying to make items out of clay or other materials so that they looked like stone, finally realizing that he wanted to work in stone itself.
Now he sells combination pieces of stone, bronze and glass all over the Northwest and is part of an art loan program. His works are both abstract and figurative—a combination of stone, bronze, and glass. After 25 years, Whannell is quick to point out that he’s still balancing things out, that all of it is a work in progress.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I enjoyed making stuff,” said another sculptor, Dan Freeman, who describes himself as a problem solver. “Each piece brings its own questions. If I’m working from a specific concept, I can see the end before I go after it,” he added.
Other times materials suggest something different to him, sometimes it’s just play. Freeman also tried several types of art: mixed media, printmaking, pottery, but sculpting made the most of his desire to problem solve. “I like show and tell,” said Freeman, “and curious people are my kind of people.” His favorite piece in his gallery is called “History of Modern Art, abridged.” It’s the study of all modern art in a single piece, and something he’s happy to share.
Curiosity may have also led weaver Anne Niles Davenport down her chosen artistic path. Once challenged by a friend to learn weaving, she accepted the challenge and never looked back. When asked why she does it, she responded: “Of course I love it, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s so much wider and deeper than that,” she paused. “Making cloth is so compelling. To make functional, beautiful cloth strikes me as being profoundly human and is a part of a truly ancient way of life.” She said that she has never duplicated a single piece she’s done, nor does she want to—“I want to plumb all the possibilities,” she said. Recently, she produced a run of luxury throws and more practical items like a series of designer towels—one-of-a-kind pieces that will last forever and bring art into the kitchen.
According to Parsons, tour coordinator, the Artists Tour has expanded to accommodate the needs of artists within the entire geographic area of Whidbey Island, also becoming an umbrella organization of the Whidbey Island Arts Council. “We’re especially grateful for the support of the Council,” she said.
No matter what interests you in art, with more than 50 artists, you’ll find something you can’t live without. Come to the Whidbey Working Artists Summer Open Studio Tour the weekend of August 29 & 30 to see what unique piece will be yours alone.
Image at top (and below): The artist, Lloyd Whannell, in his studio (photo courtesy of Lloyd Whannell)
Deb Crager is originally from the Midwest but has lived on the island for 24 years. She wrote the book “101 Things to do on Whidbey Island: for a Day, a Weekend, or a Lifetime,” available on iPad and Kindle Fire.
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