Archive for the ‘mixed bag’ Category

So often, creative minds get inspiration that has to “get out” in a matter of speaking. After a recent visit to Southern California in the Laguna Beach area, I felt compelled to paint.


After getting my intense impression of this powerful water down on canvas, I had to share this combination video. It directly parallels what inspired me with the resulting piece.

Artists and art collectors often ask themselves or the creative individual “what inspired you?” The truth is, often times, we cannot really put that into words. That’s when the paint brush, composition pencil or interpretive dance studio comes into play.

Our communication method is our art form.

In coming months, I hope to “catch myself” in the act during more of these interpretive moments. Video is a helpful tool to capture what I am seeing, but the story line is what happens after that inspiration.

To anyone viewing or hearing any fresh art piece, interpretive dance or music composition, let us “tell it like it is” in our mind. Looking at things through the lens of interpretation is often organic and exciting. Hence the world of art!


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Any housing market that has a quickly growing buyer pool without available home inventory makes “flippers” take notice. The decision to buy your own “fixer upper” property rather than purchasing a newly renovated home may not be an easy one.

Recently, my husband and I purchased a circa 1980’s home with many original features (including the kitchen.) We dug right into demolition the first week with only two months left on our current rental property to make the new place somewhat habitable.

The original thought was, do all the messy demo, especially removing popcorn ceilings, odor filled carpet and jack hammering floor tiles before moving in. We felt at least 2-3 rooms would have to have all painting done and flooring in so we had a place to put our furniture while we finished up.

Fortunately, no kids or pets live with us currently, so we thought “we can rough it” and considered ourselves weekend reno warriors! My only stipulation as we tore up ALL the rooms, was to keep one un-touched bathroom. Hot shower everyday, etc was a must!

So now, 10 months in, we are about 80% done and still loving our decision. (More “after” pics in coming posts.)

Here are a few pics so you can get a slight feel of the process we went through in the two months prior to moving into our Austin Fixer Upper (wear a dust mask…)


The “before” kitchen had no island and the walk in pantry door was too narrow for my husband’s shoulders to pass through! Black mold was in the back and under several cabinets.

This pile of rubble was the existing kitchen just 7 days after purchase. As you can see, no cooking blog segments filmed here!

We removed a wall adjacent to the master, so the new kitchen would be larger. Took out all the soffit and put in can lights ourselves. Twelve feet(YES 12) of the back of the house was taken out for a new glass slider. We hired two “handy guys” to help us get the header up and shore up the small door we took out. The frame with two center sliding panels went in easily and then later we had a glass company do the glazing on the two stationery panes.

Moving the front door into a better location and taking out the odd chimney, meant demolition of the fire place as well. The oversized stone really swallowed up the 20×14 livingroom, and we had a more contemporary plan in mind. Demo went smooth with a light weight jack hammer and point tool rented at the local big box.


With structural changes done, we hired a sheet rock pro to put in the sheet rock patches and float and texture our new space except for the living room.

Before moving in, we managed to get the concrete floor ground down ourselves. The folks at Deco Prep in Austin, TX, actually delivered a huge floor grinder to our door as well as a high powered vac to suck up the cement dust. After a day and a half of grinding, our living room and kitchen were ready for a micro layer of new colored cement and a bled out white stain in places.

During this timeframe, the four bedrooms had all popcorn removed (myself and a few friends took on this task.) Our sheetrock pro textured those rooms as well and we painted them with friends. A few days before move in, we hired a flooring pro to float our engineered hardwood (hickory) in the bedrooms and hallway.

We opted to add the trim boards ourselves later as we took out all the dated 80’s trim throughout.

We took on one additional huge project to get the dust out before move in – all parallel in timing to the kitchen and bedroom work. Jack hammering the slab to put pipes in the house for the washer and dryer (originally in the garage) had to be done while the dust was flying.

I was glad I had planned out the space virtually first to get a new master bath layout, closet and laundry within the existing space. The 1980’s 84″ repainted cabinet and shell sinks had to go. They didn’t look bad, but open up the cabinet and smell the musty dampness underneath – ugh – and we needed to reconfigure the master to make the laundry room fit in the house.

Both of these mock plans show places to move the laundry room. But the location in the black and white image would have cost almost double since there was currently no water lines in that corner of the house.

Even with jacking the slab ourselves, the plumbing to move the shower and add washer and dryer was over $3500. Important to keep it close to existing water lines! The master sink and cabinetry was taken out and we built all the framing for a new shower area and toilet area. When plumbers had finished we poured sand and patch concrete on top and finally floated a leveler over the repaired floor areas in the master and laundry.

Fortunately we finished all this in conjunction with doing the livingroom/kitchen cement floor, so we kept going in the laundry area so that floor would be done prior to move in day. I would have a washer and dryer hooked up in the first week we lived in the house!

So with a marginally cleanable floor, and fresh paint in the bedrooms, laundry and kitchen we moved into our Austin fixer upper.

Here is the front of the house as we saw it on moving day….and the plan we had for conversion.

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Hiking west Austin has been my hobby for while now. The artistic craggy rocks and tree roots often grow above the ground looking for any rock crack to seep in and look for moisture. As an artist, this added “texture” is incredible.

Take a walk with me…. Great Hills Park Feb 15th, 2015. The trail is dry and dusty.

Dry Trail Feb 2015 - great Hills Park Austin, TX

Feb 2015 – Great Hills Park Austin, TX

Turning a corner on the trail, we see the water source in the park. The winter moisture has the creek hardly moving hoping to wake the plants near her edge. The water is clear and grey is the dominant color, though permeated by hopeful green.

Painting inspiration - photographed Feb 2015

Painting inspiration – photographed Feb 2015

It is a peaceful setting. Hardly anyone on the trail. A great time to reflect on the winter and look forward to spring.


A couple months later, May 2015, I am standing in my painting studio looking at a large 5ft wide by 4 ft tall blank canvas. This painting has to be incredible in order to carry off such a large format.

I browse through my photos saved to inspire.  I happen across the Great Hills Park trail shots and the creek shot. This is it!

From an artist standpoint, I look at the photo in a whole new light. How will I interpret it? I don’t want to create a copy of the image, rather a painting that reflects how I saw the scene as pure poetry at the end of a grey winter. Paint the hope that will bourgeon into a romantic spring.

Starting the base palette

Starting the base palette

I see pinks and mossy green beneath all the grey. After misting the canvas with water, my background roller is moving fast. I can envision some of the end result, which is hours away, and I want to get there…. A storybook scene in the making.

Painting deeb shadows that will sit below the surface layer

Painting deep shadows that will sit below the surface layer

As I paint, I switch to a palette knife for heavy scratch and thicker paint. Mixing heavy matte gel into my paint allows rocks to build up, like the years of compression it took to make the actual boulders – just in minutes instead of centuries.  The branch “fell” in the foreground.

More deep shadows that will create dimension later

More deep shadows that will create dimension later

Rather than keeping the nearly black water, I balance the pink undertone layer with a soft blue grey and start to fill in the rocky ground cover with a large brush and palette knife.

By the end of three hours, a few branches and tree leaves have been added. This is a great place to stop on day 1 so the next top layers don’t get murky.

After three hours...

After three hours…leaning against the work table for a better view

The next day was a series of working sections with more vegetation and variation. The far bank needed a lot of work over the grey shadow layer. Rocks were painted with flat brushes.  Darker colored shapes topped with lighter shades gave them dimension.

Roughly 4 more hours of working, stepping back and “growing” my vision for the poetic version of this February day. With a few watery details creating shadows and glassy reflections, the painting takes on the feel of a watercolor, even through acrylic paints and mediums were the only products used. Blacker shades like raw umber start to showcase the darkest details. A branch is added in the top right corner and it is 99% done.

Details 99% done

Overall 99% done

Just a few tiny details were popped in and my signature added after the piece was hung on the gallery divider wall. My vision of the Creek at Great Hills Park is finally realized. Time to go out for another hike…

Feeling at home in the gallery

Creek at Great Hills Park by artist Deb Otto, feeling at home in the gallery

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So often art imitates life, but on occasion, as is the case with anyone born to follow a certain career path, life is directed by art.

Melanie Hickerson was one of 8 siblings growing up in the “oil patch” of north west Texas. Her mother was an artist in her own right, and encouraged music, dance and painting even though she had given up her creative career with her growing family.

Melanie with her Siblings (left top face)

Melanie with her Siblings (plaid blouse far left)

Melanie’s first memory of her own creative work is of her mom giving her a section of wall in their home to paint how she saw fit. The wall was to be torn out in a few months for a remodel, but Melanie, age 10, put a dragon on it! Years later she depicted this time in her life with a “tribute” to her mom called 1956 (West Texas).


“1956 (West Texas)” acrylic on canvas by Melanie Hickerson

In the painting, the art on the wall replicates the actual piece her mom painted and hung there. Of course the flying parent cooking is her mom and her youngest brother Riley (Demon Boy) shoots underfoot along with Foxy their dog.

So from the beginning Melanie had art in her veins. But, as many children of the 50’s will attest, art did not seem a practical life path. In 1964, her dad said he would help her go to college as long as she did not major in art. After one year, she dropped out and left for love and adventures in California. She never gave up pencil and paints though, and by 1977, accepting that art was in her blood, she had her first one person exhibit in a book store in Austin. She designed a cover and art for an underground newspaper (The Gar) but adventure called again.

Having divorced in ’76, she left for Italy with her school age son and painted small scenes of the Italian ruins and countryside. Hickerson estimates she painted 4-5 of these pieces a week for 7-8 months.


Ruins in Piazza Navona circa 1978 by Melanie Hickerson

Commissions and murals paid for plane tickets back to the US in ’78. By 1980 she finally started the education she wanted, graduating with an MFA in 1985 from UT in Austin. She had another successful one person show at the edgy Data Gallery, then she taught at SWTSU (San Marcos) and Laguna Gloria (Austin.)

Common with many artists, Melanie yearned for more opportunities and creative energy. She described it as “wanderlust.” So in 1986, off she went, this time to NYC with her son.

Following some exhibits in commercial galleries, she eventually joined the Ceres gallery (also called the NY Feminist Art Institute) targeting women artists at a time when they were just not shown as frequently as their male counterparts. She was active on the Women’s Caucus for Art and worked as an artist for the City of New York. Many grants, commissions and also teaching made her 12+ years in NYC a challenge and an adventure, contributing heavily to her artistic growth.

I asked Melanie how the art world for women artists changed from the 80’s (possibly in NYC or Austin) to today…

According to Melanie, “The art world has IMPROVED a lot, but less so than banking for example. Tradition has had tremendous influence in the art world plus subjectivity  and women still get less than 15% of spaces and jobs (except administration) overall. In the 90’s I participated clerically in gathering stats on women in galleries, museums, universities and we came up with about 5%. Nevertheless, nowadays it isn’t just assumed that a woman artist is present only to stretch canvases for the guys.”


Melanie Hickerson 2015

By 1999, Hickerson returned to Austin in her home state once again. She was finally universally defined not only by herself, but by her family and fellow Texans as an artist.

With thousands of pieces attributed to her pencil and brush, Melanie continues to teach at ACC in north Austin and shares her love of the world and life. I asked how these young artists differ from her early years…

Melanie relates, “The young artists coming up now have such a different perception of art. They are much more engaged in multiples, not a one-of-a-kind concept. Reproduction materially as well as electronically. That is a big question. The internet is so new. The digital world is having broad effect. One thing is for sure, we need more art, for the culture and for the individuals in this culture.  The taste, or experience [of art] is in danger of becoming so homogenized that the individual disappears. Like the disappearance of nature. Opportunities to quietly contemplate, experience, are more rare. Opportunities to connect are changing but it is a “noisy” (crowded) world. ”


“Me and My Mom” acrylic on canvas by Melanie Hickerson

As far as Melanie’s creative mother…  A work Melanie did of her mother’s final days in the nursing home before she passed on will be featured in a 2015 exhibition at the Austin City Hall February 27th sponsored by the Cultural Arts Division, Economic Dept of the City of Austin.

2013 Mom in NH by Melanie Hickerson Austin TX

“Mom in Nursing Home 2013” acrylic on canvas by Melanie Hickerson

Melanie has focused primarily on portraits in recent months, capturing so many others as they follow their path through life. Maybe those of us who have a creative path notice the paths of others just a little closer.


Colorful Portraits by Melanie Hickerson – acrylic on canvas






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Not everyone looks at a space the same way. Someone who lives there everyday may see small imperfections as well as function issues. A visitor who has never been in the space sees a big picture and bases an opinion on first impressions. So how are both the constant and occassional visitor visually enticed? Abstract art.

Texture, light, color and scale make abstract painting relevant in any living space.

Long time California artist, Elise Tysick has a great overview here of why abstract art is so sucessful:


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Tom Shelar Headshot
We are proud to announce the newest addition to our art gallery, the work of painter Tom Shelar. Born in the mountains of North Carolina, he was an early fan of racing at age six. His parents, also racing fans, often took Tom to the local drag strips. His fond childhood memories of visits to the race track is what influences his work today. He often paints classic cars, but also enjoys painting farm inspired paintings. Tom also passionately loves wildlife, which he also thematically injects into his body of works.

Texas Reflections – 2014


Self Taught, Tom has been painting for over 30 years. His work has been featured at the Hall Gallery in Lexington, the Frame Gallery in Winston Salem, North Carolina and the Revolution Showroom in Highpoint, North Carolina. He also has a number of private collectors, eager to scoop up his latest works.

Wet Windshielf

Wet Windshield – 2014

Tom pushes the depth of his work and also creates 3D pieces that incorporate objects. Currently in our gallery, you can find two pieces that exhibit his unique approach to 3D art. One piece features an actual vintage bucket and facet head. Another painting of a ’57 Chevy has a real headlight. Tom found the headlight in a junk yard, researched the year, and then he painted the original car completely restored! His work definitely evokes a sense of nostalgia, capturing moments of the past in a very genuine way.

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Mill & Leaf Coming Soon

Full steam ahead here at Mill & Leaf! We’ve got our team working hard to design and shape up our space. Shipments keep coming in and the todo list just gets longer and longer, but we’re excited to announce that our opening date is coming up on us very soon! Be looking for a soft opening coming this weekend in the Arboretum.


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With Mill and Leaf, I occasionally go out on private design projects. Most recently, I worked for about 2 months converting a “vanilla box” family room into a collector’s trove of sports and music memorabilia. Near completion, I quickly shot some pictures to share with our readers. Pardon the photo quality…but enjoy the post from my designer’s perspective!

From a young age, this Austin, TX area home owner collected all types of signatures and items that seemed important at the time. From General Patton’s signature on his original Life magazine cover to Elvis and Buddy Holly, even Mickey Mantle and several other sports giants, I never knew what would show up on the list next.

Framed Life Magazine from 1941 signed by General Patton himself!

Framed Life Magazine from 1941 signed by General Patton himself!

Yes there was a list. An Excel with over 200 items sorted by category and person/team with measurements and notes on each item. This list proved invaluable, initially to calculated the largest parts of the collection (in sq inches) and later to sort by frames needed to purchase, etc.

After the initial list was made (of course more items showed up later) I began sketches for the final project sign off.

Here are a couple of the walls I saw at first walk through.

Sofa wall before

Sofa wall before

Doorway to existing bedroom

Doorway to existing bedroom

It became apparent that transforming just one room would be inadequate for the full collection. So we choose to take out the bedroom door and open up the bedroom wall into the main room to combine both spaces. This made a unique opportunity to make the former bedroom into the music bar area and the current family room into the sports den.

The large bar would relocate into the bedroom area, giving ample floor space in the family room. Large plank wood flooring was run throughout the two spaces to keep continuity in the design even though the subject matter changed.

Here’s a look after the wall was out and decor almost finished…

New wall opening and old doorway roomed (was located where ed polo hangs)

New wall opening and old doorway removed (was located where red polo hangs)


But I am jumping ahead… let’s back up to the original sketches.

We spent a few hours photographing each item so I could envision how the items related. As an example, the homeowner had worked for Kodak as VP of Sales and Marketing for years. Sponsoring racing drivers and cars was a common event. So he started collecting Jimmy Vassar items (one of the Kodalux drivers.) An authentic racing suit, worn in formula races, trophy replica, signed thank you photos and even a Wheaties box featuring the driver were a few of the items pulled out of storage.

The back of the actual Jimmy Vasser racing suit

The back of the actual Jimmy Vasser racing suit

So the adventure of designing each area, perfect for the items to be displayed began.

Jimmy V on the Wheaties box

Jimmy V on the Wheaties box


The sketch out of a portion of the race area where Vasser racing suit would be hung

The sketch out of a portion of the race area where Vasser racing suit would be hung

Specific “bump out” display shelving was designed for certain items in the collection to differentiate them from the mix. The Jimmy Vasser suit would be encased in a type of plexiglass “door” with chrome hinges and handle. This would allow the piece to be swung out into the room to see both sides of the piece.

Racing Suit case on hinges to reveal back

Racing Suit case on hinges to reveal back

The “bump out” areas were textured like the existing walls, but painted a lighter grey than the room walls inside the shelving areas to make them visually stand out. LED lighting was run in strips along the sides of the shelving and LED gimbal recessed can lights (mini spots that tip) were placed at the tops of shelving areas and in wall boxes at the top along the ceiling where displays would mount below.

View of the completed Vasser display area

View of the completed Vasser display area

The plexiglass box with racing suit had an additional plexi layer mounting the poster of Vasser in the Kodalux car and Certificate of Authenticity concerning the suit. This kept the lower portion of the suit (no logos on the legs) from being too non-eventful, also visually balancing out the busy display on the left.

Without belaboring the process, the design continued around the room. For the baseball area, I converted the large valance by recovering and attaching two huge hand stitched baseballs. The many balls, bats cards and collectors magazines were layered by adding a block behind some pieces to hang them out 1.5 inches from the wall so they could layer over a corner of another piece that was flat on the wall. This optimized our scant wall space for such a large collection, while adding a natural design rhythm to the groupings.

Valance before

Large 108 inch window valance before

Baseballs attached to recovered valance. Team collections on right and left wall areas.

Baseballs attached to recovered valance. Team collections on right and left wall areas.

One area of the baseball section featured older items. During the project, they discovered a vintage suit worn by a family member nearly 80 years ago was still with a sister.They managed to procure the piece and I placed it in a protective box with Grandpa’s vintage glove and hankie. This section really echoed the Hall of Fame feel.

With Mantle and Maris on the Life covers and an heirloom baseball uniform, this area became a mini Cooperstown

With Mantle and Maris on the Life covers and a family heirloom baseball uniform, this area became a mini Cooperstown.

Football was also quite the draw, so we incorporated seats at the 50 yard line to watch the game on the TV on the opposite wall.

The field graphic was a shot I had taken years ago when a company outing took my husband and I to a skybox at a Husker game in Lincoln, NE. The photo was first cleaned and skewed in Photoshop, then enlarged to 91 inches and spray mounted to masonite sheeting. Mounting plexiglass over the top made it a more professional looking graphic. Spacing it 1.5 inches off the wall, lights were run behind to give the effect of upward stadium lights at night. A large shelf was added below with additional lighting and a place to prop large signed items. (Cowboys and Oakland Raiders items on the same shelf…hope they behave.) With the wall nearly full, I added a corner unit to make 22″ of wall become 34 on the angle so a 30 inch plexi box with a signed Joe Montana jersey could hang.

Seats at the 50 yard line

Seats at the 50 yard line

Corner custom display for the Joe Montana Jersey

Corner custom display for the Joe Montana Jersey

For music fans who have been patiently waiting for some tunes in this post, here we go.

The bar area was accented with Lone Star, True Grit, Waylon and Willie as well as many other  heartbroken and lonely country stars (like the three Hanks). Again signatures abound. Most could be framed, but a Clint Black signed jacket and actual guitar with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s signatures needed a larger case. So we made the awkward area where the door used to enter the bedroom into a floor to ceiling display area. Every inch of the room was hung with record covers lining the ceiling border.

Edison bulb fixtures and the new Lone Star LED sign layered over a vintage poster keep the bar area interesting

Edison bulb fixtures and the new Lone Star LED sign layered over a vintage poster keep the bar area interesting, while cool and efficient LED spots accent the albums

No respectable bar in the Austin area would miss a collage of the renowned WN

No respectable bar in the Austin area would miss a collage of the renowned WN. The table in the foreground was the owners childhood game table. A collage of old music clippings, Texas map and concert posters under glass hide the original top.


Next to Willie are the "Three Hanks." Even the sliding doors were decked out with thin pieces on the left so the closet is still functional.

Next to Willie are the “Three Hanks.” Even the sliding doors were decked out with thin pieces on the right so the closet is still functional.


The former room entry area is now an enclosed display case

The former room entry area is now an enclosed display case


A bit of "Jail House Rock" and "Riding High" keep the rhythm going

A bit of “Jail House Rock” and “Riding High” keep the rhythm going


The Waylon album collection continued over the archway back into the Sports den

The Waylon album collection continued over the archway back into the Sports den


No rope accent should be without its glitzy LED light rope partner. This section is filled with Hollywood and wine tasting memorabilia

No rope accent should be without its glitzy LED light rope partner. This section is filled with Hollywood and wine tasting memorabilia

The homeowners tell me they have a great time relaxing in their newly displayed memory rooms. They might be able to charge a cover to offset the design fees! I would… (just kidding). But overall what a fun project for me and a great space for their entertaining hours.










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Austin has such a high percentage of artists and musicians within it’s city limits. (Pun intended ACL goers.)

For the WEST Studio Tour, only the Austin area west of I-35 and east of Hwy 360 is considered a viable stop. For the Spring 2014 tour, that equated to 241 stops!

I have to target a few favorites for this blog, but this is just the tip of the iceberg…make it a point to attend the next WEST show!

One of the popular stops is along 2309 Thorton Rd, where several studios nest together.

Fireseed Clay, home to several working potters, always comes through with new and different faces.

Creature peeking from Rick Van Dyke's pot

Creature peeking from Rick Van Dyke’s pot at Fireseed Clay Art Studios

New faces on the tour there included Jennifer Hill and Texadae.

Jennifer Hill's Card featuring a few of her creations

Jennifer Hill’s Card featuring a few of her creations

Nice Jugs Ceramics showing detailed inscribed pottery jugs.

Nice Jugs Ceramics showed detailed inscribed pottery jugs

The Nice Jugs pieces can be ordered to commemorate an event or person in your life. Texadae@gmail.com to order. How fun!

Still in the Thorton Rd studio area, we saw metal, photography, painting, jewelry and wood. A feast for the fine craft connoisseur.

Photography from around the world by Greg Davis

Photography from around the world by Greg Davis

Sandy Muckleroy showed a selection of her incredible metal and wire pieces

Sandy Muckleroy showed a selection of her incredible metal and wire pieces

Amanda Wood featured unique ceramic sculpture

Amanda Wood featured unique ceramic sculpture

Mindy Graber explained her mosaic technique and interesting class format for DIY clients

Mindy Graber explained her mosaic technique and interesting class format for DIY clients


One of our stops included a Ridgeview street home with multiple artists.

Talented glass artist Andrea Loomis explained how her pieces can be ordered in custom groupings. In a modern home, this would make quite a presentation along a staircase wall or feature area. Andreas platters could even mount on a ceiling for an incredible effect!

Andrea Loomis_IMG_4625

Malina Cipleu_IMG_4627

Malina Cipleu wearing one of her necklace creations

Malina Cipleu works in both fused glass and polymer clays.
Large and small, wall to necklace, her compositions were
spot on and craftsmanship superb.

Fused glass pieces by Malina Cipleu

Fused glass pieces by Malina Cipleu

One of Austin’s elite historical areas, Hyde Park, also featured several artists.

Denise Fulton opened her home on Avenue H in Hyde Park, showing her own paintings and digital art by Chalda Maloff. Incidentally, Denise’s husband served incredible homemade cheesecake in the kitchen!

Tree paintings by talented painter Denise Fulton

Tree paintings by talented painter Denise Fulton

Digital art by Chalda Maloff

Digital art by Chalda Maloff

Chalda Maloff explained the time consuming process of her digital art. Printed on the back of glass, these incredible fish pieces truly came to life.

Every artist needs patrons to keep the work flowing out of their studio. Any time you get a chance, support your local creative community. Life truly thrives with art inspiring us all.

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Seattle has a water world all its own, brimming with ocean life and numerous shipping and sailing vessels. Look a bit closer though, and you will find a lifestyle choice of island living accessible by ferry rides through Puget Sound. Vashon Island, WA is strictly dependent on ferry transportation as NO roads or bridges connect this beautiful land mass to civilization. With just over 10,000 residents in roughly 37 sq miles of area, it is not densely populated with anything but trees! Each spring and fall, art seekers hop on the ferry to get a glimpse of the beautiful scenery, local culture and great food during the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour. Once off the boat, you enter the true NW Pacific life.

Ferry to Vashon Island

Ferry to Vashon Island


Driving off the ferry, armed with my cell phone listing the initial studio address, this year’s May 2014 discovery began.  We quickly learned each artist’s studio stop had descriptive brochures with a handy map of the full tour.

Toward the north end of the island, we visited painter Kristen Reitz-Green’s studio. Quaintly situated in a the Green barn behind her home, we were delighted with her incredible pet portraits and all her original oil paintings.

Off to the barn

Off to the barn


Kristen Reitz-Green art barn

Kristen Reitz-Green art barn

Kristen explained her life long love of the arts which included a long professional career as a symphony french horn player. Eventually she stepped out of the lime light and into great painting light to truly hone a new craft.

Kristen Reitz-Green with a few of her "friends"

Kristen Reitz-Green with a few of her “friends”

More of Kristen's incredible oils

More of Kristen’s incredible oils

Kristen pointed out a few studios we would not want to miss, so we headed to the nearby shoreline studio of GRB Bells. As a true nature lover, the entrance to this functional jewelry studio was half the fun!

Heading down to the shoreline entrance of GRB Bells

Heading down to the shoreline entrance of GRB Bells

What a view of the Sound!

What a view of the Sound!


Gordon Barnett, after receiving a BFA in painting in the late 60’s, learned jewelry making had a bit more income potential. After a decade of casting, he tried his first bell. So many thankful patrons are glad he did!

Sterling silver bells hand made by Gordon Barnett, each one with a unique ring.

Sterling silver bells hand made by Gordon Barnett, each one with a unique ring.

Back in the car, we headed once more through the tree lined roads, stopping at the Hardware Store Restaurant for some incredible clam chowder and fish tacos. YUM!

Ready to take on more sights, we headed far down the island to The Marjesira Inn. Originally opened in 1904, you can still envision the docking of a steamship at the wharf unloading the original guests. Still working as a two room available B&B,  owner/occupant Jacqui Lown treated us to a large sample of her paintings and prints in the drawing room, and upstairs in the historically rich inn.

Overnight accommodations at The Marjesira Inn are a live history lesson on the island

Overnight accommodations are a live history lesson on the island

If contemporary art combined with the rugged NW scenery is appealing to you, check out the work of Gunter Reimnitz. We ventured up the walk seeing Gunter’s huge pieces in the yard of the three artist Reimnitz Studio which also featured Hartmut and Ilse Reimnitz (Gunter’s parents.) We joked with Gunter that he probably did not stand a chance at another career with two artists as parents. But his work is so fresh and fun, you can see he keenly loves his career.

Steel artist Gunter Reimnitz with a few of this year's flock

Steel artist Gunter Reimnitz with a few of this year’s flock

Detailed ravens meticulously cut in steel by Gunter Reimnitz

Detailed ravens meticulously cut in steel by Gunter Reimnitz

Ilse Reimnitz was also on hand with stunning contemporary monotype prints as well as her watercolors and art cards.

Ilse Reimnitz contemporary monotype prints

Ilse Reimnitz contemporary monotype prints

Hartmut Reimnitz is an incredibly talented oil artist as well, with several pieces displayed. If you ever get a chance to see this families pieces in person, don’t miss it!

Hartmut Reimnitz can make a simple scene spectacular in oil

Hartmut Reimnitz can make a simple scene spectacular in oil

Before getting back on the ferry, we stopped in a group show in the Grange Hall on the top of the island. One memorable artist, Marcia McKenzie, is known for her batik technique on rice paper. Quite the nice lady as well as a creative talent!

Artist Marcia McKenzie is popular for her roosters, but a talent at other motifs as well

Artist Marcia McKenzie is popular for her roosters, but a talent at other motifs as well

Between the fresh air, back road navigating and good food, what the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour lacked in number of artists, (just 23 stops,) it more than made up for in original content and atmosphere. Thanks to our Seattle native (and my son) Nate Otto for keeping a hand on the wheel while I soaked up the scenery!

If you happen to ferry out to Vashon when the tour is not in progress, stop in The Heron’s Nest in the center of the island on Vashon Hwy. It is loaded with the work of over 100 artists from the island with 60% of the proceeds going directly to the artists and 40% benefiting the local arts. In such a picturesque setting, we hope to see the Vashon arts community thrive!

Heron's Nest Vashon Island is filled with great local artists' talents

Heron’s Nest Vashon Island is filled with great local artists’ talents



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