Island artist Valerie Willson’s work conveys her deep connection to the natural world. Rippling water, thrushes, trees and sky, remnants of her childhood in Oregon and her current home overlooking Quartermaster Harbor — such are the images one sees in her paintings and that will be on display in her upcoming show at Blue Heron Gallery.
Porcelain artist Paddy McNealy will join Willson in the two-person April exhibit.
Gallery opening, Friday, April 4, will include live music by horn player Richard Person, pianist Jim Hobson and bass player George Heidorn.
Complex and time-consuming, Willson’s creative process begins with five coats of gesso applied to wood panels (up to 42 by 42 inches and as small as 12 by 12 inches). After putting down a brilliant red undercoat, she works from her smaller detailed charcoal drawings, grids the drawings and redraws images to scale on the panel with white Conti crayon.
“The composition is the main thing. It’s really important to me to copy the same composition exactly. It helps to do it on a smaller scale first. Then I try to keep it loose,” she said.
She uses a paint roller, so there are no brush strokes, cuts her own detailed stamps for borders and then glazes each piece.
Founder of Quartermaster Press Printmaking Cooperative and a printmaker herself for many years, Willson says what she enjoys most about oil is the vibrant color.
“Color is important to me; I think it’s a reaction to living in the Northwest,” she said with a laugh. “Some of the themes I’m using now are the same things I used in my etchings 20 years ago. It’s like coming full circle in some ways.”
Since her last Blue Heron Gallery show in 1998, Willson has sold her work in art festivals throughout the United States, including at the Cherry Creek Art Festival in Denver, the Sausalito Art Festival in California and the Brookside Art Festival in Kansas City. She has also shown work in both group and solo exhibitions for the last three decades and has garnered multiple awards and commissions.
Seattle-based porcelain artist Paddy McNeely is well-known for her signature matte black glazed ceramics and has made her living as a professional potter for 30 years. Surrounded by a wooded greenbelt and with a kiln in the yard, she says her home and studio are a perfect place to make pots.
For the April show, McNeely will show black bamboo and willow baskets (she dyes the willow herself and grows much of her own bamboo), new lantern forms, stacking containers of different sizes, flower containers and serving pieces. She says bowls are her favorite form to make.
“There’s a rhythm that goes into it.”
McNeely’s work is influenced by her deep admiration for the people and pottery of ancient Japan and Korea, as well as Native Americans of the American Southwest.
Her work may be seen at the Northwest Craft Center at the Seattle Center, the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland and the San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design. McNeely also exhibits work at several art shows, including the annual Bellevue Art Show.
Islander Ron Simmons will provide Ikebana arrangements for several of McNeely’s containers. He is a long-standing member of Ikenobo Ikebana Society and has been doing Ikebana — the Japanese art of flower arrangements — for 30 years.