Our Town: Local artists enrich and beautiful Vashon Island

The Beachcomber shares these local artists’ profiles as well as a fond remembrance of painter Bill Knox.

Note: In advance of Vashon’s Holiday Art Studio, The Beachcomber shares these local artists’ profiles as well as a fond remembrance of painter Bill Knox, who died on Aug. 21.

The profiles were first published by Vashon Island Visual Artists (VIVA). For more information on VIVA, local artists and the Holiday Studio Tour, slated for the first two weekends in December, visit vivartists.com.

— Elizabeth Shepherd, reporter.

In Memoriam, Bill Knox, Painter

Written by Amanda Knox, Bill’s granddaughter, on request.

My grandfather Bill Knox was a Vashon-based artist, designer and engineer.

He studied at the University of Washington and The Art Center in Pasadena, California, specializing in industrial design. As a designer and engineer, he created the color schemes for K2 skis and built the original prototype for the K2 ski boot. When working for Pacific Research (Sawbones), he designed and built facsimiles of human bones, complete with deformities, to assist in medical training. He also designed the logo for People’s Bank.

As a painter, Bill specialized in watercolor and taught classes on the island. An avid outdoorsman, his favorite subjects were landscapes, wildlife and gear, particularly related to fly fishing. He submitted his paintings to various contests, winning competitions in both Oregon and New Jersey. These winning paintings went on to win national competitions and were turned into U.S. stamps.

As his granddaughter, I was largely oblivious to most of this. I knew my grandpa was an artist, of course. He was inventive, a creative problem solver, capable of great range in both medium and style. His still-life paintings of apples tumbling from buckets and sparkling trout leaping from the river adorned the walls of our home. The one room in his house we weren’t allowed to roughhouse in was his painting studio, which smelled strongly of artist alchemy. And, he was responsible for providing me with my first sketchbooks and art lessons, inspiring me to draw throughout my childhood.

Bill is dearly missed by those who loved him and who were inspired by his quiet brilliance.

Lisa Witherspoon, Jeweler and Painter

Witherspoon’s artistic spirit was nurtured as a child, growing up on Vashon

Lisa’s artistic expression is rooted in her Vashon Island upbringing, where a love for art took hold from an early age, initially expressed through a passion for music.

The influential figure in her life was her grandmother Theresa, a versatile creative spirit with a penchant for gardening and painting. Lisa admired Theresa’s ability to tackle any project with skill and creativity.

In her Vashon High School years, Lisa delved deeper into her art, under the teachings of her art teacher, Martha Woodard. Martha’s mentorship became a positive force, providing the supportive environment needed to nurture her creative ideas. Under Martha’s guidance, Lisa’s artistic ambitions found the confidence to flourish and evolve.

After raising three children and navigating the pandemic, Lisa, alongside her husband, transformed a modest Dockton garden shed into a sanctuary of creativity: The Jewel Box Studio.

This intimate art studio became her haven, offering a retreat where she could immerse herself deeply in the realms of imagination and artistic expression. In this uniquely crafted space, Lisa’s spirit found solace and freedom during a time of uncertainty, allowing her to explore and bring to life the visions that had been percolating within her.

Lisa’s artistic palette comes alive with the vibrant hues of Czech glass beads, sterling silver, and copper wire, to produce distinct pieces of eye-catching jewelry. Beyond metal and beads, her artistic touch extends to painted wooden mushrooms and decoupage seashells, each piece a testament to her deep inspiration drawn from the realms of nature and fantasy.

Described as a captivating fusion of “Miss Spider” stories and the fantastical world of “Alice in Wonderland,” Lisa’s creations transcend conventional boundaries. These offerings present a unique and enchanting blend of the magical, the natural, and some darkness and humor.

Wade Yip, Photographer

— In his VIVA profile, Yip described his life and influences, and what led him to Vashon.

I spent my formative years in New York City, took classes at the School of Visual Arts, earned my college tuition with photography, got my master’s of art degree in anthropology, worked for a renowned photographer and an anthropologist, roamed the streets with my camera, and immersed myself in local art scenes, all in my process of finding out what I wanted to do next.

After getting married and raising three kids, and a career in graphic design and portrait/event photography, I retired five years ago and moved to Vashon to be closer to my family. Busy volunteering with island nonprofits, I am rediscovering what I wanted to do.

I found Vashon, roughly the size of Manhattan, an interestingly parallel microcosm, and a fertile ground for art ideas and experimentation. Often when people asked about my “culture shock” experience, I gave this anecdote: I asked a friend what he meant by the island’s unwritten rules. His Zen-like answer was, “Well, I can’t tell you; they are unwritten.”

During the COVID lockdown, I reignited my love for non-figurative arts. I set out to explore abstract linear graphics interacting with natural analog images. These two extremes intertwine to create new images —vacillating between order and disorder, precision and randomness, as they breathe new energy into each other, trying to morph the ordinary to the sublime and the subtle to the revealing.

Undiminished still is my passion for photographing people in their environment—work, play, home, private, public, formal, candid and anything in between—when they reveal fleetingly their authentic being. Vashon offers all of that and more.