Northeast Portland Neighborhoods

Local artists share space and experience

Anna Magruder, shown here working in her studio, is one of the artists taking part in this year’s Portland Open Studios. — Photo courtesy of Anna Magruder

Portland Open Studios:
October 9, 10, 16 and 17

By Careen Stoll
For the Hollywood Star News,
October, 2010

Two emerging artists who share a painting studio near Burnside Street will open their door to the public during the annual Portland Open Studios tour taking place October 9, 10, 16 and 17. Shawn Demarest and Anna Magruder agree that sharing a studio with each other has been a wonderful experience. Although their painting styles are quite different, their ability and enjoyment in helping the other is not, as they share knowledge of opportunities and events. Both of them place high value on involvement in their community and look forward to showing the public their working methods and private workspace during the second and third weekends of October.

Shawn Demarest grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and has found that her love of nature, particularly mountains, has stayed with her even as she finds herself intrigued by painting watery streets and misty urban landscapes.

“There’s always some tall trees or a mountain looming in the background,” she says about her images, in which nature often seems to reclaim its presence.

She relays a telling story: After living and working for a few years in Taos, New Mexico, she moved to Los Angeles to complete a master’s degree in architecture. But although she loved the problem solving and creativity of design, she balked at sharing responsibility for creating more buildings. After a time, she moved to Portland to pursue her art professionally.

With fond memories of a nine-month printmaking exchange during her college years in Lacoste, France, and excellent instruction in plein-air painting while in Taos, she returned to those techniques a few years ago with renewed focus. Plein-air painting in particular is very exciting to her, as she feels so alive in the moment. Describing it as a kind of art meditation, she is intrigued by the way returning to a location a few times may reveal some unexpected treat — a shift of light or moving element, such as kayakers or birds.

She particularly loves painting water, which, she says, “You paint by not painting.” Her love of water has moved her to spend much of her recent artistic energies capturing scenes of the Willamette River and Portland’s rainy streets. Working from blurry photographs or poor-quality reproductions, she can bring more of her own intuitive and emotional content to the painting as it emerges in the studio.

“Eighth Grade,” a painting by Anna Magruder who “took a leap of faith” to pursue her passion for oil painting and illustration.

Nearby in the same studio, Anna Magruder works with a facility that has grown out of a decade working as a graphic designer. After growing up and going to school in Texas, she worked in various places in the Southwest and Colorado as a graphic designer and eventually established her own business in Portland five years ago. Although she inherently enjoys the nature of the work, she struggled with the aspect of having to work for other people, so last year she “took a leap of faith” and decided to leave the security of her job to pursue her passion for oil painting and illustration.

Anna describes her work this way: “Drifting between realism and surrealism, I love recreating vintage America, reimagining the lives and stories of strong women, capturing the dormant kookiness or sweet serenity of a local cat, or just exploring the emotional color of faces in the crowd.” Her characters are rarely smiling, as she wishes to leave the emotional content of the piece up to the viewer. But as she paints them, she certainly imagines a content to their stories, one that grows and shifts as she continues to paint each one. It is very important to Magruder to allow for other people’s world views, so she tries to leave that up to interpretation.

Still, over the years, her work has moved closer to caricature. Faces are exaggerated for mood and aspects of the work are emphasized to draw attention. Certainly she can accomplish a depth and subtlety of color with oil paint that she cannot achieve with fast-drying acrylics.

The public is invited to visit with these talented artists and 98 others during the Portland Open Studios Tour on October 9, 10, 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Artists throughout the metro area will be opening their studios so that you can indulge your curiosity and ask them about their tools and techniques, influences and inspiration. Tour guides cost $15 each and are good for two adults on both weekends. Children through high-school age are admitted free. Tickets come in the form of a 16-month 2011 calendar complete with images of each artist’s work and a map to each studio. For a list of retailers selling tour guides or to buy a tour guide online, go to portlandopenstudios.com.

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