Finding beauty using Art & Science – an interview with Photographer, Jerry Mudge.

Finding beauty using Art & Science – an interview with Photographer, Jerry Mudge.

Part Artist, part Scientist, Jerry Mudge says beauty can be found everywhere, and he’s got the photos to prove it.

His photographs first caught my eye when I wandered into local art gallery, Avenue West. A brightly colored photo of something I couldn’t identify, something glossy and oddly geometric despite the randomness of shapes and colors, drew me across the space. I’d never seen anything quite like it, and I wanted to know more about the artist. Lucky for me, when I inquired at the register, the person manning the station was Jerry himself. He showed me more of his photos, explained a bit of how he captured the images – using skills that ranged from traditional to experimental – and I was hooked. 

Keep reading to learn more about the creative photography of Jerry Mudge.

SnS: Hello Jerry, thanks for interviewing with me. I’ve admired your work for a while. Now I’d like to learn more about you, the artist. Please tell us (my readers and I) where you are from.

Jerry: Glad to be here, and that you like my work. I was born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. My family homesteaded the Wolf Lodge area, just east of CDA, so my roots are dep in the area. I moved to the Spokane Valley about 14 years ago. I was getting ready to retire from Kaiser Aluminum, and Sandy (my wife) had a few years left to work in Spokane, so we purchased a home in Spokane Valley.

SnS: What did you do at the aluminum plant, and how long were you there?

Jerry: I was there for 31 years and I did everything from driving fork truck to making Safety videos and posters. We called them Impact posters because they were fairly graphic, but they got the message across. I retired as a Supervisor.

SnS: Wow, so even at an aluminum foundry you still got to be somewhat artistic?

Jerry: Somewhat, yes. We did all our own filming and editing. I got to use the company’s cameras and video equipment, and even got to drop an ingot onto a Jeep for one safety film. Of course when news of the ingot drop got out, everybody came to watch!

SnS: *LOL* I would too! So what got you interested in photography in the first place?

Jerry: In the early seventies, my uncle was getting into photography. I became interested after watching him and bought my first Minolta camera. We worked together on some black and white photos. You know, the kind. We’d take a profile picture of someone’s head then add gears and things to indicate the workings of their brains. We just played with it, and had fun. I went further with photography than he did, though, and as my interest grew, I soon set up my own dark room where I processed and printed my own color, and black and white photos.

As time passed and family became a priority, my love of photography was placed on the back burner but was always there.

SnS: So did you uncle train you in photography?

Jerry: I am 99% self-taught. The only real training I’ve had were a couple of 4 hour afternoons with a professional photographer. I already knew all the technical stuff, but he really helped my composition. 

SnS: How did you learn all the technical stuff?

Jerry: I learned most of it through experimentation and reading. A lot of reading. 

SnS: Is there a moment from your learning process that stands out to you, where something went terribly wrong, or incredibly right?

Jerry: When I first started using digital. When I bought my first digital camera it was like a foreign world to me, because instead of the dark room, you had to use the computer. I was computer literate, but not in the programs for photography. It took me a long time to figure that out. 

I’ve never really had anything go amazingly wrong, but I’ve had EUREKA moments with certain pictures like “Flowering Beauty” and “Fire & Ice”. 

SnS: Okay, well now I have to ask. What is that blue stuff in “Flowering Beauty”?

Jerry: *Smiling widely* Table cream and food coloring. The flower was submerged too. There was a lot of experimentation to get that shot.

SnS: That’s amazing!  So what’s “Fire & Ice” made out of? I haven’t been able to figure that one out.

Jerry: Ferrofluid. That’s a black, magnetic fluid that looks like oil. It’s one of the messiest things you’ll ever come across. You put a magnet next to it and it creates these forms. That’s the geeky part. I really like using science to base, and get cool photos from. You don’t see photos of this stuff very often, but I love it. 

SnS: You sound like a bit of a creative scientist, Jerry. I’m picturing your photography space full of beakers and Bunsen burners.

Jerry: Well, uh, no. But truth be told, there’s a card table in my basement. It’s all finished down there, so I have to put a big tarp down or I’d be in a lot of trouble if I messed up the carpet. 

SnS: *LOL* So how did you come up with the idea for those shots?

Jerry: Well, I saw the ferrofluid on a TED Talk. The flowers were my own idea.

SnS: Excellent! So do you use lots of different cameras for certain shots?

Jerry: I only use one camera, but I do use specialized lenses for different types of images (i.e. macro, landscape, etc.).

SnS: Do you enhance your photos on the computer?

Jerry: I’ve done a few, but for the most part, I don’t manipulate a lot. Generally, I may sharpen, increase contrast, or enhance color if needed. Occasionally I use HDR (High Dynamic Range) to capture fine detail and to lighten shadows. I try to keep HDR looking natural though, and not over processed.

SnS: So is photography your job or your hobby?

Jerry: It’s a hobby to me. I do it in my retirement. I enjoy pushing myself to learn new techniques and processes while capturing the beauty around us.

SnS: So if you could travel anywhere in time or space for your photography, where would you go?

Jerry: Although I am a sci-fi geek and also like to travel, I don’t need to go far to find amazing things to shoot with my lens. From the largest landscape to everyday things that we take for granted. For example, take a couple of forks from the kitchen, light them at an angle on white paper, and you can come up with great shots. A drop of water on a blade of grass, the colors in a soap bubble. Beauty is everywhere, you just have to look around and you’ll find it no matter where you are on the planet. 

SnS: Okay, so do you have a photographer you admire, or a favorite photo that inspires you?

Jerry: My favorite photograph is of an Afghan refugee girl taken by Steve McCurry and published on the cover of National Geographic magazine in June, 1985. The way the photographer has captured her intensity has always stuck with me.

SnS: That is a memorable photo. Beyond photography, do you have any other hobbies?

Jerry: I do woodworking. I create handmade boxes, bud vases, and candle holders. My wife upcycles furniture, so I get to help her with that too. 

When I retired, I got into remote controlled airplanes and I competed in large scale aerobatics all over the Western US & Canada. I flew really big stuff, with ten foot wing spans, and I built them all from scratch. When I got older and couldn’t see as well, I couldn’t compete as well against the younger folks, so I got out of that and got back into photography. That was around 2006 or 2007. 

SnS: What got you into woodworking?

Jerry: I just wanted to do it. I saw some band saw boxes, they interested me, so I went out and bought a band saw and started making them. I’ve always worked with my hands. I enjoy it, and I like to do things that are different. My band saw boxes aren’t shaped like normal boxes, they are all different and you can’t find things like them in regular stores.

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SnS: No you can’t. They are really neat! So how did you land here at Avenue West Gallery ?

Jerry: I did a brief stint in another gallery for a while, but wasn’t happy with how it was going. I took my items back and didn’t show for a year because I had to work up the guts. I didn’t think my work was good enough. Eventually I heard there were openings here, and I already knew someone who had their art here. I was nervous because this is a juried gallery, but here I am.

SnS: Yes you are, and that’s great! If you were to give advice or encouragement to other artists afraid to put their work out there, what would you say?

Jerry: Just do it. Just try to get through that fear because it’s very rewarding when somebody likes your work. Not everybody is going to like it, and you’ve got to be prepared for that, but it’s still very rewarding. Especially when you sell something. It’s just like, HEY look at that! 

Also, one thing is that I strive to be a little different than anybody else. The thing to remember is that you might have a hundred artists all looking at the same thing (painting or photographing it), but every one of their interpretations is going to look different, and be unique. That makes it worthwhile. 

SnS: Good advice. Thank you, Jerry. Now where can our readers find and enjoy your incredible works?

Jerry: I currently have photos on display and to purchase at Avenue West Gallery – 907 W. Boone Ave. in Spokane, WA. I also have photos to view on 500px  My photos are available in many sizes and mediums; canvas, metal, paper, etc. and I may be contacted at JerryMphotography@comcast.net. 

 

 

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Coming up next! Photographer, Jerry Mudge.

Coming up next! Photographer, Jerry Mudge.

Interview will be posted on 3/16.

Fizzle or Sizzle, blogging is therapeutic.

Hello Gentlereaders, (yes I squashed those words together, leave hate comments below) I am posting this to let you know that I have not given up. Despite missing a post here and there recently, I’m still kicking this pig.

Explain

When I started this blog, I wasn’t certain which direction to take it in. I mean, I LOVE to write, but I couldn’t make an instant decision. Should I write book reviews? I certainly read enough, and I definitely have opinions about what I read. Should I review films? That idea was short-lived as I can’t afford to hit our new and improved theaters every day at $12.00 a pop + whatever insane amount they charge for a bottle of water. I still have kids living at home. Kids who enjoy eating occasionally. 😉

Dickens

So here I was, stewing over what I wanted to blog about when it hit me. My town is having somewhat of an Art renaissance right now, and I seem to be surrounded by both Artists and Authors. Aha! A stroke of genius, right? It’s a good thing I didn’t *facepalm* when that lightbulb lit over my head. I might still have scars. With my blog focus finally set, I gassed this vehicle up, took it for a spin, and enjoyed every minute of it. **There’s the SIZZLE!**

Recently though, someone (very kindly) told me that even though they enjoy TheSquidandSquirrel, they wonder why – as I’m also working on a novel and doing a bit of freelancing – I bother to blog at all. That question took me aback for a moment. I mean, I know why I like (LOVE) to write, but why saddle myself with a blog that requires monthly maintenance? I told them I’d have to get back to them on that one. After pondering for a bit, I’d like to finally answer that question. **I hope they read this!**

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I write this blog because it helps me to be accountable to the blessings I’ve been handed. Unable to work the average full or part-time gig due to disability **That’s the FIZZLE**, this endeavor (despite missing a few posts) helps keep me moving. It keeps me focused on staying connected with people. It allows me to get out of my house, work at my own pace, and meet new and interesting people. People with incredible talent that needs to be shared with the world.

It also (hopefully) brightens somebodies day occasionally. Maybe lifts a spirit of someone out there – either by the gorgeous art, or by learning that they are not so unlike some of the amazing folks I’ve interviewed. At it’s heart it is a labor of love. Love of writing, love or art, love of books and authors and people in general.

Hugsloth

It is also a kind of social therapy for me. Many folks with chronic conditions like mine, tend to become social hermits. As their condition progresses, their world becomes smaller. I’ve seen it happen, and I refuse to go down without a fight. My blog and the people it allows me to meet, learn from, and befriend, helps me not to disappear beneath the lead blanket of health issues. It helps me to hone my skills as a writer, and as a person. It has helped broaden my mind, and open my heart. This little experiment of a blog, has been a complete blessing to me, and I hope at least a small one to you all.

That said, if you’ve read this far, congratulations on your tenacity. And thank you for sticking with me. I won’t go into the gory details of what’s derailed this month’s post, but suffice it to say I am back on the trail of yet another fun and interesting interview. So check back next month and thanks again!

Live long and prosper! (No, that isn’t a *hint*)

Livelongspock   MJ

Taking a gander at Scott Bassett & his  Wild Goose Gallery

Taking a gander at Scott Bassett & his Wild Goose Gallery

 

Running a business well is difficult and time consuming. Running an art gallery as well, at the same time, is an amazing feat of energy and ingenuity. That is exactly what Scott Bassett does every day as President of Pawsitively Bassett Inc., owner of Bassett & Brush Design, and the Wild Goose Fine Art Gallery.

As if that isn’t enough, he is also one of the galleries resident artists! He’s worked in many mediums, but is currently focused on photography. Panoramic photography (as seen above) is his most recent passion. With a quick sense of humor, kind smile, approachable manner, and three dogs (Mac, Khai, & Tonto) all sleeping under the table, Mr. Bassett was fun and easy to talk with.

Keep reading to learn more about Scott Bassett – Artist, Businessman, and all around nice guy.

SnS: Welcome to TheSquidandSquirrel! I’ve visited your gallery, the Wild Goose and enjoyed your photographs many times. Now I’d like to know more about you, the photographer. So please tell me & my readers, are you a lifelong Spokanite?

ScottB: No, I’m not native to Spokane. I was born in Chickasha, OK of all places. My folks were military and at one point my dad was stationed here, so I’ve been in Spokane since 1965. I consider myself an implanted native because this is home now.

Before that, we were pretty much like wanderers because, you know, in the military you don’t ever really have a home. Of course I met and married a Spokane girl (born and raised) Tammy, and she had a big influence on my staying here, but I love Spokane.

SnS: Well I’m glad you stuck around. So, have you always been creative, interested in art?

ScottB: Pretty much! I’ve got a logo I developed that has a picture of me painting, when I was six years old. My mom took the picture. It’s an old black and white and I use that in my Scott Bassett Studio logo.

My mom was very into the arts. She dabbled, and painted in oils and things like that. I was one of her artistic sons, the other was my younger brother, and she was good at letting us explore painting and drawing. I’ve pretty much drawn most of my life, until I got into graphics. Once I got into graphics I was more into design. I didn’t get to do a lot of drawing, and I kind of quit painting when the kids came along, ya know. Life just got too busy. I only did the occasional watercolor on the side.

SnS: Did you go to art school?

ScottB: I went to Spokane Falls Community College and at the time the Advertising and Graphic Design course included some art classes. I took Life Drawing and Watercolor, which I dearly love. I took Oils also, but the fumes got to be a little much. I tried Acrylics. That was a disaster. I’m primarily a pencil artist and watercolorist.

My wife, Tammy, likes to tell a story that she sold one of my paintings for two thousand dollars, one time. After earning degrees from SFCC, we moved to the Puget Sound area where I landed a job. We lived on the coast, in Mt. Vernon, and I’d done a watercolor of a moored fishing boat, and hung it in our home. The boat was named Amanda, just like our baby daughter. It was moored and had oil tankers in the distance behind, and was very misty looking.

Well, having decided to return home, I had gotten a job in Spokane and was living here while Tammy stayed behind to sell our house. One day this guy walks in. He looked around and says, “I’ll give you your asking price if you’ll leave that painting.” And Tammy says, “Done!”

The truth is, she’d been willing to come down a couple thousand on the price of the house, so she counted that as the price of the painting and likes to say, “I sold your painting for two thousand dollars.”

SnS:  *LOL* A logical and valid statement in my estimation. So pencil and watercolors were your mediums?

ScottB: They are my mediums, along with photography. And now wood working, and glass cutting, and kinda everything, but I’m an old guy. I’ve had lots of years to gather skills. Things fascinate me and I just get sucked in!

My art on the side was pretty sporadic since I got into designing. Until about three years ago, that is, when I became infatuated with photography.

SnS: Tell us about your photography.

ScottB: I’ve always had a camera and been interested in photography, and for the last 30 years I’ve worked as a product photographer for our clients. Shooting photos of “widgets”, or hair spray, or whatever. Package design was my company’s forte for a while and we handled clients like Nat Geo and Disney, creating packaging designs for them. Eventually though, packaging took it in the shorts. It started to shrink as an industry once downloadable software came out, but we saw that coming and trained ahead for web design.

What got me going in panoramic photos though is some property we own up in Pend Oreille, along the river. We leave the property mostly undeveloped because we like it that way, and I carry my camera every time we go up there. I just sit there and shoot stuff like a mad man.

Panoramic images really fascinate me, so I started shooting panoramic, which is multiple shots that you then recombine to create one image. You have to do that because digital cameras don’t have the dynamic range of the old analogue cameras that used film. Film is amazing, I mean it really is! But it’s also very demanding, and you’ve got to really know your stuff. The digital cameras are limited though, so you have to do multiple exposures to get your shadow detail, and your high light detail, and mid-tones. So you you have to work with a tripod and shoot one section of your panoramic, then you move your camera to shoot another bracket of images. Then you move it again and shoot another bracket, until you have the whole scene as you’ve envisioned it. Then you go in Photoshop and put it all back together. It’s kind of time consuming to do it well, and get the color balance correct and all the images seamlessly matched. It just drives me nuts, but I love it! So when I get done, I go ‘All right, it worked!’ Then I print it out and do the happy dance.

SnS: Do you remember shooting your first panoramic photo?

ScottB: Yes. There’s a big grassy field, full of birch, aspen, and pine up near our property in Pend Oreille. There’s even a little mountain peeking up from behind the trees, and every time we’d drive by it Tammy would say, “Oh I just love this field. It’s just perfect.” Well, we’d gone up to the property in autumn, and the leaves had all turned yellow and Tammy just went nuts over it. So I thought, ‘AH HA, Christmas present!’

I drove up four days later to take the photos and all the leaves had fallen. Oh geeze I cursed, but I figured I was up there so I took the photos anyway and it turned out to be a really cool shot, because all you got were these white birch and aspen that created a picket fence thing across the far end of the field. So that was my first real panoramic.

SnS: So what made you decide to start drawing on your mats?

Well, everyone raved about my panoramics and told me to do more, but Tammy said, “Well honey, they’re great but they’re just photos. You draw so well, why don’t you draw?”

So that got me thinking, and I started doing pencil drawings to print on the mat boards.  I do the drawing by hand and try to pick a subject that relates to the subject of the photograph. For Tammy’s field, I took reference photos of the fence post I’d leaned on, then did the drawing in pencil and put that on the mat board surrounding the photo.

SnS: What a great idea! And framing? How did that happen?

ScottB: So, I’m thinking I was being really cool with the mats, really top notch, but a friend of mine named Bob Brown, who’s a real wizard in the wood shop said, “You really should be making your own moulding.” Bob is my woodcraft mentor and taught me fine wood crafting. You can see, I’m easily influenced.

After that, my hand crafted fine art prints took on a life of their own. Now I build my own hardwood mouldings and frames, hand mount and lacquer my photographic prints, cut my own glass and mats, and finish them with a dust jacket on the back. The whole nine yards. Then each is signed and numbered with an artists certificate. I’m a bit OCD about it, but that’s what I pour my passion into.

SnS: That passion is obvious. Your work is beautiful. What made you open the Wild Goose Fine Art Gallery? I mean, you’re a busy guy running a successful business and all.

ScottB: I was running out of room in the house! I did some art shows. We got the tent, grid panels, all that, and I did three or four shows one summer and thought, good grief, this is gonna kill me. I’m too old for this crap. So I started looking to get into galleries. I got into one in Priest River, ID and sold a number of pieces there, but I just couldn’t find the time to approach galleries. Plus many of them were backlogged with lists of artists waiting to show there anyway.

So, Tammy said, “Well honey, you’ve got that building down there. You could just squish Bassett & Brush into one half of it and open up a gallery in the other half.”

She always comes up with brilliant ideas, and I always take them and go overboard. So on October 1st of last year we began to clean this place out. By the end of six weeks, we’d emptied it, painted it, and fixed some things. On November 1st I called my friend T. Kurtz, who is an amazing pastel artist, and said, “Help I have a naked gallery!” Then I asked her if she’d like to come hang with us, and she said yes. So I said, “If you know any other artists that you are comfortable with, as far as the quality of their work, could you bring them?” We ended up having 14 artists from around the region displaying here when we opened, and the place was packed with stuff.

I’m amazed at the quality of the artists that have come. In addition to T. Kurtz we have work by Shannon Potratz, our other resident artist here at the Wild Goose Gallery. There’s  Gabe Gable – a nationally renowned bronze artist, Elizabeth Billups’ beautiful oils and prints, amazing watercolors by David Gressard, quilt art by Tammy Bassett,  fine wood craft by Bob Brown, and the list goes on and on.

SnS: That’s quite the group. How many artists do you usually have displaying in your gallery?

ScottB: We usually have 12 to 14 artists. That’s about how many walls we have. 😉

We try to keep an artists work all together, so when you’re looking at a wall it’s all Betty Phillips, or this is all of Shannon Potratz.  **Remember that name from a previous interview? If not, check it out here.**

SnS: You said that Tammy, your wife has some of her quilt works here also, right?

ScottB: Yes, she’s very talented, in many ways. She teaches Preschool, draws – even though she says she can’t – plays the piano, and quilts. She’s been quilting for about 15 years, and she’s made some beautiful things! 

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Quilted candle holder by Tammy Bassett

SnS: I’ve seen some of her work. It is beautiful! I admire anyone who can use needle and thread. If I tried to someone might lose an eye! *LOL* What artists did you admire growing up?

ScottB: I admired Mark English. He’s an illustrator in New York. I loved his work. Initially, I wanted to be an illustrator for books and magazines. That was kind of where my heart was. I also loved animation and thought I wanted to work for Disney. That was back in the cell days, ya know. I decided I didn’t really want to work for Disney because I’d have to live in California and that just wasn’t for me. So I gave up on that idea.

Andrew Wyeth was another one of my favorites. I love his work. And Maxfield Parrish, he’s almost an Art Deco illustrator of books and magazines. If you look up his work you’ll probably say, “Oh I’ve seen that guy!”  Those are the ones I thoroughly enjoyed. I never understood Picasso. I just do not get him. I like Modigliani because he did such weird distorted stuff. In my odd moments I liked to play with that sort of thing. 

SnS: Scott, you are such a busy guy! What do you do to relax? Do you relax?

ScottB: I usually take naps. Actually to relax, I go up to the river property. Tam and I go up every chance we get. It’s close enough that we can get there pretty fast, and once there it all melts away. 

I love being up there. We’ve left the property mostly undeveloped and we like it that way. We walk up and down, watch the snakes in the grass, the geese on the river, the cormorants on the pilings. It’s where we decompress.

We’ve enjoyed the inside passage cruise to Alaska too. It’s just beautiful! And because it’s inside passage, you don’t have all that wave action. I don’t do well with that. 

We also used to do a lot of ball room dancing: fox trot, jive, and cha cha. Those are probably our favorites. I can’t do tango. I get serious and Tammy starts laughing.

SnS: Ballroom dancing. What got you into that?

ScottB: My folks got us into it. They were very big in the Round Dancing movement and taught for many years. Round dancing is a spin-off of Square Dancing. It’s Ball Room, but cued. Pre-choreographed to a certain piece of music, a caller will cue you through the maneuvers. My mom could cue a dance from the floor while she and dad were dancing. She was an amazing lady. 

So we started dancing with them, and when they got older and to the point of not being able to cue and dance, Tammy and I started demoing dances for them. So basically we were Junior Associate Dance Teachers, and we did that for about 15 years. It was great fun. 

So for us, fun is going on a cruise and dancing!

SnS: Well that segues nicely to my odd ball question. . . If you could travel anywhere, with anyone (living or dead) where would you go and who would you take?

ScottB: I’d take Tammy. No question. She’s my best friend ever. We met in high school and have been married for 46 years, going on 90 😉 

We would pack up a trailer of some kind and start going around the U.S.  We’d stop someplace and explore, move again and explore, just go see the U.S. I have no desire to go overseas. We’re happy here. I mean, why go there when we haven’t even explored everything at home yet?

SnS: Understandable. Did you do anything fun over the holidays?

ScottB: I played Santa Clause for about 100 families at Tammy’s preschool. She runs the North Side Learning Center.

SnS: **Looking at his closely clipped beard and lack of moustache** So did you grow that out for the event?

ScottB: No, I used a false beard. In fact the reason I don’t have a moustache is because it’s a little bristly and Tammy won’t kiss me when I have one. So either don’t do the moustache, or don’t get kissed, and smooches are kind of important. 

SnS: That they are. So what’s happening at the gallery this month?

ScottB: Right now we’ve got Robert Walton’s work in. He does what I call Romantic Western. It’s like, if you could sit and make up a picture of something western, then just embellish it so it’s just so cool and charming, that’s Robert. That’s what he does. He does some really cool stuff! Things like Christmas steam trains traveling through snowy river gorges. He also has work licensed by Leaning Tree Publications, which is where most people have seen his exceptional artistry. Robert is very talented. 

SnS: As are you, sir. And your wife, and apparently most of the people around you. Thanks so much for interviewing with TheSquidandSquirrel.

If you would like to visit Scott Bassett’s gallery – The Wild Goose – it’s at 3919 N. Monroe St. in Spokane, WA. Open 8:30 – 5:00 pm Monday through Friday, and Saturday by appointment – phone 509-327-9078.  Please also visit their page on Facebook

 

Coming soon – as promised!

Coming soon – as promised!

Hello gentle readers! Shortly before Christmas I promised an interview with artist / gallery owner Scott Bassett, but as you know, it just didn’t happen. What did happen? The holidays! **Insert ominous da da dummmm music here**

So, holidays over, let’s try this again.

Coming tomorrow – an interview with SCOTT BASSETT !!

On The Fly with artist, Noelle Dass.

The painted world of Noelle Dass is filled with whimsy, wonder, and wisdom. Influenced by greats Dr. Seuss, and Gary Larson, there is a joyous abandon and sense of adventure in her work that (from the first time I saw it) makes me smile.

After meeting Noelle, it was easy to see where all of that comes from. Soft spoken, intelligent, fearless, and utterly charming, Noelle is everything you’d want or expect from her paintings, and so much more.

Keep reading to learn more about artist, Noelle Dass.

SnS: Hello Noelle! Thanks for interviewing with me today. Let’s start off with some background information. Are you native to the PNW?

Noelle: I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for 22 years, but I was born in New York and raised in Vermont. I lived there until approximately age 12, when my family moved to Arizona so my mother could earn her MSW. I moved to the PNW to finish college at the University of Washington.

SnS: I’d say you are naturalized by now. 😉  How long have you been an artist?

Noelle: I think it’s safe to say I’ve been drawing and painting since I could hold a pencil / brush, so probably since the age of three. Art was my favorite subject in school, and I studied art for four years in college. I’ve been a professional artist (earning my living with art) since 2004.

SnS: That is an accomplishment! Did or do you have a job (or hobby) outside of art?

Noelle: Up until now I’ve been so busy doing the art show circuit that I haven’t had time for much else, but I’m hoping to cut back on art shows next year so I can have a little more of a personal life.  For hobbies, I love to read, run, hike, camp, walk my dog Ellie, and volunteer. 

SnS: What kind of dog is Ellie?

Noelle: She is a Goldendoodle – half golden retriever and half poodle. She’s still young and full of love and energy.  I also have two cats: Sadie and Kabuki.

SnS: Where do you volunteer?

Noelle: I haven’t been able to volunteer as much as I’d like, which is one of the reasons I’ll be cutting back on art shows, so I can spend more time trying to make a difference in people’s lives. There are many great organizations I support. Some of my favorites are Sea Shepherd, Mercy for Animals, and World Wildlife Fund. I also donate to animal shelters that hold fundraising auctions. For the last couple of years, I’ve volunteered as a mission assistant for Angel Flight West. I hope to continue as an assistant, and eventually as a pilot. 

Angel Flight West is a non-profit that flies people for free, to medical appointments when they either can’t drive themselves or afford air fare. So, say that you need to travel from Spokane to Seattle 3x per week for medical help. Angel Flight West would take you there. All the pilots volunteer their time, money, and aircraft. A friend of mine, Jim, volunteers with them and he introduced me to it.

SnS: So do you have a pilot’s license?

Noelle: Not yet. I started learning last year, but I’m moving from Oregon to Spokane right now, so it’s on hold. Sadly, I’m moving away from my friend Jim, who’s been kind enough to allow me to use his plane without charge. I’d like to pursue lessons again once I’m settled in Spokane, but pilot training can be expensive, so we’ll see. I’ve been painting commissions of people’s planes and saving those earnings for flight school. In the meantime, I’m finishing my ground school training. 

In fact, learning to fly is what got me into painting airplanes. It was a new and refreshing challenge. I have so much fun painting something more technical versus my usual animals. The first ones I painted, didn’t have any pilots, but I felt they were missing some life. So I painted Pilot Dog and once I did, the paintings with him got a really wonderful, positive response. In fact, my two main paintings with Pilot Dog sold. I have one original left, of Pilot Dog in a Pitts Biplane. I’ve also done a few paintings exchanging the client’s dog as the pilot. So one thing lead to another, and it’s been fun and exciting.

SnS: Do you have a favorite painting?

Noelle: I tend to favor newer pieces, because I’m excited about them, like my Pilot Dog series. I also like the joy that dogs exhibit in every day life, so that is a recurring theme. We can learn a lot about being present, and joyful, from dogs. 

Still, it’s hard to choose a favorite painting. They all have different feels and themes that touch me in different ways. One of my all time favorites is “Rocks Gazing at Moon” (pictured above), because I like to think of everything on earth as having some sort of unseen spirit or energy. 

SnS: Which artists (past or present) do you admire?

Noelle: Stylistically speaking, my favorite artists are Kandinsky, Miro, Picasso, Modigliani, Klimt, Dr. Seuss, Gary Larson, and many, many more. Larson’s often dry, outrageous, scientific / intellectual humor was a big influence on me growing up.

SnS: So where do you find inspiration for your creations?

Noelle: People often ask what inspires me, but in my mind that’s not the same question as how do I come up with ideas, so I’ll answer both.

I am inspired by two things. The first is, being in the act of creating makes me feel alive, calm, and at peace with the universe in a deep meditative way. The second reason I’m inspired to create is that it brings humor and joy to people’s everyday lives. In a world with so much darkness and pain, to bring a smile to someone’s mind / face, bringing them joy for a moment, is the most meaningful gift I can give with my talents.

Both of my parents worked in Mental Health fields. My mother was a social worker for abused children, and I was raised with the understanding that it is our duty as humans to do what we can to help others, and make the world better. And no way is too small. A smile from a stranger on the street has resulted in my going home and creating a painting that in turn, brought joy to many others. I think people often underestimate what they can do to make the world more joyful. 

My art is hanging in a few healing / health centers. Some of my work is here in Spokane. Some is in the Children’s Chemo room at Renown Health in Reno, NV, a children’s cancer hospital in Brazil, and other places.  To me that is the most amazing, fulfilling thing I’ve done with my art. To give people in pain something to cheer them up. I would love more than anything, to do more art for healing institutions.

How I get my ideas: Most of my best ideas come from clearing my thoughts and sketching without any idea in mind. Once I start drawing, an idea or design will appear to me, and then I will consciously move forward with it. About a third of the time, I will draw with an idea in mind, such as dog, cat, airplane, or Airstream. Beyond that, seeing my dog play in the snow trying to catch snowballs in her mouth, inspires me. As does learning how to fly planes, give me conscious ideas for plane paintings.

SnS: Your Pilot Dog character seems to really get around. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Noelle: That is hard to answer. I want to go everywhere. I like warm and tropical in the winter. I also like outdoor adventures. I found an on-line discussion forum for the sailing  community and was able to match up with a couple of people who needed a crew. We met via Skype, exchanged references, and I ended up working two voyages with two different, very small, crews. It was a great experience both times. Of course, Pilot Dog likes to travel too, and can fly himself anywhere. I’m hoping to make a kids book starring Pilot Dog next year.

SnS: Oh, I hope you do! I first saw you at ArtFest here in Spokane. Do you travel a lot?

Noelle: Yes, I’ve been doing art shows full time for 14 years, and that requires a lot of travel. I’ve been doing about 33 shows annually, split between local and out of town. But, I’m excited to be moving to Spokane at the beginning of the new year, and hope to focus more on selling art in my community, on-line, and travel less. That will also give me more time to volunteer and work in the community. I’d really like to volunteer with youth, and spend time with elderly people who may not have anyone visiting or helping them.

Those two areas are very close to my heart. Animal welfare is, as well, but luckily I’ve already been able to help out a lot with that, by donating animal art to auctions, and donating a percentage of sales to various organizations.

SnS: That’s great! So here’s a silly question. Once you are settled into your new home, if you could invite ANY three people (living or dead) to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?

Noelle: Oh that’s tough! I’d invite Jesus, because I think he was cool even though I’m not religious. Theodor Geisel (more popularly known as Dr. Seuss), and the Dalai Llama.

SnS: Now that, would be a fun and fascinating group! Thank you, Noelle, for sharing your time and talent with us, and welcome to Spokane!

If you’d like to see or purchase some of Noelle’s art, visit her website NoelleDass.com.  She has originals, giftable reproductions, T-shirts and more. **SquidandSquirrel readers are being given a special $15 off coupon code to use online, with no minimum. Just use code Squid15.