‘Emily Trace Mysteries’ author, Sue Eller is one rare bird.

‘Emily Trace Mysteries’ author, Sue Eller is one rare bird.

Author of one novella, a gluten-free cookbook, and two installations of the Emily Trace mysteries, Sue Eller is everything you’d ever want an author to be: quirky, kind, creative, accomplished, and coffee dependent. A self-proclaimed nerd and Star Trek fan, she is fun-loving, intelligent, and a genuinely nice person.

I met Sue at a Spokane Authors & Self Publishers (S.A.S.P.) meeting where she is the current Vice President. Warm and welcoming to this newbie, we struck up a conversation and spoke of our various writing adventures. Of course this eventually lead to my picking up two of her books: ‘Meadowlark Madness’ and ‘Taming of the T-Bird’ – the Emily Trace Mysteries.  20170515_182546

Set in the Pacific Northwest city of Spokane, young widow and newly licensed P.I. Emily Trace has many mysteries to solve. She’d like to find out who killed her husband, and why. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) her small business, E.T. Investigations seems to keep her a bit too busy, drawing strange clients dealing with even stranger circumstances.

Full of interesting characters, nerdy humor, pop culture references, action, adventure, and even a touch of romance, these books are fun to read. Almost as fun as interviewing this amazing author!

Keep reading to learn more about Sue Eller.

SnS: Sue, please give us a little background on yourself. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Sue: Well, my mom wrote short stories, and even sold a few. So writing was always in my life. As was reading. I grew up on a farm, the eldest of six kids, and the only entertainment besides each other was a black and white TV, or books. My dad loved westerns, and I thought the Mickey Mouse Club was okay, but mostly I read. My mom would take us all to the local library and I would come home with dozens of books at a time. I would devour them and go back for more. 

To be honest, I’ve had delusions most of my life about being the next Arthur Conan Doyle, or Carolyn Keene, or Agatha Christie – without the whole murdering the husband thing, of course – but I actually went to school hoping to be a band instructor. I learned multiple instruments: guitar, keyboards, clarinet, saxophone, and violin, but I was told by an adviser that my dream of being a band teacher wouldn’t happen. He told me, “Women just don’t do that.” So I transferred to Whitworth College and switched my major to Chemistry. I minored in Math and French, and took an interest in computer science.

SnS: Wow, so when did you become serious about writing?

Sue: In 1994 I began writing short stories and articles for a weekly newspaper. After a while I purchased the paper and ran it for four years. It was a good education for me. It was fun, and I learned a lot. After that I wrote my first novella ‘Return From Armageddon‘ in 1991. It was published in 1992 as an audio-book by Books In Motion. In 2012 I released the hard copy and Kindle editions. It was later that same year that I published my first Emily Trace book, ‘Meadowlark Madness‘.

SnS: Okay, now I have to ask. Where did you get the idea for the plot of ‘Meadowlark Madness‘? It’s very unique. 

Sue: Growing up on the Palouse, my grandmother would drive us kids to and from Spokane to shop. Every time, she would point out the meadowlarks singing in the fields. After a few times, I let my imagination wander and thought, “What if. . . What if those bird songs are fake? What if they are some sort of triggered sensor?” Somewhere between those thoughts and my love of Star Trek and aliens I dreamed up E.T. Investigations.

I wanted the hero of my book to have a name that coincided with E.T. for the pun factor, therefore Emily Trace was born. Emily Trace is very much like me, an alter ego of sorts. She is quirky, flawed, and totally addicted to coffee.

SnS: *LOL* There is nothing wrong with loving the java. 😉    So, did the plot for ‘Taming of the T-Bird‘ also come from a real life happening?

Sue: *Laughing* Yes, my husband Ray owned a T-Bird many years ago. He drove it to work and home every day, and every day it would die at the same spot. After a while of this, I began teasing him, saying that aliens must be to blame. The story evolved from that.

I wrote both books with two goals in mind. First, I purposely kept them clean. There is no graphic violence, explicit sex, or harsh language. I wanted it to be something pre-teens could read and enjoy. Second, I wanted to bring in themes that dealt with real life issues such as greed, family dysfunction, forgiveness, friendship, and the difficulties brought on by Autism. I have an autistic grandson, whom I love very much. I wanted my books to shed light on these issues, and one of my favorite moments was when a fan wrote to tell me that my book helped her to better understand an autistic family member.

SnS: That’s wonderful! Now, I’ve heard it said that some authors hear their characters voices in their heads, as if they are real. Are your characters real to you?

Sue: My characters are very real to me. Some of them were inspired by friends or family members. One, Emily’s first client, Archie ‘The Keeper of the Paints’ was inspired by Wile E. Coyote painting a tunnel that the Road Runner ran through. My Darla character, Emily’s temp. was a complete surprise. I imagined her as a typical teenager looking for a job, but she turned out to be a bit of a wise-goth. She’s a good foil for my nerdy main character Emily.

SnS: It seems that you and Emily have a lot in common. You both share a nerdy love of Star Trek. How long have you been a fan and who is your favorite character?

Sue: I’ve been hooked on Star Trek since September of 1966 when the first episode aired. Scotty and Bones were fun characters, but I thought Kirk was a sleaze. My sister loved Chekov, and I loved Spock. To me, Spock was the hero because no matter what, he was always intelligent, always in control. Plus, like me, he was a science nerd.

SnS: We’ve established your nerd credits for science and Star Trek, but I have it on good authority that you are nerdy in many ways. Can you tell me more about that?

Sue: Well, I enjoy Dr. Who, LOTR, and Harry Potter too. In fact I believe that the first page of “The Sorcerer’s Stone” is quite possibly the best first page ever written.

Because of my various fandoms, I’ve attended a few conventions like InCon and WorldCon. I dressed up with a Tom Baker (Dr. Who) scarf and hat for one of them. The other I dressed up as Professor Trelawny. That costume garnered a lot of attention, and a lot of people took pictures with me. It was fun. If you really want to understand the extent of my nerdiness though, you will have to come in and see my office. 

**There is only one way to describe Sue’s office. Super cool & nerdy chaos. The space is filled with file cabinets, book shelves, and tables. Every surface is covered by computer tech., books, papers, action figures from many iconic films, and even a life-size sorting hat! The walls sport a large map of Middle Earth, a sepia print of Spock, a lovely painting done by her niece, a paper version of Emily Trace’s infamous bird clock, and a massive story board.

SnS: Wow, you weren’t kidding about being a nerd! How do you get any work done in here?

Sue: I don’t. I mostly work from my kitchen table. I’ve always been a busy person, being raised on the farm, going to school, then work and motherhood. It’s hard for me to sit still for any length of time so I get my best work done outside of my office.

SnS: When you say work, you aren’t kidding. Not only do you write, but you and your friend Kate Poitevin (previously interviewed by SnS) work together as editors, and you are Vice President of the S.A.S.P.  Please tell us about editing, and how you got involved in the Spokane Authors and Self Publishers group. 

Sue: My friend Kate and I began our adventure as editors 3 years ago, to fill a need by other authors. We offered a less expensive way to get their books a preliminary edit. We felt confident we could do this as we’d helped Kate’s dad edit his autobiography years earlier, and because of my experience editing for my newspaper.

I got involved with the S.A.S.P. in 2013 after taking part in a multi-author book signing at our local Hastings store. I met some local authors involved with the S.A.S.P. (one being Dave McChesney, also previously interviewed by SnS.) and they invited me to a meeting. At first I wasn’t certain I wanted to join the group, but I went again. After hearing more speakers, and making some friends, I decided to stay and have been there ever since. 

SnS: Sounds like you have an extremely full schedule. When can we expect a new Emily Trace mystery?

Sue: I’m pleased to say that I plan on having my third Emily Trace mystery out later this year. The cover art is nearly complete, and I’ve been working on refining the story line.

SnS: Well, after reading your first two, I can’t wait to see your next installment! So where can fans find you on-line?

Sue: I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Smashwords and EmilyTraceMysteries.com

 

 

 

The Many Layers Of Artist, Linnea Tobias

The Many Layers Of Artist, Linnea Tobias

I must make an admission here, at the start. . . I was nervous to meet artist, Linnea Tobias. Having seen her work for the first time over a year ago, I was immediately drawn in. The world created by her art is layered with colorful details, whimsical creatures, and a depth of vision that I thoroughly enjoy.

Since that first exposure, I’ve seen her art work in more and more places: coffee shops, galleries, small businesses, and even a friends home! After a while, finding her art became like an Easter egg hunt, a thrill to spot. As I became more familiar with her works, I also became curious about the artist. So while waiting for her to arrive for our interview, I was both excited and a little nervous to meet her. Of course, a low dose of panic set in when I realized that my phones wifi wasn’t working and I couldn’t access a picture by which to recognize her. Thankfully, Linnea found me.

Immediately putting me at ease with her gracious good humor, I found that Linnea is quick to smile, very kind, open minded and just generally fun to talk to. I had promised to keep our interview to 30 minutes, but over an hour later we were still chatting. Like her art, she is absolutely engaging.

Keep reading to learn more about this amazing, intuitive artist.

SnS: Linnea, please tell us who, or what, inspired your love of art?

L.T.: My grandfather used to take me to a little art supply store where he lived in Hot Springs, South Dakota. I loved going there – art supply stores are like candy stores for me! I would take my new supplies, hang out in his basement workshop, and draw. He made wood furniture, but he also liked to talk about drawing. My cousin is an artist and I remember as kids he would always have a sketchbook filled with amazing drawings and cartoons that he had created. I was fascinated by them.

SnS: Are you classically trained, or self taught?

L.T.: I always drew as a kid, but I also took quite a few classes as well. I studied art at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and spent my senior year in Europe, at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts on the island of Paros, in Greece. I also took classes at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, a few years later.

SnS: So how long have you been in Spokane, what drew you here?

L.T.: After graduating from Evergreen State College in 1991, I moved to Mendocino, CA and lived there for a few years before moving to Arcata.  I moved to Spokane about three and a half years ago, when my husband landed a job here. I have a sister who lives here too, so this area wasn’t completely unfamiliar to me.

SnS: What mediums do you work with, and which is your favorite?

L.T.: I have worked with almost everything you can imagine, and I have liked all of it. I’ve worked with pastels, watercolor, oil, acrylics, encaustic, gouache, collage, colored pencil, printmaking, and clay. 

Currently, I love fluid acrylics, watercolor, and experimenting with a combination of encaustic and pyrography.

SnS: For folks like me, who are not artists, please explain encaustic and pyrography? I’m guessing pyrography has something to do with fire.

L.T.: Yes, it does. Pyrography is wood burning. Encaustic is a mixture of pigment, beeswax, and varnish. You heat the mixture up and use the resultant colored wax to “paint” with. It isn’t precise, but is fun to work with.

SnS: How would you describe your style, and which artists (if any) influenced it?

L.T.: I’ve always found that a hard question to answer. I love color and nature. I paint intuitively, starting with an idea or drawing that inspires me. I add pattern to it, or abstract imagery, and I put it together going with what feels right. It’s like putting together a puzzle, and only my intuitive self knows the answer.

Quite a few artists inspire me. Paul Klee, Pierre Bonnard, Gustav Klimt, and Odilon Redon are a few.

SnS: Where else do you find inspiration / motivation for your art? Do you listen to music, hike through the woods, drink herbal tea while watching Syfy or Nat Geo?

L.T.: I love to spend time outdoors taking long walks with my dogs, or in my garden. Nature gives me the most inspiration. When I lived in California, I lived next to a redwood forest. It was amazing, and I loved the light. Now that I’m in Spokane, the light is different, darker, but I’m still close to nature and enjoy many of the walking trails and parks throughout town. 

I often meditate before I paint. It puts me in a calm, receptive mood. Puts me in “the zone” so to speak. The zone is where I find my flow, transcend self imposed limitations, and let creativity lead me. I also love to travel, and find lots of inspiration from that.

SnS: Travel is always good. Do you have any destination goals?

L.T.: Oh, so many! I’d like to visit Denmark, Norway, Spain, Vienna, Prague, and Japan. Here in the states, I’d like to visit New Orleans, but not during Mardi Gras. I don’t enjoy crowds that big.

SnS: Me either, but I do enjoy how layered and detailed your paintings are. How long does it usually take you to complete a project?

L.T.: It depends. Often I work in a series of three paintings that relate to each other, and work on them simultaneously. Those can take a few days, to a week, to complete. Some paintings take longer. I may put a layer of paint on them and then let them sit for a few weeks, or months, while I contemplate what to do next. Sometimes I complete something within a day or two, when I can visualize clearly what I want it to look like.

SnS: Has your art changed over time? 

L.T.: My art was much darker when I was younger, probably due to residual teen angst 😉 It changed as I grew up, and when I got married, but one of the biggest changes came after I had my daughter, not long after 9/11. My art became lighter, more joyful, and more colorful as a result. I guess it was my way of pushing back the darkness for myself and my family, and to create a positive atmosphere. 

Moving to Spokane changed it again as I had to get used to the difference in the light. Spokane is darker than California, and has an actual winter.

SnS: what do you think of the Spokane Art scene?

L.T.: The local art scene is small but good. I see a lot of enthusiasm here, and I’d like to think that means that we’ll keep moving forward, keep growing, spreading beauty and hope.

SnS: Well you are doing a good job of that. 🙂 Did you / do you have a day job?

L.T.: This is my job. In the past I have worked for art galleries, non-profit art organizations, and I’ve done some graphic design work. I worked at a summer stock theater in Custer State Park for six years, during college. I painted sets, ran the box office, whatever they needed. I had lots of other boring jobs in between.

Fun fact: my first job, at age 15, was as a tour guide in a commercial cave in the Black Hills of South Dakota where I grew up.

SnS: Obviously, you’ve been working on, around, art and artists a while now. What are your goals as an artist? Have you reached or surpassed any previous goals?

L.T.: One of my goals is to keep trying new techniques and ideas, to stretch myself as an artist. I’m always searching for new ways to express my ideas. 

In the past year, I’ve been experimenting with encaustic, and that has been really good for me. Working with beeswax and pigment forces me to give up control over the end result, and let the materials take over.

SnS: Speaking of control. . . If you could control space and time, travel through it to enhance your art, where would you go and why?

L.T.: I love to visit beautiful places like national parks, gardens, the ocean, lakes, etc, and this past week I went to Palm Springs to see the desert bloom in Anza Borrego State Park, and Joshua Tree National Park.

As for going back in time? When I spent that time on a Greek island, I was fascinated by the ancient ruins and old marble mines where they found the marble to use for sculptures on the Parthenon in Athens. I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to live in ancient Greece, so I’d visit there.

SnS: Nice! Would you ride along with “The Doctor”, H.G. Wells, “Doc Brown”, or “Bill & Ted”?

L.T.: Probably none of them. I’d rather bring my dogs instead.

SnS: Well that sort of answered my next question of, which would you prefer as a companion: a dog, cat, squid, or squirrel?

L.T.: Beside my dogs, I do have a cat I adore, so she’d have to come too.

SnS: Okay, final question. Do you have any causes or charities you support that you’d like to share here?

L.T.: I love PBS and NPR. I support local public radio stations and television. I’ve donated to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Humane Society in the past year.

If you would like to see more of Linnea Tobias’ work, you can find her locally at: Pottery Place, Artemesia in the Women’s Club on South Hill, Lindaman’s, the Chocolate Apothecary, and during the summer, Entree Gallery in Priest Lake, ID.

On line you can find her at: LinneaTobias.com , Etsy , Instagram , or Facebook

Kate Poitevin, author of “Saving Tir Gaeltacht”, talks nerdy with me!

Kate Poitevin, author of “Saving Tir Gaeltacht”, talks nerdy with me!

Walking into my first Spokane Authors and Self Publishers (or S.A.S.P..) meeting, I had two goals: 1) find like minded folks who might help inspire me to finish my own book, and 2) troll for an author to interview for this blog. The meeting went well enough that I plan to go back. I expected that it would, as my buddy D. Andrew McChesney, previously interviewed for this blog, had recommended it. What I didn’t expect was to find a “pot of gold”, in the form of Irish writer Kate Poitevin.

I noticed her book, among many, on a display table. The cover art suggested something I might be interested in, and the title hinted at adventure. Of course like any fantasy nerd, the moment I opened the book and found a map, I was hooked. Without extra copies on hand I was delighted to see that Kate herself was at the meeting. I made my way over and chatted her up a bit. She was kind, quirky, and cool. Thoroughly impressed, I ordered her book on-line as soon as I got home, and devoured it over the next two days.

“Saving Tir Gaeltacht” is a blend of Harry Potter-esque adventure, Irish myth, and Narnia Chronicles wisdom. In it, four siblings and one cousin are tasked with saving a kingdom and fulfilling a prophecy using skills none of them knew they possessed until accidentally stepping through a portal to another world.

Each child meets and bonds with a mythical creature who protects, guides, and teaches them how to survive in the magical land of Tir Gaeltacht. With many missteps, a few life lessons, and much humor, the children make their way across a vast land to meet a powerful enemy and fulfill their destinies.

Told from the perspective of a young bard, this story held my attention  throughout (a feat within itself) and, upon finishing the last page, I decided I had to interview the author. As luck would have it, she agreed!

Mj: So Kate, tell me a little bit about yourself. Have you always been a writer?

Kate: My first home was a float house on Coeur d’Alene Lake. My dad used to be a tug boat captain, and loved the water. His side of the family were all boatmen and my mom’s were lumberjacks. Whether it’s that history, or my Celtic roots, I do enjoy plaid flannel 😉 

On my first birthday, Dad bought The Boat Drive In. We lived in the attached apartment for almost three years until my parents bought the house my brother and I grew up in. I helped out in the kitchen of the Boat Drive In until the age of 14, when they sold it. I was in my late teens when I first met my husband to be, Jim. We both moved away to separate areas and lost track of each other for ten years. Then in the spring of 1978, we bumped into each other at a pub. We were married by February of 1979.   

 After that, I worked at Taco Time for a while. I also worked as a ceramics caster, and a binder in a print shop. Eventually Jim and I bought and ran a concession trailer called “Murphy’s Corner” for 12 years. Retired now, my husband and I both love boats and finally have a sailboat of our own to enjoy. 

My first writing experience was early in our marriage. At that time, Jim worked for a company that had a monthly news letter and I was invited to write a short article. I guess people liked it because they kept asking me to contribute after that. It wasn’t until I was invited to visit a local writers group, “The Tin Pencil” in 2008, that I got serious about writing a book though. My friend Mallory Battista founded the group that encouraged and helped me to finish the book. She also designed my cover.

Mj: That was a good group then!

Kate: Yes, and it still is.

Mj: Your bio on the back of your book lists you as a writer, artist, and clan chief. The writer part is obvious. Can you explain the artist and clan chief part to me please?

Kate: It says artist on there? **I point it out to her** Well then, I must be an artist! Actually, I used to cast, fire, and paint ceramics. Maybe that’s why Mallory said that. 

Mj: Looking around I see many fantasy castles and figurines. Did you make any of these?

Kate: Yes I did some of them, but I sold or gave most of my pieces away. I did win a prize for one. It’s not a fantasy piece though. **She walks across the room and retrieves a beautifully life like ceramic Wood duck.** I won a Peggy Award for this. It was actually surprising to me. I entered the contest only wanting a little light blue ribbon for best of category. I was shocked the morning after judging when my duck was missing from the shelf, until my boss asked me to accompany her to the winners table. I was thrilled to see a little blue ribbon. In fact, I was so engrossed with the ribbon, they had to point out the giant trophy sitting next to it!

Mj: **LOL** Apparently you can be very focused. So what is this about being a Clan Chief?

Kate: I joined the Irish Clan Cian (pronounced Kee-in) in 2000 and moved up through the offices: Tent Assistant, Convener, and Chieftan, until becoming Regional Chieftan. My region includes Eastern WA, Eastern OR, and all of Idaho.

My good friend, Chieftain Debbie Hinshaw, and I go to the Highland Games around the northwest, and help people find their Irish roots. We also get to bring new members into the clan. It can be hot and dirty, or cold and wet work, but the upside is that we get to spend weekends watching men in kilts.

Mj: Well that is very cool, but your bio also lists you as a Fantasy and Sci-Fi nerd. Is that true?

Kate: **Gives that dazzling smile** Oh yes, I am a total nerd. I became addicted to fantasy novels 35 years ago when Mom gave me my first fantasy novel, “Arrows of the Queen” by Mercedes Lackey. She didn’t “get it” but thought it was a cute story. I, however, was hooked! From that I moved on to the “Earthsea” series by Ursula K. Le Guin, and from there to anything by Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchet, J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, and Anne McCaffrey to name a few of my favorites. Oh and I’ve recently become obsessed with Dean Koontz’ “Odd Thomas” series. Never read horror, but picked it up and fell in love with Odd. Beyond that, I’ve always been a Star Trek / Star Wars nerd and I proudly admit to being a Whovian.

Mj: Ah, nice to meet yet another complete and total nerd. This immersion in nerdiness explains some of your own book, “Saving Tir Gaeltacht”. As does your Irish back ground, but can you tell me what inspired you to write it in the first place?

Kate: Well, it started out as a story for my grandchildren, Gabe, Taylor, Jordan, Zach, and Zayne. They are the stars of the story.  I let them pick what their bond mates would be, and name them. Gabe, originally wanted a flying frog for his bond mate! I just didn’t know what to do with that, so I asked him to study some on mythical creatures. Thankfully he settled on the white stag.

In fact, many of the characters in my book are fictional representations of my actual family and a number of friends. I let them all pick a Celtic name, and tried to get their personalities right. My youngest daughter, Callie, is Kyla. Michelle is the lady warrior, Maeve. Son Kris is Declan, his wife, Josie is Molly.

Mj: So how close are the characters in relation to your grandkids? Are they a lot alike?

Kate: Yes, I tried very hard to make them see themselves. I never intended for this to be published, it was always just for them. I wanted to put in little family references so they would remember what they were like when that age. Zach and Zayne, who followed the story as it was written made sure that I had none of them do or say anything that the real one wouldn’t. In fact, one of my proudest moments was when a friend of mine finished reading the original draft and told me, “It wouldn’t matter if you changed the names of their characters. I would have known who they were just by how you wrote them.” 

Mj: That’s a nice compliment! It really is a good read, but when can we expect a sequel? 

Kate: Well actually, I am working on a prequel. It is Ronnie’s story. Ronnie was the dragon Jarth’s first bond mate, the one who helped create the prophecy, and set up certain safe guards for the young man who was to come after her.

Mj: Excellent! When can we expect to see this available?

Kate: As soon as I can finish it. I’m getting closer. The problem writers have is finding time!

Well, I for one, can not wait to read it! To order Kate Poitevin’s book, “Saving Tir Gaeltacht” just click on this link for a Kindle edition or paper back version. If you would like a signed copy, and live in the Spokane area, you can purchase it directly from Kate! Just drop her an e-mail at . . . katelaptop@murphyscorner.com.

 

Coming soon! An interview with Kate Poitevin, author of “Saving Tir Gaeltacht”

Coming soon! An interview with Kate Poitevin, author of “Saving Tir Gaeltacht”

Coming soon!

Coming soon!

An interview with the People’s Choice winner of the “Origins of Fear” exhibit at the Little Dog Art Gallery

There are still 3 days left to vote. If you haven’t stopped by to experience the chilling art work or to cast your ballot yet, you’d better run down there. RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

Then, stay tuned guys and ghouls, to find out who caused a shiver to run up the collective spines of all those visiting the gallery this month, and learn just how twisted they really are! Muahahahahahahahaha!

Outside the PNW, my tre”Maine”dous trip through Kennebunkport’s art galleries.

Outside the PNW, my tre”Maine”dous trip through Kennebunkport’s art galleries.

It started out as a work training trip for my mechanically inclined hubby but, thanks to a serendipitous find of cheap plane tickets, I was able to accompany him to Kennebunkport, Maine. We treated the trip like a belated 25th anniversary adventure. At night we both enjoyed traipsing through the various gift shops, and savoring the local food specialties, especially the lobster! Or as the folks of Maine would say, “lobstah”. During the day my husband went to work while I explored the towns plethora of art galleries, so of course I decided to share a few of my favorites here.

Click on the links to see what I’m so excited about!

One of the first places I found was located at 8 Western Ave. Deborah Randall Fine Art  is owned and operated by its namesake. Even in the few moments I got to spend speaking with Deborah, I can tell you she exudes strength and passion in person, as well as in her art. The front of the gallery displays her amazing Maine seascapes in large, small, and even smaller amuse bouche sizes. Water, clouds, and earth in every shade capture the many moods of the surrounding area in a majestic and magical style. The back of the gallery doubles as her studio / office, but also houses her more whimsical enamels. Smaller 5″ x 7″  paintings, these bold offerings are fun and thought provoking little petit fours of artistic expression.

**I fell in love with two pieces “Big Red Sky” and one of the chicken enamels. Love!

The Maine Art Gallery  at 14 Western Ave. was my next stop. Filled with paintings and sculptures from many incredible artists. I was blown away by the eclectic nature of the works offered. Paintings of every discipline graced the walls, while sculptures both wood and metal filled up any blank spaces. In fact the metal sculptures continued to the outside parking lot as wind catching whirligigs. Gallery Director, Amy Lewia, kindly answered my questions with a smiling enthusiasm that drew me in and kept me browsing. From ethereal to earthy there was something to appeal to every taste.

**My favorite sculpture was a perfect sphere, nearly as tall as me, made out of rusty old horse shoes. Amazing!

David P. Fouts at 31 Ocean Ave. The Landmark gallery was painting a seascape featuring a tall ship when I walked through the door. That didn’t stop him from getting up to shake my hand and inquire about my day. Personable and talented, his work as well as that of many other regional artists, both painters and sculptors, is displayed in this lovely renovated firehouse. Sea birds, ships, boats, beaches, waves and sand, the offerings in this gallery are representative of all things nautical and lovely. A total treat for the eyes, the styles ranging from dreamily impressionistic to amazingly life like are well worth looking into.

**David P. Fouts’ painting of St. Ann’s (sorry I lost the title!) and David Tutwiler’s “Thunder of the Iron Horse” stood out to me. Gorgeous!

Northlight Gallery , 33 Ocean Ave. is right next door to The Landmark and one of the owners, Harry Thompson, was jamming out to 60’s music when I stepped in. I had to admit, the music drew me in and put me in the mood for a bit of funky art. I wasn’t disappointed.  This gallery displays artists of all kinds. Paintings, photos, and sculptures don’t compete for space as much as share it and compliment each other. Harry himself, besides being a talented artist, is a warm and lively host / curator with a quick smile and great sense of humor. Creative to the core, he asked me to compare and contrast east coast (Maine) artists against west coast (Washington) artists. Well Harry, that topic is way to broad for this old broad (jet lag being what it is) so instead I’ll give you all the highly generalized short version: Kennebunkport vs. Spokane.

The artists I enjoyed in Kennebunkport, despite their wildly different styles, all seemed to have a couple things in common: a sense of life and inevitability. Like the ocean they live by, the waves against the shore, ever changing, ever the same, their work can be counted upon to create feelings of  wonder and awe. Motion and mystery.

The artists I know and love in Spokane share a different aesthetic. Evergreen forests and animals inform much of their work. The wildness of the ocean is traded for the ruggedness of mountains and river valleys. Spokane artists tend to honor native traditions, question authority / reality, and highlight nature’s bounty, and wrath. Their work invokes appreciation of and respect for inland nature, as well as a sense of mirthful irony.

**So many great artists to choose from here, I have to say I was struck by Stephen Maka’s folded photographs, Harry Thompson’s colorful dorys, and Jack Standish’s clean, minimalist paintings. Overwhelmingly cool!

My final visit ended up being the most amazing. Little did I know when I walked into the  W. Robert Paine Gallery  who I was meeting or how lucky I was to do so.

The screen door squeaked when I opened it and I was greeted by the sound of small dogs barking. I was looking at two 8″ x 8″ paintings hanging just inside the doorway; waiting for my ankles to be attacked, when a door opened and a gentle voice shushed the enthusiastic pups. A tall, elderly gentleman approached me and apologized for the noise. I joked about his “vicious guard dogs” and inquired about a familiar painting above his left shoulder showing George and Barbara Bush sitting with their dog. That one question started a forty-five minute conversation that would keep me smiling for days.

Turns out, the elderly gentleman was none other than the artist W. Robert Paine. Ninety three years old and still as sharp as a tack,  Mr. Paine shared many lovely memories about his paintings, his family, and his friendships. Incredibly charming and elegant, he regaled me with stories of serving his country, going to art school with renowned American artist Norman Rockwell, creating those iconic Palmolive dish soap ads, and hanging out with both Presidents Bush and their families.

Agog at his history, I asked him if he’d ever considered writing an auto-biography. I should have known better. Mr. Paine strode across his studio and picked a book off his coffee table. Together we leafed through it as he pointed out past work he’d done and people he’d known. The book is out of print now, but as I promised him, I tracked one down. It’s used, but I’m hoping if I send it to him, he’ll sign it for me. W. Robert Paine has lead an amazing life. I am honored to have gotten to spend time with him, and wish him all the best. I also wish I lived closer so that I could visit this amazing and kind man again. God bless you Bob!

**Favorite painting at W. Robert Paine’s house? “God Bless America.” Great story attached to that one. Thanks again for sharing it with me sir. 

**A quick mention** On our way to catch our return flight home, the hubby and I stopped by  the Franciscan Guest House and the adjoining grounds of the St. Anthony Monastery and Shrines. If you appreciate Catholic / religious icons and statuary, or just wish to enjoy a walk through beautiful garden-like areas, drop by.