My sincere gratitude and respect.
I met artist James McLeod at a friends card party, and right away his mix of New York savvy and N. Carolina (southern) charm intrigued me. However, being somewhat shy of new people (yes it’s true) I was not being much of a conversationalist. Thankfully, the gal sitting on the other side of him was not shy. She, like him, was an artist and they struck up a conversation that eventually lead to James pulling out his cell phone to share pictures of his work. I was amazed, and hooked. His life-like sculptures looked ready to leap out of his phone!
I contacted him a few days after the party and thankfully, he agreed to speak with me. We enjoyed a chat at a local coffee shop, and the more I learned about him the more impressed I became. Down-to-Earth, warm, and funny, James McLeod is as wonderful a person as he is an artist. Keep reading to learn more about this incredible multi-media artist / Renaissance man.
SnS: Hello James and welcome to TheSquidandSquirrel. I understand that you are not from the PNW. How did you come to call Spokane home?
James: Well, I actually grew up in New York, but a few years ago I injured and re-injured my back and couldn’t walk or work for about a year. I lost everything, but I had corrective surgery and once I got back on my feet I had to start all over. So I had a cousin living here in Spokane. He said, “Yeah, this place is great. Why don’t you come check it out?” I told him I was at the end of my budget so if I came I’d have to make it work. I showed up with $400 and a suitcase. That was five years ago.
SnS: Wow, brave! What or who got you started creating art?
James: I’ve always been an artist. When I was four years old I made my first sculpture out of pipe cleaners. I made the big bad wolf. I can remember it like it was yesterday. He had legs and arms and feet, green pants and red suspenders. He was lighter around his mouth and his tail was extra fuzzy. I’ve been creating ever since.
Also, growing up in NY I spent a lot of time in museums and if you go to Manhattan a lot of the buildings are very sculptural. They have a lot of lions and people and muscles and all that kind of thing. I was forced to go to Broadway and off-Broadway plays and every class trip was to a museum, or something to that effect. So I was inundated with fine art, and that level of exposure had an effect on me.
SnS:. Cool. What is your favorite medium?
James: As far as medium, clay sculpture has been my thing for a long time. Now that I’m going to school I’m getting opened up to a lot of different things. Before this I was self-taught, through observing life, and other sculptures. Now I’ve dabbled in acrylic painting, and I’m not sure what to call the style. It wasn’t realistic in any way shape or form, but you knew it was human. You could identify what it was, but it was very folky, so I put it down. That’s not good enough for me.
SnS: You’re a perfectionist at heart.
James: Yes. My goal for my artwork is that when you see it, it should have a life. If it’s a thing, it should look like it’s going to get up and walk away, or at the very least you should see it thinking. That’s my goal when I’m creating anything.
I’m really getting into oil paint now. I took an oil painting class and found I have a gift for it. That’s the biggest thing about school to me right now. I’m being exposed to all sorts of things I hadn’t done before. I’m getting just enough instruction to take it and run with it, and I have plans to do a series of politically influenced works dealing with various aspects of activism. In school I’ve kept my subjects fairly sedate so that I don’t ruffle any feathers, but I’ve been told to take my hands off the wheel and run! So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve also gotten involved in bronze.
SnS: Yeah, that piece you brought is amazing! (See picture below)
James: Thank you. I’ve always wanted to do bronze because when I was little we couldn’t have pets. So I would make my pets out of clay, and they would live and have babies, and little stories attached to them in my imagination. But my brother would come and pull out my clay tray, take them out and chop their heads off. So when I came back to play with them, I would find them mutilated. So I thought, “Well, if they were in metal he couldn’t do that!”
I’ve always wanted to work with metal and the piece I showed you was my first bronze. I’d like to do much bigger pieces but with what’s available to me right now, in terms of tools and kilns I can’t go too big. I would love to have a kiln the size of this building and make pieces that big. So that’s a goal.
I’ve also done a little 3D design, but it’s not really my thing. My focus is the imitation / replication of life. Not just the angles, but also the feeling of it. I’ve seen people who are technically perfect who could sculpt you perfectly, down to the eyelash, but you know it’s a statue. There’s no life in it. So I try to incorporate both perfection and life. Sometimes I make things a little bit stylized to give life to it because nothing in life is perfect. Sometimes when you cartoon it a little or give it an imperfection it makes it more lifelike. That’s the only departure from realism that I’ll do.
SnS: Have you had a mentor?
James: That’s hard to say. Yes and no. There have been people along the way that have fed into my box of tools. But I’ve never had a “mentor”.
Tybre Newcomer has been helpful and was instrumental into getting me the position in the sculpture studio as the tech. I get to help the students, which is a big opportunity for me because it helps me to hone my skills. It’s also made me more patient in terms of their learning process. No matter the skill level, whether a Picasso or Joe Blow from around the corner, if you put effort into it I’m ecstatic and I can show you how make it look like what you want to see. When you articulate to me what you want to see I can help you get that regardless of your skill level.
There was also a lady, Maryanne, in Colorado Springs, CO who gave me my first sculpting job back in 1996. In her studio I made animals, because she wasn’t good at that. So I made buffalo, chipmunks, and wolves. I also made generic people in proportion so that she could then take them and make cowboys or Natives to fit her Southwestern theme.
SnS: Some artists have a creative ritual, like listening to music, going for a walk, or rearranging their studio before they can work. Do you have a ritual that helps your creative juices flow?
James: Do you see this thing right here? *He holds up an Iphone with ear buds attached* That’s what I do. I listen to music, tune everyone out and I just work and listen. Listen and work. Dance a little bit.
SnS: So who do you listen to?
James: Oh Lord, I have a big playlist. I listen to a little dance hall reggae, soul music, and jazz. My favorite singer in the world is this lady named Ledisi, I’ve been following her since she was a regular person. She had been singing at the Blue Note in the Village in NY, and after I left NY I’d still go up there to get autographed CDs and now she’s really famous. But I love her. There’s nothing she can’t do vocally. From the highest high to the lowest low. She’s phenomenal. But yeah, so mainly I listen to soul, jazz, a little bit of Journey.
SnS: You just won something in school. Tell me about that.
James: Yeah, so excited! There are 2 classes you have to take before you graduate as an Art major. One is Portfolio, where you take your ten best pieces, write a bio for yourself, do a resume, get a professional photograph of yourself, and do a Power Point presentation. Then every art professor gets in a semi-circle around you and your work and they critique you. They are very to the point. They don’t try to make nice, so none of that “Oh he’s sort of frail emotionally”. Oh no. So I got a lot of good feedback and it was a unanimous decision from all the teachers. Of course, they told me that they didn’t like the orange I used. But I like orange. I don’t care what they’re talking about. The orange is sort of an invitation into my world. It’s telling you that I’m in there and I’ve got more for you to see, so I won’t listen to that one. Still, I won Portfolio and a $250 scholarship.
SnS: Congratulations! Are you going to display the ten pieces you made?
James: I’d love to, but I need to get ready for (SFCC) Exhibit, so I’m hoping to be able to make more things, better things for that particular show. Right now though, I only have 2, 3, or 4 of a lot of different mediums. I’d like to create a more cohesive group of items that have some type of theme before I show. I don’t want to have a Dollar Tree sort of show.
SnS: Understandable. So, what are you plans after school?
James: I would love to open an art school minus the art history. To me that’s a waste of time. Those people (famous artists in history) are glorified and seen with rose-colored glasses, when usually they are insane, on drugs, or whatever but we’re taught to think they were these awesome people. My only interest in them are their techniques. So the school I want to open up would solely be techniques, techniques, techniques and things of that nature. A place where you could use your own vision, and not be influenced by somebody from 1717. You have your own mind, your own thought process and my goal is to give you the tools to bring out whatever it is in you, that you want to portray to the world. Whatever that may be. I’m not here to indoctrinate anyone in anything, I’m here to give you whatever you need to bring forth what you want the world to see.
SnS: Do you have a favorite artist or two? Someone whose work inspires you.
James: Duane Hanson. I saw his work in my Modern Art class. It was so cool because it was like very realistic. Not only realistic, it had LIFE. Like when you look at his pieces you couldn’t tell that they were not living people.
SnS: Very cool. Where else do you find inspiration? (Nature? Books? A double espresso?)
James: I love going outside, which I haven’t done a lot of since I got to Spokane. I’ve been too busy with school and trying to keep my head above water. But growing up, we’d go visit my grandfather’s farm out in N. Carolina during the summer. I loved it all: the trees, the chickens, the dogs, the cows. I like to get out to the woods.
SnS: If you could travel anywhere for art inspiration, where would you go?
James: I don’t know. Hmmmm. I love the sculptures in Greece and Rome. I love the realism in them even though some, like the David were sculpted to be a little proportionally off. That’s because they were meant to be viewed from a lower position, forcing you to look up. So I understand that. I’d also love to travel to Central America to see the Olmec sculptures.
SnS: Okay, what if you could travel through space or time? Where would you go then?
James: Well, this will sound cuckoo crazy and weird but it’s true. There’s this civilization called the Muu civilization that pre-dates all of what we call factual history. I would love to see that. See these people, see what they did, and how they did it. Half of their civilization is under water, and it’s like giant monolithic structures. So I wonder, who were these people? If they had the skill to make that level of structures, then I bet their sculptures were even more wonderful.
SnS: Anything you want people to know?
James: I’m currently accepting commissions for portraits or sculptures. I’ve done a lot of personal commission work here. Mostly dogs, and I love dogs so that’s not a bad thing. I just need a picture of the head, from the side and top, and the front, and a view of the body and I’ll make it just like it is. I prefer to experience the dog in real life, to understand its personality so I know who he / she is so I can build that in too.
SnS: Excellent. Thank you for sharing your time and talent, James.
If you would like to contact James McLeod you can reach him at –
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!
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
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 !!
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.
Playful, sentimental, flowy, or tight, watercolor artist, Bari Federspiel can do it all. Quick to smile, or laugh, this bundle of energy is a member of Mensa as well as an accomplished artist. She is sweet, humorous, kind, and courageous, and I believe this spunky septuagenarian could run circles around me!
Keep reading to learn more about the colorful life of Bari Federspiel.
SnS: Hello Bari, and welcome to the SquidandSquirrel. Let’s start with the easy stuff. Where are you from?
Bari: Well, my parents were attending college in Russellville, Arkansas when I was born. Dad had just come home from the war, and they met in the school band. Dad went back into the military after he got his degree, which means we moved around a lot. I’ve lived in many US states; even Germany for a while, but I’ve been in Spokane since 1991. That’s when my first husband, who worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, got transferred here. When we moved to Spokane, I knew that I was home at last.
SnS: All right! So did you attend art school abroad or in the US?
Bari: Both my parents were artists, so living with them was like going to art school. There was always pens, pencils, brushes, Scripto pens, india ink, watercolor paints, and paper. No coloring books, but all sorts of art supplies.
At first, neither of them had a career in art, but Dad painted lovely watercolors. Mom eventually took up oil painting and ended up teaching for 18 years. So that was my art school. I did take an art class in high school, and one semester in college. But I was a very conservative, very naive young lady, and when the art teacher asked me to be a nude model I thought, “This is freaky.” So I changed to a music major, right there on the spot. I then taught piano for 15 years.
SnS: So you are multi-talented!
Bari: Well, I’m not talented at piano. That’s why I don’t teach or perform anymore. It was nerve wracking. Art came more easily to me, plus I liked it. I do make gourmet pastries, and decorate cakes though. Does that count?
SnS: Absolutely! Where do you find the inspiration for your art?
Bari: Oh, from all over the place. For my ‘Remembering Dads’ exhibit, I took inspiration from what they did. And what they loved. Like dogs, fishing, playing instruments, etc. Because of how this one turned out, I may just do another series. Maybe moms?
I also take photos constantly.
SnS: Wow! So tell us about your process. Do you walk the garden? Down a quad-shot espresso? Play Tiddly Winks?
Bari: I drink Dr. Pepper. **laughs** Just kidding. I have to clean the room. Before I start a painting, the art room has to have the clutter gone, because as I paint, I make more clutter. Now, if you saw my art room you’d say, “My gosh, she thinks that’s clean?” But everything is in its place, and I know where it is.
Once I have things ready, I draw from the hundreds of photos I have, for paintings. Sometimes combining several photos into one painting, and making some of it up.
SnS: What drew you to watercolors? Do you work in other mediums?
Bari: I just love looking at it. Ironically, most of the paintings I do are not like the ones I’ve admired. Most of them are loose and “juicy”, pastels, and lots of white. Mine are tighter, but I think that comes from 28 years of sign painting. In my ‘Remembering Dads’ series, there’s a painting with pencils in it. They all have lettering on them. That’s the kind of stuff I probably do best. But I really enjoy the chickens.
SnS: I LOVE your chicken paintings! It was one of your chickens that first caught my eye, made me want to interview you.
Bari: Oh good. Chickens are my favorite. They are just hilarious, stupid, and funny.
To answer your question though, I did oil paintings for several years because my mother taught it. But I only did one or two paintings a month. I hated it because of the smell, and they never turned out looking anything like the watercolors I had always admired.
SnS: Have you always worked as an artist, or have you held other jobs?
Bari: For 28 years I did graphic art, window and sign painting. I even painted a billboard on I-40, and a few gymnasium walls. During those years, I also worked in a bakery, taught at a pre-school, subbed for an elementary school, and was an executive assistant at a small software company. When my husband died in 2003, I decided to do what I’d always wanted to do. That’s when I started taking watercolor lessons. Painting is legally my business now, but I’m 70, and I’m taking care of my mom. I’ve got enough to keep me busy. So next year I’m going to turn painting into a hobby, and back off somewhat.
SnS: So should we all rush out and buy your art while we can?
Bari: OF COURSE!!! **laughs** I’ll still be painting. I just won’t be as aggressive about it.
SnS: Do you have any artists you admire, or emulate?
Bari: Stan Miller. I took lessons with him for years, and still consult him for critiques. He’s my mentor. I’ve learned a lot about value and composition, the things that really count, from him.
I do like to take workshops from other people though, because I always pick up new techniques, and different ideas. I take away something from everyone of them, and incorporate it into my style. It constantly changes. You can look at my earlier works, against those done more recently, and they don’t even look like they are done by the same person.
SnS: Change is good. So do you have a philosophy of life, or art?
Bari: I strive to glorify God in all that I do, and that’s basically it.
As far as a philosophy of art. . . I like to do what I like. I do what I’m familiar with, and I want to continue to learn and branch out. I think I’ll grow old and die if I don’t.
SnS: If you could travel to anywhere, in time or space, where would you go?
Bari: I would probably choose Australia and Great Britain first, because I can speak their language. Second, our church supports another church in Russia. I’d like to go over to visit, but there are some hurdles to clear. Third, I’d also like to take a cruise down the Rhine or Danube. Ocean cruises don’t interest me. I don’t want to just sit around playing shuffleboard. I’d rather be off the ship looking around at castles, towns, shops, and things. I’d like to go back and visit Germany, and France too.
SnS: Nice! For those of us staying in Spokane, where can we find your art?
Bari: Right now, until the end of September, my Funky Chicken exhibit is hanging in the William Grant Gallery in Kendall Yards. In October I’ll have a painting in the MAC with the Spokane Watercolor Society juried show, and will have work hanging at the Liberty Building. I’ll also be teaching a workshop that month. Then in November, I am showing in the Hillyard Library.
SnS: Wow, busy lady! Do you have any charities you support?
Bari: My husband and I both support the United Blind of Spokane because my husband’s daughter is legally blind, and my grandfather was completely blind. We give to our churches, World Vision, and Wyran Youth Missions. I’ve also sold a few of my paintings to help raise funds for friends who were fighting cancer, or were going on mission trips.
SnS: All right! Thank you for interviewing with TheSquidandSquirrel, Bari. 🙂
Earlier this summer, I went to ArtFest with a friend. We took our time walking through, looking at all the amazing art, and talking to the artists. A few of them stood out to us, not just for their artistic offerings, but for their kind and fun personalities. Kelley J. Sullivan was one of them.
Despite the heat of the day, Kelley’s vendor tent was an oasis of cool. Cool paintings, cool water, and a cool artist. Inviting us in, she offered us bottles of water, answered our questions, and was just generally kind and amazing. Her paintings, all done in shades of blue, created the illusion of non-sweat inducing temperatures, and we found ourselves hanging out longer than we had intended. When we finally left to finish our tour of ArtFest, we ended up circling back to her booth. My friend couldn’t leave without purchasing some of her cards, and I couldn’t leave without asking for an interview. I just had to share her talent with you all.
Please keep reading to learn more about the deep, blue, emotions of Kelley J. Sullivan.
SnS: First of all, Kelley, thanks for interviewing with me. I am fascinated with your work. Please describe your style of painting.
KJS: It’s hard to peg my style down to one category. I’ve heard everything from abstract landscapes, to abstract impressionism. For me, the category has never mattered. In my mind, I paint emotional landscapes or models of inner-life. Every painting is a moment in time, tied to an emotional state that everyone has likely felt at some point.
SnS: Looking at your work, that is a great description! So, what drew you to the blue palette?
KJS: I’ve always felt more comfortable using a cool palette. When I try to go branch out into brighter, warmer colors it begins to feel forced. I figure if I’m trying to put some sort of my truth onto canvas, I need to stick to what feels right.
SnS: I like that. After ArtFest I started following you on Facebook. You’ve posted pictures of our art on your page, and many of them have a short poem attached. Do you write those, or are they quotes?
KJS: I write everything I post. (There may have been one exception, but I would have quoted the author) I have an absolute love affair with the written word, and write something for almost every piece I paint. I had originally intended to include the poem on the back of each painting, but realized it may change the experience of the viewer.
I think it is more important for each viewer to have their own personal experience with each piece. Without interjecting my meaning onto it. However, I have included it when requested.
SnS: Good to know. So, how did you become an artist? Did (or do) you have a more traditional job?
KJS: I started creating from the moment I was born. Although I’ve held an expansive array of other jobs, art was always a consistent passion in the background. In 2008 a friend saw some of my paintings and urged me to start sharing them. I started small, showing in local coffee shops and entering every online competition I could find. As I gained exposure, my career just started growing in an amazingly organic manner. I feel so lucky to be at a point in my life where I am able to do what I love as my sole career.
SnS: That is a blessing! Do you have any artists (of any genre) you admire?
KJS: There are so many. I find that most of the artists I am in love with aren’t necessarily world famous. They are artists I find on Instagram, at art fairs, or hanging in coffee shops as I travel. I am definitely drawn towards edgier styles of art. Some of my favorites right now are Walt Hall, Annie Owens, Kathryn Hackney, and James Lipnickas.
SnS: What do you do to get in the mood to paint? What inspires you?
KJS: Music is probably my biggest inspiration. With art as my full time job, I often have to create when I just don’t feel like it. If I put on some sad, moody music with good lyrical content it can usually put me in a place where I can open up and paint.
SnS: You seem to always be on the move. What do you do to relax?
KJS: Relax? Who has time for that! 🙂 But on the rare occasion when I am able to, I head outside. Hiking and camping are fuel for my soul. I’ve also found that as I am getting older, quality time with people who challenge me, in a positive way, can do wonders to help me recharge. I’m lucky to be surrounded by an incredible community.
SnS: Community is important. So what do you think is the one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?
KJS: Probably that putting my art into the world was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I painted solely for myself for years, and never had any intention of showing it to anyone. I had rooms full of unfinished paintings that had never seen daylight. I was terrified that no one would understand what I was doing. I’m still in awe that some connect to it.
SnS: Well it is beautiful, and lucky for us your friend pushed you to show it. So here is my favorite cheesy question. If you could host a picnic for anyone, living or dead, past or present, who would you invite and why?
KJS: I’m EXTREMELY sentimental over the people in my life that have shown me kindness, support, or encouragement. It would be one hell of a party. I would love to invite all the people that I have appreciated. It could have been a kind word on a hard day, or a huge show of encouragement. Some would not be surprised, but I bet quite a few would be shocked to receive the invitation.
SnS: I love that. That’s a great attitude to have. You were very kind to me and my friend at ArtFest. Do you have any causes or charities you support, other than overheated bloggers?
KJS: I am a board member of S.L.A.M. – Support Local Artists and Musicians, in Montana.
SnS: Sweet beans! You are a busy woman. Thanks Kelley for sharing your time and your talent with us all.
If you would like to see more of Kelley’s work. . .
Featured artist at ERA Landmark in Bozeman, MT. Sept. 8th.
INTROSPECTION, an ab-ex group show at FOLD Gallery in Los Angeles, CA. through Sept. 18th.
Bozeman Open Studio Tour – October 21 & 22.
Sip and SLAM Bozeman – September and October.