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

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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.

 

 

A Glimpse into the Mystical Inner Space of artist Mitchell Pluto

A Glimpse into the Mystical Inner Space of artist Mitchell Pluto

A friend and I were walking along the nearby Garland Business District enjoying the sunny day and checking out the all the shops when we discovered a new art gallery. We stepped into the Little Dog Art Gallery and chatted up the owner / curator Kay West (an absolutely lovely woman). Of course, always being on the look out for artists to interview, I told her about my blog and asked her to check it out. As it turns out, luck was with me. Or actually standing ten feet behind me.

Montana artist, Mitchell Pluto was in the Little Dog Gallery waiting to drop off one of his paintings (Oracles of a Petrified Planet – pictured below) for display in next months “Earth + Above” exhibit.

The first thing I noticed about him, beyond the large painting he was holding, was an intelligent twinkle in his eye and an open and engaging smile. He was holding his painting back side out so, curious as to what style he embraced, I approached him and asked to take a look at it. He obliged with a smile and turned the painting around. At once magical and thought provoking, it instantly won him a new fan. A fan with a blog.

Keep reading for a glimpse into this incredible artists mystical inner space.

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1.  When and how did you first discover your talent / love of art?

My grandmother was an artist and noticed my talent for drawing. She encouraged it.  Around age 14 after painting a few paintings I arrived at the conclusion I really enjoyed it. During the same time while in the library, I found a book on the surrealist’s which set off a whole journey into inner space. The surrealist’s provided a way to explore the self which seemed mystical, ancient and psychological.

2.  Did you attend art school, or are you self taught?
A little of both. When I went to college, it was to study art education to become an art teacher.  Before that I received a degree in Illustration. The curriculum required me to take several courses on painting, design, ceramics and figure drawing. I did notice my creative will always pulled me firmly towards painting…so much so, I think it made me a bad student with everything else. After school, without the approval of teachers, my work transformed. My aim became less ideal and cosmetic..and more about questioning the outcome of accidents (chance). 
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3.   What is your process? Do you paint during the day / night, with or without music, pets, or snacks? 

I can build a conventional painting but I prefer using a psychic process called automatism. This procedure is nothing more than creating an ink blot on canvas. It allows one to become aware of one’s free associations. What begins to look like a tangled mess, gets worked through. Outlined. Focused by layers. Developed, not prepared.  Automatism is supported by Freudian based psychology . Even though automatism appears supernatural it is an effective and healthy way of unearthing the subconscious. I would compare it to self hypnosis..with the painting being a wonderful side effect.  I paint during the day and night. I enjoy drinking black tea while I work, it’s refreshing.  

4.  You seem to favor flowing geographic designs and bold colors. What turned you onto this style? What do you call your style? 

It’s my duty to mention the Woodlands style founded by Norval Morrisseau, because it made a relevant impression on me.  I casually call what I do Primitive Surrealism because I use techniques used by the Surrealists and Sigmund Freud. The primitive part is intended to represent the animistic brain. Norval Morrisseau clearly illustrates this paranormal vision by using an x-ray quality in his paintings to reveal thoughts/spirits projected into persons, places and things. 

5. Much of your art also features a natural component. Is that where you find inspiration?  What else inspires you?

I enjoy the woods. I did a commission for the Sacred Yew Institute and found tree worship had an overpowering effect on my work. Even long after the project was completed. Besides having a propensity towards the mystical,  I have a lot of faith in science, especially anthropology and psychology.

6. Do you work in any other mediums? 

I’m primarily a visual artist, oil and acrylic painter.  I’m planning on producing more texture in my work in the future.

7.  When you create, do you usually have a message or meaning to impart, or do you prefer to just go with the artistic flow? 

Sometimes I have a message. Other times I find narration. . .which is more interesting to me. I like it when unexpected things happen during the process. Automatism upsets the surface of the canvas, which is the best environment for my animistic brain to project into, creating stories out of accidents.  Many times I’ll mutate subject matter if I feel like I’m being over deliberate or too controlling. I want my work to be mutually a part of myself, and an encounter with a self I’m unfamiliar with.  

8.  Who are some of your favorite artists? (From any genre: painting, sculpting, writing, music, whatever.) 

I’m a music devotee. Music is my religion. The range is too great to mention without forgetting someone. I buy music magazines and I’m regularly on the look out for something I haven’t heard before.     **Challenge accepted!** 😉

9.  What are some of your other interests / passions? (Hobbies, volunteer work, causes you support, etc.)

I like to try to make an avant-garde art film once a year, nothing major, just for fun. I support animal refuges and conservation when I can.  I don’t hunt for food every year but I enjoy it when I have time for it.  I  seek out the luxuriant in culinary experiences and like to cook. My wife and I live close to the Clark Fork River, we see a lot of bird activity which leads to taking a lot of photos of wildlife and landscape. 

10.  If you could travel ANYWHERE for your art, where would you go and why? 

Scotland/United Kingdom. I think I would enjoy being a guest there. They have tours that bring you to the stones and different ley lines. I would be open to observing what kind of magical effects those type of locations would have on my  work.

MPstoneturtle

Migrating Glyph (revised)

Like to see more of Mitchell’s work?  Click here to visit his fb page  OR  visit his personal site at mitchellpluto.com .