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.
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 . . . firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yet another incredible find at The Little Dog Art Gallery . I first saw artist Kim Long’s work at the Exquisite Woman exhibit. A colorful, acrylic portrait of a woman’s face peeking through the purple, dread-like fronds of an amaranth called “Love Lies Bleeding” hung opposite to an amazingly detailed charcoal and pastel confection called “Living With Your Heart Wide Open.” (pictured above, top left)
I was amazed by both works and my first thought after the shock and awe wore off was, “This artist has some range to her! I have to interview her.” Thankfully she agreed to meet with me and we spent an honestly fun hour or so together where I learned that she is just as warm, layered, and original as her works of art. Read on to learn more about the intricate, imaginative illustrations of Kim Long.
Q. When did you first discover your talent / love of art?
A. Art / Drawing has always been a part of me for as long as I remember. There have been times in my life when I thought I had to set it aside and concentrate on more conventional business pursuits, but they were trying times, and it never “fit”.
Q. As a writer, I get the not fitting into the whole 9 to 5 thing. What was the worst job you ever had?
A. I was managing a small business. Something I’d done successfully before, but at this particular job, I was asked to keep track of too much. The owners would call me and expect me to spout numbers and figures at a moment’s notice. I just can’t do that. Numbers, facts and figures are not my forte’, though I am very detail oriented in my art.
Q. Have you gone to school or taken classes to learn your craft or are you self taught?
A. I have very little formal training. I have just kept showing up at the drawing table. There have been hits and misses, but I believe I have cultivated a unique style.
Q. From what I’ve seen, you have an amazing way of blending nature into your work. What do you call your particular style?
A. Best guess, Magic Realism? I also describe my work as intricate, imaginative illustrations.
Q. Do you have a favorite subject (animals, trees, people, concepts, etc.) from which to create?
A. I find the natural world divine. I love animals and people. 98% of my work has eyes! At one point my boyfriend walked into my studio and exclaimed, “Everything is looking at me!” It made me laugh, but I just love expressive eyes.
Q. What is your favorite medium to work within?
A. Drawing (dry media: pen, pencil, charcoal) is what I love most. Painting and gold leaf are secondary supports.
Q. Who are some of your favorite artists?
A. Illustrators are my very favorites!!! I love Alphonse Mucha and Frank Frazetta. I’ve had people look down on me for enjoying the works of illustrators, for wanting to be like them, but I enjoy what they do, and what I do.
**For the record, this interviewer thinks their work is amazing also, and finds Kim’s work to be an incredible morphing of their individual styles into her own. So poop on any naysayers!
Q. What is your process and where do you find inspiration? Do you listen to music, take walks, visit galleries, drink enough Red Bull to spawn hallucinations? 😉
A. Close with the Red Bull, but for me it’s coffee! I have converted my living room into a studio, and the second bedroom into a “chill room”, so every morning after coffee I hit the drawing table. I have been solely supporting myself with my art for approximately two years now, and take my inspiration from life, my friends, and my love.
Q. Can you give me an example of finding inspiration?
A. Yes. The picture called “Dandelion” (shown above, bottom left) came to me while a friend and I were on vacation. We were out walking around and we saw a girl wearing what I think was a white, afro wig. It intrigued me, but the idea of it looking like a dandelion didn’t come to me until a little while later.
Q. That’s really cool :). Now, can you tell me a bit about your love? Where did you meet? Do you have any pets?
A. I met my boyfriend while showing my work at Arbor Crest. He and his group “The Dog House Boyz” had been hired to do the music. We’ve been together for five years now.
We do have a cat, Allycat. She’d been letting herself into a vacant home nearby, via a pet door. When some friends moved in with their dogs it became obvious she needed a new home. Every time I visited, she would sit by my shoes and stare at me. We bonded instantly. She and I fit together perfectly.
Q. Are you currently working on any new projects?
A. I usually have five things going at once. I’m most excited about the beginnings, so it helps to have pieces in different stages of development. This allows me to choose what fits my day / mood. My next show will be at The New Moon Art Gallery in October / November.
Q. Do you have any other interests or passions?
A. I enjoy the natural world and Archaeology. The history of man is most fascinating.
Q. Final question. If you could travel ANYWHERE in space or time for your art, where would you go and why?
A. I would travel to the Lascaux Cave in southwestern France, about 17,o0o years ago! I would be so interested in seeing the people making ancient art. It is estimated by the depth of the (then) floor, that they must have constructed scaffolding. Were they really all that different from us? Was there a ritual? Was it to bring good hunting? Or, were they like us, needing to impart beauty / feeling upon a surface?
I don’t know the answer to that one, but I’m sure glad that Kim Long has decided to share her talent with all of us!
If you would like to see more of Kim’s art you can visit her website at KimLongArt.com.
According to their website, the “Urban Art Co-Op is a group of talented and diverse local potters focused on promoting and supporting the arts in our community with the intent to expand to include artists who work in other mediums . We have created a welcoming environment for all levels of potters where artistic growth and collaboration happen. We teach classes and workshops, exhibit, sell and give to the local community. Our structure is supported by artist’s participation in all duties and functions of the Co-Op which allows us to maintain an affordable space for all members.”
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing two of the founding members, Karen Mannino and Nick Lowe and one resident artist JoDee Moody. Their energy and good humor made for a fun and relaxing time as they showed me around and gave me the scoop on the Urban Art Co-op.
The idea for the Co-op was born December of 2014 when a group of Spokane pottery artists dreamed up their perfect space. Autumn Bunton, Karen Mannino, Nick Lowe, John Newman, Keith Harger, Jo Dee Moody, and Libby Schoedel are the founding members of the Urban Art Co-op. Their idea was simple yet powerful. Create a space where artists of all kinds can come to share ideas, inspiration and tips of the trade. A place to make friends and build community connections.
With this goal in mind, the group met weekly to write up by-laws, hammer out membership parameters and contracts, and generally figure out how to get started. Excitement grew as they worked well together and by February of this year the group had built enough capital and gathered enough donated materials to begin. February of this year, they found a space at 3017 N. Monroe and began remodeling it to fit their needs. Despite a few structural difficulties to overcome, it didn’t take long for them to settle in. Their Grand Opening & Mug Sale was held on March 28th and 29th. Amazingly, not only did they get their studio ready but the artists created over 200 mugs and six special prizes to be raffled off, some of which are pictured below.
According to Karen and Nick, “It actually came together amazingly easily. Everyone of us was able to contribute in different ways, from building the website to constructing special sinks that can collect clay run off without clogging. We are proud of what we’ve started and hope to expand into other mediums; let other artists use this space to create art and hold workshops.”
They are off to a good start. The Co-op currently has seven potters wheels, and (for the moment) 1 working kiln with 3 more to be installed soon. They offer wheel throwing, hand building, pinch, coil, and slab sculpting classes. The classes are eight weeks long, with an additional two weeks for final touches and cost only $125.00. This includes clay, glazes, and kiln time. Pottery, however, is not the only medium they teach. As with so many artists, the core group has a list of other skills to offer. Their talents include painting, photography, writing, basketry, glass creations and more. It was this mixed bag of interests and talents that helped shape their goals for the Co-op and lay the groundwork for them to offer special workshops beyond the pottery medium.
Their first workshop was called “Fastenings and Findings”. Two of the co-ops members, jewelry artists Jo Dee Moody and Mary Cooper taught how to wire wrap ceramic pendants, make bails, adjustable clasps, and decorative knots in cord, and two styles of earring heads. JoDee was very pleased with how well the workshop went. “Everyone was happy with it. Mary brought in so much information for our students, things they probably wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. For only $40.00 they left with at least four items. Everyone made two pairs of earrings, a wire wrapped pendant and fastener/finding, and a necklace. Our workshops last one or two days and vary in price and difficulty. This first workshop was geared toward people with some experience in making jewelry but we also offer workshops for beginners.”
More workshops will be offered soon. A Felted Vessel workshop is already open for reservations on their website (link at bottom of post) and will be held on May 31st. Plans are also in the works to hold an August workshop teaching Eco-printing on silk, and an October workshop teaching how to create mugs/jars with faces like the one pictured above. Bookmark their website to keep on top of all the amazing workshops offered.
With a current total of fourteen co-op members, including six teachers, and three resident artists they are hoping to expand their co-op into other mediums soon. According to Karen, “We are currently available to host date nights, ladies nights, birthday parties, and corporate events. Our ultimate goal though, is to own a larger building, bring in small groups of artists that work with different mediums and are willing to bring their talents and enthusiasm to teach more workshops, share equipment and collaborate on projects. We need people willing to put in a little seed money, time and talent to help us grow.”
“All members help with upkeep of the studio and donate a portion of their work for sale so we can keep prices low. We want to make it a good deal for the artist; give them an incentive to be here.” So far it’s working out nicely. The co-ops artists, using a variety of techniques, have made some beautiful and useful items.
Interested in taking a class, attending a workshop or becoming a member? Are you an artist in need of some space? Do you, or anyone you know of, have any items you’d be willing to donate? Check out their website at http://www.urbanartcoop.org/ .
** The co-ops wish list includes more cabinets, pottery wheels, and an extruder (think giant Play-doh press).