Arts and Entertainment

A lifetime of painting reveals a Whidbey Island artist’s mettle

Richard Engstrom’s “Pageant in the Garden,” along with a series of his other paintings, is at Raven Rocks Gallery in Greenbank through Dec. 3. - Photo courtesy of Richard Engstrom
Richard Engstrom’s “Pageant in the Garden,” along with a series of his other paintings, is at Raven Rocks Gallery in Greenbank through Dec. 3.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Richard Engstrom

Painting, for me, has become a synthesis of communication in my attempts to understand consciousness and the nature of the mind. With silence and solitude amid the noise and crowds, one may perceive insights to understanding. — Richard Engstrom

Richard Engstrom has been painting for 52 years. His mainly figurative and landscape acrylic works are loose with color and stroke. They are the paintings of a confident hand, steeped in stories imagined by the artist.

Engstrom’s most recent work will be shown through Dec. 3 at the Raven Rocks Gallery at Greenbank Farm.

The Clinton resident of 30 years said he works from photographs and life only minimally, and that most of his paintings grow as his brush continues to hit the canvas, much as a writer’s story grows with each stroke of the pen or click on the keyboard.

“Things occur to me. An idea happens, I’ll get a plot and see what happens. It evolves into the story of the painting from there,” Engstrom said.

His influences range from the impressionist school and from such impressionist painters as Nicolai Fechin, to the Northwest School painters Guy Anderson and Morris Graves and even the eclectic, sometimes Byzantine style of Gustav Klimt.

Engstrom said that although he doesn’t paint from life, he loves to look at things, and uses his memory to create images from things and places that have impressed him.

“I love to look — at light, color, the play of light on a place,” the artist said. “But I rely on my memory a lot.”

In 1958, Engstrom became an apprentice at a commercial art studio, where he learned studio art before there was even a glint of computers on the horizon. There he learned the “psychology of things,” and how to catch the eye. He also took classes at the Frye Art Museum during that period.

“Things have changed,” Engstrom said, referring to the years he spent as a commercial artist, a day job that helped him to support his young family. The age of technology changed all that, and Engstrom found himself solely a painter.

“There was nothing else I wanted to do,” he said.

His painting went from tight, realistic work to the looser, light-filled, broad-stroked work he makes now.

“For me, a brush with paint on it is a heck of a lot of fun. I sketch with my brush.”

The show will number about 15 pieces, all relatively small in size and affordable.

For this artist, painting is also a study in consciousness. He reads Eastern philosophy, which informs his work and which he said he has been interested in ever since he became an artist.

To see more about Engstrom and his work, click here.

Also at the gallery this month is the mosaic work of Carl and Sandra Bryant.

Raven Rocks Gallery is at Greenbank Farm. For info, click here.

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