Freeland resident Ginny O’Neill has been an artist all her life, from drawing friends’ portraits as a teenager to graphic design and acrylic painting in her ‘20s. But it was not until O’Neill moved to Whidbey and began working the forms and colors of the island’s natural landscape into intricately layered water color paintings that she felt her career as an artist had truly begun.
In 2004, O’Neill took up classes in watercolor painting from local artist Patti Gulledge-White, and these lessons have not concluded since. It was Gulledge-White who, according to O’Neill, taught her everything she knows about the craft.
Through these lessons and her own inherent talent, O’Neill has developed a unique painting technique involving layers of color, usually subdued, mixed by hand. It is only after the backdrop has dried that O’Neill permits herself to start drawing, the step she says is likely her favorite. The final products are detailed portrayals of the things she loves most: dogs, the ocean, seaside towns and beaches.
“It just doesn’t sound like enough to call it beautiful,” she said in reference to the Whidbey landscape that inspires her. “It has got its own beauty, it’s a quiet beauty. There’s a peacefulness to it.”
O’Neill recalled the very first painting she produced was of the water.
“It’s what I love, what I feel. It’s just sort of a part of me,” she explained.
In part, it is the magnetism of the island and its healthy arts community which has drawn another artist, Jeff Day, back to Langley from his home in China for the opening of a new show at the Brackenwood Gallery in Langley. In it, O’Neill, Day and Langley resident Pete Jordan will all be featured.
Since Rene Neff, who is also a city councilwoman, opened Brackenwood in 2009 it has been home to several renowned Pacific Northwest artists. Day, a sculptor with 40 years of professional art experience who has been living in both Istanbul and China for the past six years, is returning to Langley for the month of August to show his works at Brackenwood before returning overseas.
In Day’s studio, nestled in the forest around Langley, several of his signature abstract and figurative bronze pieces of varying sizes and subject are on display. At a glance Day’s motivation for creation — “to inspire the viewer” — is apparent. The figures are as emotive as they are fluid — human forms and faces carved with gesticulations of hopefulness, of weariness, and everything in between.
He also creates two-dimensional paintings, many of which are inspired by the places in which he has lived.
Day’s focus upon depth within simplicity is clear both upon viewing his works and through his artist bio: “I seek to find a pureness of line and form found in nature and often use the human form to depict movement and action. I am looking for an essential truth with simple meaningful form with little embellishment.”
Day said he is enthused at the opportunity to show many of his works in one place.
Pete Jordan who, according to Neff, usually shows at Brackenwood during the summer months, has been displaying his works in and around Whidbey for 38 years.
His mediums are oil and watercolor, with which he paints still life and landscape pieces.
“Pete’s work does not hit you over the head with color and pizzazz; it enters your bones and evokes a mature appreciation for the splendor of nature,” reads the description of his works on the Brackenwood web site.
“They all seem to work well together in terms of style and they’re very accomplished in each of their mediums,” Neff said.
“Pete and Ginny both do a really great job of painting iconic scenes from the Northwest, particularly Whidbey,” she added.
Also, Jeff Day has a breadth of knowledge that many sculptors don’t, she said.
Neff is expecting many residents to attend the show as well as admiring travelers, some of whom wait year-round for a chance to see the artists’ new works.
The Brackenwood Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday during the summer and is located at 302 First Street, Langley. The show opens Aug. 2 with an artist reception from 5-7 p.m. opening night.