Arts and Entertainment

Artists’ group honors longtime member at annual show

Gary Shallock’s “The Dog House” will be on display at the show and sale next weekend.   - Photos courtesy of Ginny O’Neill
Gary Shallock’s “The Dog House” will be on display at the show and sale next weekend.
— image credit: Photos courtesy of Ginny O’Neill

The artists of Whidbey Island have emerged from hunkering down in their studios during the rain-soaked winter and have resolved to hang it all up.

Hang their work up on a wall, that is.

Now that the sun is finally here, the art shows string themselves along the line of summer, attracting friends, fellow art buffs and, hopefully, some shop-happy tourists.

Joining the fray are the Artists of South Whidbey with their 36th annual show and sale July 16-18 in the Fine Arts Building of the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley.

About 30 of the 40 or so members of the group will show paintings in oil, acrylic and watercolor, along with works in pastel, colored pencil and other media, including some fine-art prints. The Artists of South Whidbey will also sell original greeting cards as part of the tradition to make this show an excellent place to find art in all price ranges.

To further enhance the occasion, special tribute will be paid to Mildred “Midge” Billig, who is the recipient of the artists’ new Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award. The Artists of South Whidbey will recognize Billig’s longtime service to the group as painter, photographer and historian.

Besides being an artist, Billig contributed her work as a florist and provided years of professional floral arrangements for past art shows culled from her personal gardens.

But now, it’s all photography for her.

“You’ll never see me without a camera,” said the 24-year Sandy Hook resident, who has been photographing the artists and their work for about four years.

“I keep all the newspaper clippings, too,” she added.

Billig said she enjoys the immediacy of photographs and mainly uses film to capture the artists at work, as well as taking shots of her garden and its numerous hummingbirds.

Although she no longer paints, Billig still hangs around the Artists of South Whidbey, mainly painters, who offer a camaraderie of the creative life to fellow South Enders.

Member Sue McKinney was pleasantly surprised when she joined.

“I had no idea what I was going to get out of it,” McKinney said.

“It’s been an education in process, community service, organizational skills; I’m overwhelmed by the amount of education I got out of my investment.”

McKinney referred to the monthly demonstrations held by the artists, who invite both island and off-island professionals to talk about process.

“We try to mix up styles and media and invite a variety of artists for demos,” McKinney said.

These demonstrations go a long way to helping artists pick up the tricks of the trade. It’s the opportunity to ask a professional artist, “How do you do that?”

Painter Judith Burns called herself a beginning artist when she joined about four years ago. Burns is currently showing her work at Artworks Gallery in Greenbank and at the Universalist Unitarian Congregation of Whidbey Island Gallery of Art in Freeland, in another show that opens Sunday. That’s a trajectory many of the artists in the group have experienced.

“I was almost a novice to the art world when I joined the group,” Burns said.

“I love that the group has the patience for the beginner, even though there are those who have moved up to the professional level. Now I know what it takes to hang, and I wouldn’t have been able to get where I am without the Artists of South Whidbey.”

McKinney pointed out that between all 40 artists or so in the group there is literally hundreds of years of experience, and they are all willing to share it.

“There is never a lack of inspiration,” Burns said.

“I only hope I can help others the way they’ve helped me.”

While the members of the Artists of South Whidbey are helping each other, they are also helping the up-and-coming artists of Whidbey Island.

New to the show and sale this year is the work of Anna Lennon, the Artists of South Whidbey scholarship winner for 2010. The scholarship is awarded annually to an island high school senior who plans to continue to study visual arts. Proceeds from a silent auction and the sale of the greeting cards supports the scholarship fund.

The show opens with an artists’ reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 16. The show continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 17 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 18.

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