Shouten stays home

This giclée print of Rob Schouten’s “Still Moon No Mind” will be available at the new Rob Schouten Gallery which opens at the Greenbank Farm this Friday. Original Schouten paintings will also be available along with the ceramic vessels of guest artist Gayle Lutschg.

With his fantasy-soaked still lifes that send the viewer to a place halfway between dreams and reality, painter Rob Schouten’s work creates a carnival for the spirit.

Having shown his work on and off Whidbey Island for more than 20 years, Schouten decided it was time to give the carnival its very own big top and open his own gallery.

The Rob Schouten Gallery at Greenbank Farm will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily starting Friday, May 2 with an opening reception that day from 6 to 9 p.m.

After a recent month-long respite in the healing sun of Mexico, Schouten and his wife and business partner, Victory Schouten, decided they were going to go through with the project that had been brewing in both their minds for a long time.

They were aware of the Tacky Lady space that had become available at Greenbank Farm. And with their revitalization of energy from their trip south of the border, they decided to go for it.

Schouten said he has been a bit frustrated over the years with large gallery commissions that take a good chunk from the sale of each piece. His paintings may take sometimes five to six months to complete and therefore cannot be underpriced. Selling his particular style of work through someone else’s gallery is not very feasible, Schouten said.

Studying one of Schouten’s canvases makes it easy to see why it takes him a long time to finish one.

A person of gentle manner, Schouten is a visionary artist with an earth-loving, spiritual bent that is revealed in his paintings through a style he calls magic realism.

Each painting is planned out meticulously using found objects or things around the house or live models.

“Silent Chimes,” for example, features, among other things, a large-horned animal skull, a smaller animal skull, a photo of a cloudy blue sky, a ship’s clock, a small table-top human skeleton, a vibrant red flower and some colorful fabric.

He adds to the set-up until he is ready to create a still life drawing from it. Finally, he then starts to paint with his super-realistic attention to detail and vibrancy of color and light.

He did not always paint from still life or life models and this evolution in his work excites him.

“It’s been very satisfying to me lately because there’s a level of observation that is heightened; you have to pay more attention,” Schouten said.

If the work is any indication, Schouten is certainly paying a lot of attention to the details, using an expert hand to communicate his perception of the outer life while simultaneously revealing a magnitude of the inner life.

Not only do the Schoutens plan to show his work at the gallery, but they will also have at least one artist sharing the space each month with additional room for a sculptor.

The first guest artist is Gayle Lutschg. Lutschg will show her coil- and slab-built ceramic vessels. With their brightly painted and whimsical designs, her work seems the perfect compliment to the spiritual intensity of Schouten’s canvases.

“It’s a beautiful space,” Victory Schouten said.

“And to have Rob’s work on display is energizing to us, as is supporting the artists we bring in.”

The new gallery will be big enough for an area for Schouten’s studio and visitors will be able to watch the painter at work.

Schouten is also hoping to be able to do some teaching in the gallery studio, as well as welcome the community for events there.

“It’s a large enough space,” Victory Schouten said. “It’s about 870 square feet, and we look forward to finding what events will work in there.”

The couple said they will offer a range of smaller items such as cards and prints, hoping to offer a broad range of items for all pocket-book sizes.

Many of Schouten’s paintings will be offered as will the more affordable giclée reproductions, as well.

“In these challenging times, people really need things to sustain the spirit,” Victory Schouten said.

“I’m really excited to see this gallery and other galleries opening.”

Visit the artist’s Web site at www.robschouten.net. For info, call 222-3070.