Newfangled Whidbey Open Studio Tour is free and easy

Free to paint.

Free to paint.

Free to sculpt, work wood, make jewelry and throw pots.

Free to create anything at all.

And now, thanks to a new twist on the biggest art tour on Whidbey Island, the 14th annual 2010 Whidbey Open Studio Tour itself is free.

That’s right. No tickets, no fees, no worries. Just wake up and go!

It’s that time of year when island artists open their studio doors to art lovers of every stripe. This great island touring tradition happens on Saturday, Sept. 25 and Sunday, Sept. 26.

The Whidbey Island Arts Council introduces a newly revamped tour this year with maps and brochures featuring 84 artists in an easier to handle 44 locations, including individual studios and group shows. The maps will be delivered with the Record, and the Whidbey News-Times in the Sept. 22 edition, and with the Navigator on Sept. 24. They are also available online — click here — and for pick-up early next week, along with the tour guidebooks, at a variety of island locations listed on the Web site.

Studio tour organizer and artist James Moore said the maps should find themselves in the hands of a lot more people this year.

“We have about the same number of artists as were on the tour last year, but in half the number of locations,” Moore said.

“So the problem of getting to so many places has been ameliorated.”

That was one of the main complaints heard by volunteers who worked on the tour last year. They said tour-goers were overwhelmed by the more than 90 locations on the tour, and felt a bit defeated even before they started.

To solve that problem, organizers added an option for some artists to show their work as a group in one studio, as a way for tourists to see more work while driving around less.

“It also encourages artists to work together,” said volunteer organizer and studio tour artist Kent Lovelace of Black Sheep Studio. Painter Lovelace is sharing his studio this year for the first time with fellow artists — his wife ceramicist Elizabeth Lovelace, and textile artist Nan Leaman.

“We hope all will be thrilled at the larger venue and greater opportunities to enjoy our creative endeavors. It’s such wonderful stuff,” Kent Lovelace said.

All locations are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

In the studios, visitors can see new works by glass artists, painters, photographers, fiber artists, jewelry makers, sculptors, metal workers and potters. It’s also the place to hear the artists talk about their muse and the process by which they create their work.

Patrons are welcome to just browse, or to buy a piece of Whidbey Island art to take home.

Moore is an old hand at the tour, and is comfortable with welcoming visitors into his home studio in Coupeville. He’s excited, he said, not only by the prospect of showing his new series of oil paintings inspired by a recent trip to Umbria, Italy, but also by the new take on a great island tradition.

“The combination of all the things that are new on the tour this year makes me feel like it’ll be a great experience for everybody,” Moore said.