Pastel artist Brenda Boylan, working at Smith Rock in central Oregon, calls water her muse. The Beaverton artist will participate in this month's Portland Open Studios tour.
Two with open studios owe interest to colors
by Janet Goetze, Special to The Oregonian
Thursday October 09, 2008, 3:00 AM
BEAVERTON -- Color drew both Diane Ahrendt and Brenda Boylan to their art, but the two Beaverton residents find creative satisfaction in different media, which they will demonstrate during the Portland Open Studios tour over two weekends this month.
Ahrendt, 50, has worked as a chemical engineer and in video postproduction. She started weaving because she loved working with the colored yarn. About 13 years ago, she realized glass had the intense colors that especially appealed to her.
A half-finished project remains on her loom, she said, and one of these days she'll return to it. For now, she spends three to five days a week in her backyard glass studio, where the furnace is always on, sometimes at a low temperature and sometimes hot enough to make glass pliable.
"I'm always fascinated by working with glass that is hot," she said, "and I can shape it. ... I think about color first, then the shape -- a plate or a bowl or a vase."
Boylan, 46, worked as a graphic designer for more than a decade, using her artistic talent in a way that guaranteed a steady paycheck. One day she saw a magazine cover, she said, "with this incredible pastel painting. It made me want to try that."
Having previously painted in oils, she began taking classes in pastel, which some people mistake for chalk. Pastel is powdered pigment that is rolled with a nongreasy binder into round or square sticks. The colors are mixed on the paper by overlaying or blending.
Soft pastel, the type Boylan prefers, has the most intense color. She works on a sanded paper, which holds the pigment.
"I love the color. It is so exciting," Boylan said. She also can work in a style that feels freer that oil permits, she said.
After her daughter was born 14 years ago and she became a stay-at-home mom, she gradually found more time for painting. With encouragement from friends, she began showing her work.
She often works outdoors, near the ponds and rivers that are favorite subjects.
"Water is a mysterious element," she said. "It's transparent and yet it holds all this color. It can be fast. It can be slow. It can be clean. It can be dirty. It's alive."
Boylan and Ahrendt are among 98 Portland-area artists selected by a three-member jury for Portland Open Studios. Ahrendt, a former president of the 9-year-old nonprofit organization's board, will participate in Open Studios for the sixth year. Boylan will participate for her fifth year.
Two years ago, board members asked Boylan to teach a seminar to other artists on how to demonstrate their work. One goal of Portland Open Studios, said spokeswoman Bonnie Meltzer, is to provide education about how art is created and who the artists are.
Boylan advises the artists to show the steps required to complete a work, whether it's a painting, a fabric article or sculpture. Sometimes photographs show the steps best, she said. At her studio, she will show paintings in various stages of development. She also will give a 15-minute demonstration of how she works by completing a small pastel painting.
Ahrendt will have a couple of her assistants blowing glass for visitors to her studio while she answers questions, she said.
"The kids, from grade school to high school, have some of the best questions," she said. "They can see the equipment and all that it takes to blow glass."
--Janet Goetze; firstname.lastname@example.org
Portland Open Studios
What: A self-guided tour of 98 studios in the Portland area where artists
are working in media including photography, sculpture, pottery, painting,
fabric and glass
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 11-12 and 18-19. Some studios will be open one
weekend, others both weekends.
How: Purchase a $15 tour guide, which also is a 2009 calendar, at Art Me
dia, New Seasons and other locations (see Web site). One guide admits
two adults all four days; free for children and youth through high school.