Monthly Archives: April 2011

Pastel Dust & Seattle Rain at Kirsten Gallery


So it didn’t rain a couple of days in Seattle during my 5 day stay, during which time I did a little car trip up to Mount Vernon, stopped at Dakota Art (world’s best pastel supply store).  Getting ready to leave there, it was about 2:30 and decided to not go back to Seattle via I-5, but to take a scenic route and drive the length of Whidbey Island and catch a ferry to Mukilteo back on the mainland.    It was a great drive, but disappointing in that there was not much color in terms of plants and flowers blooming.

The coolest color of the day was this image painted on a wall near the Woodland Park Zoo.  A little side trip I took going to the Ballard Locks and a stop at Tim Towner’s bakery Dessert Works in Phinney.

Sunday was clear in the morning and after a board meeting for the NW Pastel Society I headed off to the show opening at Kirsten Gallery.  We had hung the show on Thursday and was happy with how the show looked.  It is exciting to see the show,  however, with the awards posted next to the winning paintings and the energy that a show opening brings.

What I really want to focus on in this blog is the Kirsten Gallery.  It is a great gallery on Roosevelt Way in the University district.  From the exterior you sense you are going to walk into a special space.  Once inside, the gallery is really several room on 3 levels; a variety of rooms which make looking at the art very interesting because there are lots of small walls to nicely show smaller works and around corners to view others; large open walls as well.  

Rick Kirsten and his wife own the gallery and it is in its 39th year.  March 2012 is the 40th birthday of the gallery.  Rick’s father is a wonderful artist and his work fills the 2nd floor.  Last summer when I visited to gallery to see if it would work for the NPS show, Rick came in after I was there and with him was his father, a sweet elderly gentleman who is in his 9th decade of life.  Rick set his father up with a table, chair and all the necessities an artist needs in a warm sunlit window of the main floor and the senior Mr. Kirsten proceeded to work!  It is a nice memory of these fine people and their gallery.

After the NPS show is finished hanging, the next show at the gallery will be Mr. Kirsten’s body of work that spans all 9 decades of his life!  From a child, through college at the Art Institute of Chicago and beyond, his work will grace the walls of the family gallery.  What a tribute!  He had gone to the Art Institute in the 20’s.  Rick and I talked about the fact that my great-uncle and my aunt both went to the AI of Chicago and we wondered if maybe they knew each other. I don’t have any data about when my uncle went there…I think somewhere in that time frame!  Rick wondered how he was going to hang all the massive amount of works…I suggested chronologically (I had seen that done one time for another artist whose works spanned several decades and changed greatly over time.)  

When you go to the Kirsten gallery, expect to be warmly greeted as you enter this friendly atmosphere.  But one of the best things about the gallery is the garden.  A lovely zen garden, as beautiful in the early spring without the blooms and color as in the summer!…One needs to walk into it and relish the peaceful atmosphere and ponder all the work that was put into this private, secluded space, hidden from a busy street!

 From the bamboo to the statues to the artfully raked gravel and sand…it is a fabulous little place to stop and meditate for just a moment.  The photos of the garden were shot the day we hung the show – after the rain stopped for a moment!

So when you go to Seattle and you happen to be in the University district, you need to stop in and visit this gallery.   

Besides great shows, the gallery has a wonderful supply of art cards really nice art cards, pottery, baskets, the senior Mr. Kirsten’s art and books he has published and other great artifact.  You will warmly be welcomed…

So on Sunday about 3:30, I left the gallery to drive back to Walla Walla.  there is a little drizzle, but not a bad rain.  By the time I get to I-5 it is raining hard and that was my send-off…a downpour!  

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Pastel Dust In Seattle


I am in Seattle for a few days to hang the NWPS Members Show at Kirsten Gallery, go to a board meeting and attend the Opening Reception for the show…and to enjoy some time in the city.

The Northwest Pastel Society holds three shows a year of pastel work…a member show, an open international exhibition and a signature member show.  For an organization without walls, getting venues to host shows is sometimes a challenge, but also a project that happens a year in advance of the planning and procuring venues and jurors for the work.

This year’s member show is being held at the Kirsten Gallery on Roosevelt Way in the University of Washington district of Seattle.  I first approached and met with Rick Kirsten a year ago to get the show on his gallery schedule.  The board of directors for the NWPS felt very lucky to get  show time in a gallery such as the Kirsten.  Thursday, 4 of us gathered at the gallery to hang the show.   57 pieces accepted into the show. 

There is a certain art to a show being staged well.  A while ago, I worked on a gallery committee of 3 and 4 people who was one of the best teams.  Dianna, M’Lisse had great skill in hanging and we could put together a show in a few hours. We hung a different show nearly monthly throughout the year; some were solo shows, some groups.  It was a fun process to make the show “work”, so that it flowed well and invited the viewer to keep moving through the exhibit.  I ended up leaving the group due to other work, but always treasured our time working together. 

Kirsten Gallery has subtle room dividers that break up the flow – which is great because a juried show typically has a broad variety of work styles, color, subject matter,  etc.  My goal was to establish a strong entry that would invite the viewer to come further into the gallery to see more work.  The quality of work was no barrier.  There was not one piece that shouldn’t have been in the show.. . All strong, gorgeous pieces.  So in the entry we placed several strong landscapes that played off of each other’s values.  The next area has the least wall space, but we placed stong pieces of varying subject matter throughout that area with invitation to keep moving through the gallery space.  There were some little nooks that lended well to some unique, small works that desevered their own space.  

So initially we did a layout of the work; all the painting were placed  leaning on the walls where we thought they would work best.  Because of the broad variety of size, framing, subject, etc.; our goal was to make the work “flow” and not to compete with each other…In the middle rooms there is more contiguous wall space and that allowed for more paintings to hang together…but with space built between to give the sense of some boundaries to show smaller groups of painting well.  So to create that, we would cluster  maybe three winter paintings closer together, then leave a bit larger space and hang another grouping. 

Once the entry and the first rooms were hanging we moved deeper into the gallery with the goal to make certain that we had strong work in each area and that no one room over powered another.  The last room has three good walls of space and we were able to make some great choices of the placement of work for that room. 

Ideally, if space were no object, it would be great to hang museum style with the paintings all at the same level, not one hanging above or below another or grouped, etc.  But in the real world, galleries don’t always have that option for space, so it required a gallery committee or hangers to be creative how the show gets to be displayed.  We approach that seriously and mindful that everyone who has a piece of work in the show is being honored as selected by the juror.   We were able accomplish installing the show in about 3 hours which was my unspoken goal!

So the opening happens on April 10 from 2-4 pm.  The juror has since gone through the gallery and given 10 or so awards and we wait, now, wondering which paintings will be given awards…

Perhaps in another blog I will talk about the Kirsten Gallery more.  They have this wonderful spot in a busy part of town and their gardens are wonderful.  I have some photos and perhaps with Rick Kirsten’s blessings I will write about the gallery.

So for now…happy painting and gallery visiting!


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