Roger Thomas’ work could be called experimental: His best pieces usually begin as “test” projects for new fusing techniques, he’s often unable to see what his designs will look like before they’re kiln-fused and he leaves the interpretation to his viewers. Practicing Balance (below), a piece built of glass remnants from another work, is a perfect example. “Practicing Balance is one of my best accidents and definitely one of my favorite pieces,” he says. “When you look at it, you think it’s a landscape until you start looking for the usual signals of what a landscape is,” he says. “They’re here, but none of them quite make sense. Vertical lines trigger your brain to think, Oh, those are trees! I’m providing you with so little information that your mind is doing all the work in this piece. And that’s what I want: for my pieces to be abstract until you decide they’re a landscape.”
Spokane, Wash., painter Lanny DeVuono’s pieces are a twist on traditional landscapes: She uses boxes as canvases, wrapping the painting over five sides, and chooses industrial scenes (think powerlines and factories) rather than bucolic ones. But she does have a common thread with the original landscape painters. “In the 19th century, painting landscapes was a way to romanticize the loss of nature to the Industrial Revolution,” says DeVuono. “That’s relevant today. When I drive to work every day, I see development eating up land.”
Douglas Smith makes a living painting places and people he’s never seen. The 30-year-old travels the globe via the Internet, falling in love with imagery from foreign cultures that he reinterprets and incorporates into his canvases. First Thursday-goers, for example, are familiar with the vibrant paintings of monks smoking or skipping that the prolific painter sells for no more than $20 in his booth. (“I want to give everybody the chance to buy original artwork at an affordable price,” he says.)
Looking at Amy McEmrys’ colorful paintings, you get a splendid sense of nostalgia and longing for another time and place. “I’m drawn to nostalgic scenes, dreams and memories, so those are common inspirations for me,” says the Portland painter.
An up-close look at a fire-red coral-like sea creature. A bird’s-eye view of a tight cluster of pointed, polka-dot-covered shells hovering in space. Swirling lines of microbial organisms spinning into a distant black hole. These are the lenses—magnified and telescopic—that Portland painter Jason Bradbury peers through when composing his brightly colored pieces. “I’m influenced by Ernst Haeckel, a German scientist who created detailed sketches of microscopic marine organisms,” says Bradbury. “I became fascinated with their complexity, and the symmetrical and radial forms.”
For Jerry Baron, painting is about finding the subject and expressing it through color. “Painting, for me, is like a discovery process,” he says. “I need to maintain a spontaneous attitude about my painting. I’m a colorist. I think in terms of color rather than content.”
In Morgan Walker’s paintings, narrative is a key tool. “All of my paintings have stories that develop and change throughout the whole process of painting it,” he says. “When the painting is finally done, so is the story.”
When Katie Todd moved into a new house and needed something for the walls, she began painting abstract landscapes. “I like to think of them as splashes of color that give you something interesting to look at on your walls,” she says.