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Colorful personality

AM Northwest host Helen Raptis shares her off-camera painting
by: VERN UYETAKE Helen Raptis’ family room of her Vancouver, Wash., home is dedicated to her brightly-colored canvas paintings of food. She will share her talents on Saturday at R. Bloom’s of Lake Oswego’s holiday open house, which will also feature Daria Knowles, the creator of the shop’s popular Hot Skwash velvet pumpkins.

With her fiery red hair, quick wit and infectious laugh, it's no wonder Helen Raptis' artwork is bold and fearless.

Known as the host of KATU's 'AM Northwest' for the past 13 years, many locals feel like they know the Emmy-nominated reporter; they invite her into their homes each morning at 9 a.m. to learn recipes, take on home and garden projects, get the latest entertainment gossip and stay lovely through health and beauty tips.

But after Channel Two's studio lights dim in Portland, Raptis heads home to Vancouver, Wash., and takes her creativity from the screen to the canvas, using acrylic paint in pink, red, green, blue and yellow.

'I absolutely love bright colors. They make me feel good,' Raptis said. 'I lived in Jamaica until I was about 8 and think that might be part of the influence.'

View her work in person on Nov. 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. when Raptis shares an art demonstration at R. Bloom's of Lake Oswego, located at 449 3rd St. in Lake Oswego.

Her vivid, yet simplistic artwork allows everyday items - such as a piece of toast, eggs or a cup of coffee - to take center stage.

'Usually I do layer upon layer of color, because I want it to be thick,' Raptis said, while giving a tour of her family room, where her easel and painting materials are set up right in front of the TV.

'I'm not ashamed to say, I love to watch TV,' she said. 'It pays the bills and it entertains me. I love 'Law and Order: SVU' and criminal shows my husband calls the 'murder, murder, kill, kill' (shows).'

'She must know every way to kill me at this point,' her husband, David Schmitke, said jokingly.

Schmitke is a former TV host and now moderates radio programs with KEX's 'At Your Service Saturday' live, call-in radio shows including 'The Garden Doctor,' 'Mr. Fix It,' and 'The Car Care Clinic,' said he said having a wife in television has its comedic moments, such as when he finds out what she's been up to from his hairdresser. But it's her humble attitude with her budding art career that still surprises him.

'It's amazing,' Schmitke said. 'She can be on TV everyday but (at her first art show in Estacada recently) she was calling me throughout the day: 'I sold a piece. I sold a piece,' amazed when people bought her art.'

Raptis' creativity has been documented on TV for 30 years. Raptis has reported the news on stations such as KGW in Portland, KING TV in Seattle, KVAL in Eugene, and she earned two broadcaster of the year awards while beginning her career in Montana. She joined KATU in 1998 as AM Northwest's 'Roving Redhead,' reporting on quirky Portland events.

Raptis said she still loves interviewing those in creative fields on TV and can't wait to meet people at the R. Bloom's event, noting that the shop's owner, Richard Bloom, is a regular on AM Northwest and 'the nicest guy.'

'I'm sure everyone has figured out by now that I'm a people person,' she said.

Raptis said she feels blessed to have such a fun on-air job with her co-host Dave Anderson because every day is different and has 'it's share of laughs.' And when splashing paint across a canvas, Raptis said she gets a second dose of her creative fix.

'I really do love painting, the time just flies by,' Raptis said. '(It's) not like spin class, where you check the clock every minute.'

For more information about Helen Raptis, visit www.katu.com/amnw/. For more information about the R. Bloom's open house, visit http://rblooms.com/.