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Artists open doors to public in the Open Studios event

Lake Oswego artisans are well represented in the upcoming tour
by: Cliff Newell, 
Lake Oswego’s Shannon Willis will be one of the youngest artists featured in Portland Open Studios. Her paintings, which have a lot of texture and color, are contemporary mixed-media abstracts.

Ever wish to drop in on an artist at work?

Then Portland Open Studios will exceed your wildest dreams.

On the weekends of Oct. 13-14 and Oct. 20-21, nearly 100 hundred artists in the Portland Metro area will open their studios, galleries, homes and even some garages to the public; and there will be a very healthy representation of artists from Lake Oswego.

'We could have had 200 artists, that's how many applied,' said Bonnie Meltzer, publicity and Web site coordinator for the event. 'This is such a great community and business venture for the artists.'

Portland Open Studios started in 1999 when Kitty Wallace, an artist from Santa Cruz, Calif., moved to Portland and brought an idea that had worked so well there. But the Portland show has a key difference.

'Our artists are actually working,' Meltzer said.

There are all kinds of benefits for artists and patrons, some of them quite unpredictable.

'One time I got an apprentice,' Meltzer said. 'She was a prospective artist who wanted to know if art was what she really wanted to do. It was great having her one day a week for a year.'

Portland Open Studios has strengthened area artists as a community, and it even serves as a forum for reunions.

'Sometimes someone you haven't seen in 20 years shows up,' Meltzer said.

Of course, artists have to make a living, and sales resulting from the event are a big reason it is such an attraction to so many artists.

Portland Open Studios is stretched out over a wide area, and it is highly unlikely everyone will visit all 98 artists participating. But art lovers in the Lake Oswego and West Linn area won't have to travel too far to have an outstanding artistic experience, since many local artists will be featured.

Lake Oswego's Shannon Willis will be one of the youngest artists featured in Portland Open Studios, but she is one of the most accomplished.

That is because people find it irresistible creating their own meaning with her contemporary mixed-media abstract paintings, which feature layers of texture and explore the passage of time and its inevitable changes.

'They have a lot of texture and color,' Willis said. 'I've been told that a lot of people who don't usually like abstract paintings like my paintings.'

Still, Willis doesn't stay in one place too long as an artist.

'I'm always trying out new schemes and testing new things,' she said. 'My work evolves, and that's what makes me happy.'

It was only natural that Willis would become an artist because her father is a sculptor and her mother is a painter. Although she was an award-winning Web designer and has high scientific skills, Willis became a painter four years ago. Portland Open Studios will be a special experience for her because she likes communicating with others about her art.

'Basically, I'm quite a shy person,' Willis said. 'But I love to talk to people and get their opinions because that gives me different ideas.'

Patrons of Portland Open Studios will get to see Willis at work and also get to meet the guide dog she is training. She had a highly successful show at Lincoln City in July, and Oswego Lake Gallery will feature her work in April of 2008.

She truly doesn't mind when people make up their own stories when it comes to her art.

'I like to meet people who appreciate what I'm doing,' Willis said. 'To actually see their reaction is wonderful.'