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Music teacher finds rhythm as artist

Judy McIntosh Vatne presents collection on 'noon and night'
by: , Judy McIntosh Vatne composes watercolors based on photographs from nature. 
Her work is on display this month at The Village Gallery 
of Arts.

Judy McIntosh Vatne began her career as an artist after nearly three decades of teaching music to school children throughout Hillsboro.

'I had a wonderful time with elementary students,' said Vatne, who received her music education degree from Pacific University. 'I played and sang with the children, but when I finished that, I closed that chapter of my life and I opened a new one - art and painting.'

Vatne said she has always been interested in visual arts. As a child she sketched whatever was inspiring around her with pencil or charcoal on paper, but as a wife, mother and music teacher, she never had enough time to devote to making art.

Two years after retiring, in 2005, she registered for her first watercolor class at the Village Gallery of Arts, a Portland non-profit formed 48 years ago by 10 artists who liked the idea of having a gallery for art instruction and exhibition.

'I considered my retirement my second career,' said Vatne. 'I'm young enough and have a lot of my best years ahead of me.'

Taking regular classes and workshops, she studied with many local and nationally known artists, a core of the gallery's 150 Oregon artists.

Seven years later, Vatne is hosting her first show at the Village Gallery of Arts, located on Northwest Cornell Road in Portland. As the featured artist for the month of June, she presents her collection of 10 watercolor paintings on the theme of noon and night.

Vatne says her attraction to watercolors was immediate. 'I loved the transparency of watercolor on white paper,' she said. 'It gives a glow to the painting that's really kind of fascinating and that you don't get with any other medium.'

She mainly paints photographs that she has taken on trips or walks around the neighborhood. 'I carry my camera and if I see a particularly lovely view that inspires me, I take a picture of it, from many different views,' she said.

Then she brings home the photo, makes a composite of it and sketches the elements into a basic design that reflects the subject. 'It's traditional watercolor,' said Vatne.

Her paintings reflect special moments or memories: A still life of her grandmother's candy dish, a treasure from childhood to which she added sliced lemons and a bundle of grapes; Wendy's Birds, a group of East Coast oyster catchers, the original photo taken by a dear friend struggling with breast cancer; and the Peace Rose, painted from a rose bush given to Vatne by her mother on her 50th birthday. (Vatne was born in 1945, the same year the Peace Rose was introduced after WWII.)

Vatne grew up in Kansas and moved to Oregon with her family where she graduated from West Linn High School before moving on to Pacific University. She now lives on Portland's west side.

After accepting to do the show in January, Vatne painted almost every day for six months, an experience she said was often challenging. But by the end, her self-confidence had grown and she had learned quite a lot more about herself.

'I hope other people see the beauty of it and enjoy it,' she said.




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