We’ve all heard of peculiar artists and capricious ones, edgy sculptors and angry painters, those who love to offend and shock, unsettle or antagonize. They are the stuff of movie fantasia and social media hype.
But in the real world, populated by real people, there is another kind of artist: a happy person, loving what they do, creating with the idea of making others happy as well. Fitting into this paradigm is Joyce Klassen, a Walla Walla artist who has worked in everything from watercolor realism to her present abstract acrylic pours. She uses words like “fun,” “rewarding,” and “beautiful” when she talks about her art, as well as life itself.
“I’ve been interested in art since I was in preschool when I cut up my mother’s Simplicity patterns to make my own paper dolls and dress them in pieces of fabric — I only did that ONCE!” Klassen remembers.
This is a person who launches into the room with a smile, who experiments with new techniques and recognizes that failure is as much a part of success as, well, success is. It’s an attitude worth honing when it comes to the challenge of acrylic pour, a process that involves layering multiple colors of paint in a cup and cascading it onto the canvas:
Fun, Caution, Wisdom
The FUN comes from quickly flipping the cup upside down.
The CAUTION demands that the artist upright the cup quickly, then tilt the canvas back and forth so the colors run from top to bottom and side to side.
The wisdom of EXPERIENCE shouts “Stop!” when the pattern looks just right.
“Knowing when to stop is the secret to a successful acrylic pour,” Klassen explains. “Once you have learned to do this — EXPERIMENT and come up with your own unique method.
“When you find something that really works for you, keep it a secret! You want this to be your creation.”
Acrylic Pour Discovery
Klassen discovered acrylic pour literally by accident when she spilled mixed paint on a surface. Fascinated by the resulting texture, color formation and shape, she researched the technique, spending “hours and hours” learning from YouTube.
“I’ve done many forms of art, but I think I love this one the very best because I get so excited as I watch the colors evolve and mix — it often gives me terrific surprises.
“If the surprise happens to not be a good one, I simply wash it down the drain (followed by a healthy dose of drain cleaner) and start over. It’s a ‘Can’t Lose’ process.”
Acrylic Pour: Breaking and Following Rules
As Klassen is discovering, acrylic pour painting involves breaking the rules at the same time one adheres strictly to them, celebrating spontaneity in perfect proportion to meticulous thought. In some ways, this mirrors the yin-yang relationship she enjoys with her husband Randy, also an artist, but in a polar opposite sort of way:
She does abstract; he paints realism.
She’s messy; he’s neat.
She takes up three quarters of their shared studio; he carved out a small space against the window, just enough for his easel and palette.
“When I work on encaustic, he leaves when I light the blow torch.
“When I work on acrylic pour, he covers his work and leaves to avoid the mess.
“He has to find a lot of errands to run . . . ”
Oddly, for a person who describes her creative process as messy, Klassen spends a lot of time cleaning their house, because both she and Randy sell from the studio within their home.
“We never know when someone might ‘drop in’ to view the art. We love to share a glass of our local wine as we go from room to room looking at art.
“I’m often told that a viewer is amazed that I work in such a messy art form while still being such an intense ‘neatnik.'”
Helping the Homeless
When she isn’t creating in the studio — something that can happen anytime of the day or even at 2 a.m. if she finds she can’t sleep — Klassen works with the homeless through the Walla Walla Alliance for the Homeless, coordinating the weekly shower project held Mondays at the Pioneer United Methodist Church.
She and her crew of 10 volunteers serve the needs of 10 to 17 people who would otherwise have nowhere else to shower, providing basic toiletry needs along with clean socks, underwear, and other clothing.
It’s all part of a happy artist’s life — giving, experimenting, dreaming, doing, making a mess and cleaning it up. With so much creativity and beauty, there is no place for angst, anger, shock, or awful.
“I love to watch ideas and colors evolve.
“And I love it when someone looks at an acrylic pour that I’ve done and sees something totally different than what I do — it’s almost like playing the game of ‘find Waldo.’
“Art should be rewarding, and especially, fun!”
Joyce Klassen is the featured Art Event artists at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, September 24, 2018, through Saturday, October 20, 2018. She will be at the gallery Saturday, October 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., as part of Wenaha Gallery’s Autumn Art Show, which also features jewelry artist Venita Simpson, a tribute to the late astronaut/artist Alan Bean, and a talk and visit by retired astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.