acrylic pour abstract painting home decor art joyce klassen walla

Acrylic Pour — The Happy Abstract Art of Joyce Klassen

acrylic pour abstract painting home decor art joyce klassen walla

Acrylic Pour 9, original painting by Walla Walla artist Joyce Klassen

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.

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Acrylic Pour 5, original painting by Walla Walla artist, Joyce Klassen

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.

acrylic pour abstract painting home decor art joyce klassen walla walla

Acrylic Pour 6, original painting by Walla Walla artist Joyce Klassen

“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:

acrylic pour abstract painting home decor art joyce klassen walla walla

Acrylic Pour 1, original painting by Walla Walla artist, Joyce Klassen

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.'”

acrylic pour abstract painting home decor art joyce klassen walla walla

Acrylic Pour 8, original painting by Walla Walla artist, Joyce Klassen

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!”

Wenaha Gallery

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 art@wenaha.com. 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.

horse equine painting chocolate chip zippo debbie hughbanks

Animal Lover — Horse & Wildlife Paintings by Debbie Hughbanks

horse equine painting chocolate chip zippo debbie hughbanks

Chocolate Chip and Zippo, equine horse art by Debbie Hughbanks

She was the little girl who was certain, every year, that she would get a horse for Christmas.

That she lived in town was no obstacle to Debbie Hughbanks, who now, as a grown-up, specializes in creating wildlife, equine, and domestic animal paintings.  Now also — as a grown up living in the country — she does own a horse (two, actually), and the dreams she had as a child result in artwork celebrating country living, western art, and the “cowboy lifestyle.”

coyote wildlife animal painting art debbie hughbanks

Coyote Winter, wildlife animal painting by Debbie Hughbanks

“I am extremely passionate about animals,” the Loon Lake pastel, scratchboard, and acrylic painter says. “I feel that animals are an extremely important part of our existence and should be treasured and celebrated by human beings, and that is what I attempt to do through my art.”

Frequently exploring a particular theme — ranging from cowboy boots to birds and glass bottles — Hughbanks enjoys creating a series of pieces, seeking to elicit a strong emotion in connection to each image. Connecting with viewers on universal or shared emotions, Hughbanks feels, is one of two-dimensional visual art’s major strengths: nostalgia, poignancy, pathos, joy, wonder — art is capable of evoking a full range of human feelings.

A Forgotten Animal Toy, Always Remembered

“One painting I did, Long Forgotten, is part of a series based upon forgotten toys/things — it shows a toy once well loved, played with often, then left behind and forgotten as the child becomes older and moves on to more grown up toys,” Hughbanks says.

long forgotten childhood baby pull toy blue elephant debbie hughbanks

Long Forgotten, a childhood animal toy that tugs on the emotions, by Debbie Hughbanks

Belonging to one of her grandsons when he was a baby, the blue elephant pull toy in the painting had a smile on its face when it was brand new, “but I imagined his toy heart was breaking as he sat abandoned in the corner, so I turned his smile upside down.”

Another work, Kindred Spirits, featured a happier ending for the subject matter. Selected for the Trail of Painted Ponies three-dimensional painted horse sculpture contest, the work was eventually licensed and sold through Dillard’s Department Store and turned into a collectible figurine.

“That little pony went all over the world!” Hughbanks marvels.

Animals Traveling the World

Not only the little pony, but Hughbanks’ art portfolio travels the planet, some of the more far flung venues embracing collectors in Australia, as well as a piece selected for show at Qingdau City, China, as part of the Artists for Conservation International Exhibit. A member of numerous professional organizations, including American Women Artists, Women Artists of the West, and the International Society of Scratchboard Artists, Hughbanks is accepted into many prestigious shows each year, and in addition to painting the works, she has become an expert at packaging and mailing them.

sleeping on job cat feline painting debbie hughbanks

Sleeping on the Job, feline cat animal painting by Debbie Hughbanks

“I am kept fairly busy shipping work to shows and collectors,” Hughbanks says. “A good box is ‘key’ to shipping successfully . . . I wrote an article, Shipping Pastel Paintings for the Faint Hearted, that addressed shipping if you don’t purchase one of the professional art shipping boxes.”

Hughbanks’ resume of awards and publications in which she has appeared is long, with Best of Show, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Honorable Mention, Juror’s, and People’s Choice Awards ranging from the Kittitas Fair Poster Award of the National Western Art Auction in Ellensburg to making the Top 40 in the Wyoming Conservation Stamp Competition in Cheyenne, WY. Her work has appeared in Wildlife Art, Western Horseman, Cowboys and Indians, Western Art Collector and Art Chowder Magazines, and was cover art on The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

serengeti african wildlife elephant debbie hughbanks painting

Out of Serengeti, wildlife elephant animal painting by Debbie Hughbanks

Crayons for Grown-ups

It’s a lot of activity generated from a former children’s bedroom turned into studio, and Hughbanks retains the enthusiasm of a child when it comes to her full-time vocation as an artist. She loves using acrylics, because they dry quickly, which is the same reason why she finds them such a challenge. And when it comes to pastels, well, they’re like crayons for grown-ups:

“I LOVE the immediacy of the medium, as well as its tactile nature. Since I do most of my pastel work with my fingers, I do become quite literally involved with every piece — very connected.

“At the end of the day, I am usually covered from top to bottom with color. But what fun!”

Horse, Wildlife, Elephant and Fun

It is fun, the dream day job that incorporates the things that mean most to her, and fulfill the yearnings of that long ago little girl who faced every Christmas morning . . . without a horse. It  took awhile, but now she lives that dream come true.

“I just want to paint the subjects that I am passionate about, and in doing so, I hope my work will bring a little joy or happiness to those who view it.

“I hope my paintings make people smile or possibly remember fond memories.

“Good times — things like that.”

Wenaha Gallery

Debbie Hughbanks is the featured Art Event  at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, January 2, 2018, through Saturday, February 10, 2018.  

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. 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.