This month Lone Hansen interviewed Judy Sorrels, a mixed media and acrylic pour artist from Silverdale. Sorrels wants her art “to add some joy to the world.”
Hansen and Sorrels met two years ago through Peninsula Music and Arts Society, which they both belong to. During this time they built the Viking float for Clearwater Casino’s Fat Tuesday fundraiser and won the top prize of $1,000. Sorrels is now serving as the President of the Society.
Here are excerpts from Lone’s extensive conversation with artist, Judy Sorrels. Some wording and order has been revised to provide further clarity.
Lone Hansen: Judy, you’re the President of Peninsula Music and Arts Society.
Judy Sorrels: It’s been a strange year to be President, that’s for sure, but it’s a great group. The nice thing about the group is that not everyone is an artist, but they’re all art lovers. So we spend a lot time on the different art movements and cultures in art, as well as on our mission of raising scholarship money for young artists. There’s a lot out there for STEM, but not as much for the arts.
LH: You do a big event in June.
JS: Yes, our Paint Out Poulsbo is our biggest fundraiser event for scholarships for young artists. It’s an all-day music and arts festival. We also have two arts competitions – a plein-air, and juried arts contest. It’s a quality competition where artists can possibly win prizes and put up their work for sale and show.
LH: What kind of prizes do you give out?
JS: We give out money prizes. My favorite part is that we include kids. We have categories of ages 5 to 8; 9 to 12; young adults; amateurs, and professionals. It’s such a fun event – free to the community and family friendly. Our members put a lot of work and heart into it.
LH: Yes we do! You won 2nd prize one year.
JS: I did! I won 2nd prize professional for a piece called, ‘Imagination in Gear.’
LH: That’s when I realized what a fine artist you are. You and I worked for quite a few months on a float for Clearwater Casino.
JS: Yes, they [used to] have their Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday parade. A couple of years before they stopped it we collaborated on a float and did a Viking ship. It was so much fun to work with you on that.
LH: That was way fun. The pandemic has hit the PMA Society – we’ve had nothing going on.
JS: Yeah, we’re kind of on hold for now. So we’re kind of taking it month by month; putting out our newsletter to keep in communication with people. But since we can’t get together it’s been difficult.
LH: How has the pandemic affected you?
JS: It hasn’t affected as much as other people because I had just retired from my art teacher job in 2016. So I’m at home and in my studio. I do digital work in my home and the studio is where I do the hands-on creation of things. So it’s not a burden to me. My heart goes out to small business owners (and other affected). For me it hasn’t been bad.
LH: You don’t rely on income from your art to survive?
JS: Yes, for my business to survive – in order to pay for advertising, my website, and materials, it’s important to have that income.
LH: Have you taught any classes?
JS: I haven’t taught any since the pandemic. I had started with my paint pouring classes and quashed that for a while. One of my bucket list of things is to get some online classes going. I like in-person teaching. I miss the kids… I miss that aspect of my art teaching career.
LH: You were an art teacher at high school?
JS: I started teaching at junior high in the Central Kitsap (CK) school district. Then my daughter came from school and said, “Mom, our teacher is retiring, so you’ve to go for the job.” So I consulted with both my kids (because they’d both be at the high school) and they said, “Go for it.” I got the job at CK High and got to teach so many things from jewelry making, to pottery, to airbrush, calligraphy…. It was awesome for me because I love variety. My son and I decided that my brand is ‘Versatility!’ I’m having fun with it.
LH: Have you taken online classes?
JS: I’ve taken international design classes that draw artists from all over the world, which is just a kick! I get to see viewpoints from so many people that I never would’ve before. And I’ve actually become friends with some of them.
I’ve taken some classes with Lilla Rogers who does classes internationally. Her process of teaching is to give you some ideas to play with for three days. So you generate all these images – painting, playing, and printing, and then you get the assignment. By then you have all this richness to pull from to put into your work. It’s like a visual brainstorm. A lot of my students try to visualize their work upfront. For me, that’s the hardest way to work because it’s almost impossible unless you’re putting down cliché images.
LH: Your motto is: “an idea can turn from dust to magic depending upon the talent that rubs up against it.” Anonymous.
JS: I found that quote years and years ago on the back of a Reader’s Digest when they used to have quotes instead of ads. That was a long time ago. That just stuck with me. It’s not just the idea of talent – because I know talent is hard work, practice, taking chances, and never giving up. It’s the whole idea of something going from nothing to something that just intrigued me. So that stayed with me.
LH: Tell me about the kind of work you’re doing…
JS: Layered mixed media pieces. I’ve always loved collage work but I’ve never really delved into much because I was so concerned about copyright. Years ago I found an online class that taught me how to make repeat patterns digitally. It occurred to me that I could use my own patterns and collage. To me that makes it even more special because I can go back and forth between creating and designing just the right pattern for the work. So I collage those onto the background and I paint my image on top. I go back and forth between adding layers. It becomes something that’s interesting to look at because of the intricacies that are happening in the background. I like people to get engaged in the work and not think, ‘Oh, that’s nice and move on.’ So, that’s really a fun thing to do. You don’t have total control over it because of the way patterns fall.
My other work is acrylic pour, which is really popular right now. It’s a technique where you totally have to let go of control. The paint kind of does its own thing because of the makeup of the paint and the additives in it. Sometimes the paintings are great the way they are. But a lot of times I go back in and embellish and paint. Sometimes I collage on them. It all depends on how it speaks to you as an artist.
LH: You were part of the Bainbridge Island Studio Tour
JS: I’ve done the winter studio tour twice. The best thing that happened last year was this little girl who came in with an older gentleman. She’s looking at everything and then they leave. About two hours later she comes bouncing in across the room and goes to the same paintings. The one she wanted had sold, but I pointed her to another one. It turns out she gets to pick one item in the whole show for her collection and that year she picked mine! That was a great experience. I love the people that come by. It’s so well organized and so positive, I’ll definitely do it again.
LH: You’re also involved in saving foxes
JS: On my Facebook feed I started getting videos about these gorgeous foxes from this rescue place in Minnesota. As soon as I saw them I thought, I have to paint these foxes. So I contacted them asking if they’d be interested in prints for tote bags or mugs. They were completely open to it. Now we have Finnegan Fox, who’s such a character – a beautiful red fox. They rescue foxes from fur farms and they can’t let them out into the wild.
LH: You’re very good at pet portraits.
JS: Thank you, I love doing pet portraits. A lot of the times it’s a portrait of a pet that’s passed on. It’s one of the times when someone sees your art and they cry, you know you’ve done a good job. Our pets are so important to us. I feel like I get to know them even though I’ve never met them.
LH: What draws people to art?
JS: One of things I learned from the online classes is: People will buy your joy! They’ll be attracted to it. It’s not always about selling, but artists do a happy dance when someone buys their work. If you’re not in love with what you’re doing and having some joy in it, how can you expect other people to find joy in it?
LH: When you look back, what comes up?
JS: I don’t have any regrets – I just wish I wasn’t such a procrastinator! I do try to have balance in my life. It’s all been such a blessing. I believe when you’ve been given these abilities, you need to be able to do something with them. The other thing is I was given parents who always gave me an art and music related gift for birthdays and Christmases. That helped nurture me. I also had an aunt and a grandpa that used to sit and draw with me when I was little. So all those things are important.
LH: What do you see in the future?
JS: I see myself continuing to experiment and have fun with my work. I hope it’ll brighten people’s lives – that’s one of my goals. I love the process. I always taught my students that sometimes the process is more important than what the goal is. To get to the good stuff you have to go through that process, and you understand that as an artist.
LH: How can people contact you?
ABOUT LONE HANSEN. Lone is an artist who has owned several galleries in San Francisco, Seattle, and Bainbridge Island. She currently lives in Poulsbo where she is a member of the Poulsbo Arts League. During this pandemic and through her interactions with fellow artists, Lone has been creating art, gaining daily inspiration, cooking, and is taking care of dogs again. “I like this new normal,” she said. “It’s good for me – it is.” Lone has been “downsizing” her entire life – not just her studio, but her “whole life.” “It’s good to remember a life well lived,” she reflected. “Never boring, and it’s got me to where I am today.”