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Sketch Pad

Marna Auclair
Painting with a touch of glass
by Kathy Anderson

Marna Auclair spent countless hours of her Southwest Washington youth scraping hulls, painting pilot houses and washing decks. Her grandmother was known as Tugboat Annie and her father -- a tugboat and ferryboat captain for more than 65 years -- owned the oldest independent ferry system in the nation, plus a marina and marine railway in Port Orchard. She often accompanied her father on tows -- sometimes taking over at the wheel. Though Marna doesn't come from a family of artists, she's produced a pair -- both daughter and son indulge. Marna and her husband live in Ridgefield, Wash.

"Northwest Raven No. 2"

Summer better than others
Marna Auclair's art goes through phases, and her latest is the result of a long-ago trip.

"In my late teens I spent a summer in Alaska with my dad, scouting long houses and fishing villages," she said. "The art was beautiful. What I do is contemporary and a little dark, and probably off the mark -- but then, so is the history of the Northwest Indian culture."

After several art-history classes and some independent studies of artists, Marna has a broad appreciation for art in many forms.

"There isn't any one artist that has influenced my work to a great degree," she said. "However, the Pacific Northwest has an amazing number of very fine artists." Some favorites include: Amy Burnett, Marshall Johnson and Jerry Stitt (painters), David Schwarz (glass), Beth Kohler (bronze), Steve Sauer (pottery) and Patrick Gracewood (sculptor).

Four of her paintings were at the LaCenter Art Festival in May.

Last month Marna showed two paintings at the Vancouver, Wash., Barnes & Noble, where she's scheduled for a one-woman show in November. She'll show about 15 pieces.

"I did oils for many years but find acrylic more workable," she said. "It's nice to scrape my canvas clean with oils, but acrylics are fast, clear and bright."

"Northwest Raven No. 1"

Unexplained desire
"I'm not sure why I was initially interested in art," she said. "I just always loved to draw and paint. We had good books and art in our home. But out of four girls, I'm the only one even the slightest bit interested in art."

So, at age 11, after protesting the requisite tap, ballet, gymnastics, piano and clarinet lessons, Marna asked her mother for art classes.

"I don't think in the 1950s we were too belligerent about what we wanted," she said. "But in mother's good wisdom, she found a private art teacher, Ms. Marry, a French lady with exquisite talent. Mother drove me 30 miles, two days a week, to learn the principles of fine art."

Her art education continued at South Kitsap High in Port Orchard and Olympic College in Bremerton, Wash. After two years of college, she spent six months in Los Angeles with friends.

"Returning to Washington, I married, went to work to put my husband through college and had my daughter," she said. "I didn't paint a lot during this time, but continued to show and sell and did a few commissioned pieces. I've picked up classes along the way and plan on taking fall classes in design, pottery, life drawing and watercolor at Washington State."

"Sailboat in Glass"

Window dressing
Marna's husband's involvement in the Three Mile Island cleanup brought her to Pennsylvania in the 1980s.

She learned to appreciate the stained glass prevalent in old churches and buildings.

"I took classes from a major glass artist in Harrisburg, Pa., and truly found my niche," she said. "Ever since, I've been busy creating art glass for many homes in Puget Sound and Clark County. Glass is much more time consuming than painting," she said, "but I enjoy it just as much. No two pieces of glass are ever the same and I always work from my own original designs."

Marna's stained glass is shown continually at the Sidney Gallery in Puget Sound, where she also had a one-woman show.

Art for the masses
Marna is also in her fourth year as president of the Ridgefield Art Association -- and extremely proud of what they've accomplished.

"We started in 1991 with amateur artists and now have 98 percent professionals showing," she said. "Every year gets better. This year we had 42 artists showing 400 pieces in metal and wood sculpture, glass art and photography.

"Umpqua Lighthouse"

"We also set aside space for Ridgefield High students to display their work. This is very important to us, since we give a scholarship to a graduating senior each year. As an art association, this is one of our main focuses."

Marna, deciding to concentrate on art full time, recently quit her bank job and is now involved in several community public art projects.

"Muralist Gene Ellis and I spearheaded an effort to bring new murals to Ridgefield," she said. "The project involved third-year art students at Ridgefield High. The murals were the seniors' board projects, which are required in order to graduate.

"As mentor to four students, I was required to supervise the project from start to finish. It was a treat."

Marna also spent the last six months working with Portland sculptor Patrick Gracewood on a piece of public art provided by a grant from the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington. Its unveiling is scheduled for October.

"Obviously, art is a huge part of my life," Marna said. "It defines who I am, adds dimension to my life and truly makes me content.

Reach Kathy at kanderson138@attbi.com, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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