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Sketch Pad

Amy Stoner
Accentuating the positive
by Kathy Anderson

orn in Montebello, a small suburb of L.A., Amy Stoner grew up with either a crayon or a paintbrush in her hand. Her parents moved the family to Beaverton, Ore., when Amy was 12. After five years of college in Eugene, Ore., then two years in Seattle, she returned to the Portland area in 2000. Amy lives and paints in the University Park neighborhood of North Portland.

Hidden meanings
The images in Amy Stoner's art come from her imagination rather than photographs or models. They're her interpretation of the object, so she tries not to get caught up in how it's supposed to look. Instead, Amy focuses on her feelings about the subject and her memories from a lifetime of looking at things.

"Raven Shows Me The Way," acrylic on recycled wood board.

"I really strive to be a positive person and to focus on the positive in life through my art," she said. "I create works that speak for me of my feelings and dreams and musings, though it's often hidden deep within the work and not something easily 'read' on the surface."

Amy is drawn to both the human form and the shapes and lines found in nature. Her pieces celebrate the seasons or tell a story of time or spirituality.

"I have always been fascinated with the human body and celebrating it as beauty rather than erotic taboo," she said. "And where some artists create a piece that captures 'the whole,' I enjoy focusing on a specific area."

"They're almost like icons for our age, some images so readily recognizable, yet still beautiful and unique in their variances," she said. "I like to weave in the associations we have with these iconic images – from the ever-present female nude to those referring to celestial bodies and the passing of time."

Line by line
Amy prefers acrylics to oils because they're water based and dry quickly.

"Dreamer," acrylic on canvas.

"When I paint, it's all about the moment and the mood, so I'm not in a position to let something dry for a week before working on it more, or not to accidentally drop some sort of solvent all over my apron," she said.

"Acrylics are so versatile you can get thick impastos or thin watery glazes from one paint."

Color is also important to Amy in that it has the power to set a mood and express emotion. Her examples include: the lines of color of a Van Gogh, the emotion of a Frida Kahlo painting, and the movement and moodiness of Toulouse-Lautrec's pieces focusing on the nightlife of the Moulin Rouge.

"Birch Moon," acrylic on recycled formica board.

"And linear art! I think that grabs me even more than the perfectly shaded and modeled shape," she said. "I fell in love at a young age with the lines and graphic quality of Alphonse Mucha. Also, the sketches of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

"That expressive line indicating shape and volume in a simple mark is what gets me weak in the knees!"

Changing tunes
Amy's first artistic undertaking involved a small box of watercolors and the decorative white rocks surrounding her mother's garden.

"I must have thought those rocks looked pretty bland, because I would spend hours outside painting them different colors," she said. "I was always so upset when the rain would wash it all off."

Amy's parents lavished their only child with creative attention. Her mother would sit with Amy and color and play with Play-Doh for hours; her dad was always there to help with the Legos.

"My dad is a woodworker and creates some great pieces of unique furniture for friends and family," she said. "Mom is like me – she has so many creative hobbies it's hard to keep track of them all!"

"High Desert Valley," acrylic on recycled wood.

This positive, nurturing environment is where Amy believes she got her drive to finally embrace art as her focus.

She took years of voice lessons and was planning to study music at the University of Oregon with the intent of becoming a professional classical vocalist – until she actually went to college and her passion for singing disappeared.

"I dropped the music major and went on to costume design in the theatre department since it was more creative and hands-on," she said.

It wasn't until Amy was almost finished with her degree that she realized she'd been putting off the inevitable. She stayed an additional year to double major in theatre and fine art.

"Though it took a while to get there, it was the best decision I made," she said. "I only wish I could have focused on art all along."

Amy studied graphic art and drawing. She started painting just a few years ago, and though her basic design courses in college helped a tremendous amount, she's entirely self-taught when it comes to painting.

"I've also been pursuing printmaking along with my painting and I find that they complement each other nicely," she said. "I'm especially fond of relief printing and monotypes."

"Ravens First Flight," linoleum block cutting print.

Trash to treasure
Amy is participating in the Southeast Area Artwalk March 5-6. She'll be showing with two other artists at 2337 SE Brooklyn, between Powell and Clinton.

"I'll have a selection of my original work along with limited edition prints and some new pieces of printmaking that I've been working on," she said.

"I've been doing some relief printmaking and monotypes as well. This will be my first time showing some of that work."

In August Amy will have a solo show at Keystone Gallery on Northeast Alberta. The show, put on by the School and Community Reuse Action Project (SCRAP), will focus on pieces she's done using recycled materials, like paintings on wood and printmaking using recycled objects.

Amy is an art director on SCRAP's board of directors. SCRAP is a non-profit that collects reusable items from local businesses and distributes them to educators, artists, families and kids.

"We work with creating new things out of recycled materials," she said. "It's a great resource for artists who are looking to incorporate recycled objects into their work, and a wonderful asset to the creative community in Portland. I love every moment I spend there!"

"Bloom," acrylic and mixed media on canvas.

Amy's studio is in her home. She doesn't have set hours for visitors, but welcomes appointments any time. Her work can also be seen on her Web site.

"I have a new project called 'image of the week,' where I upload a finished painting, a rough sketch from a notebook or another creative project," she said. "I use it as an opportunity to share another side of me, a not-so-finished, professional side, but something fresh and fun and in varying steps of completeness."

Happy days
Amy went from a full-time job to a part-time position in order to focus on her art and creativity. She's never been happier.

"I feel more complete and grounded and connected with the earth and the natural world when I make art," she said.

Her biggest goal with her artwork is to be able to keep making it for the rest of her life.

"A Crowd Gathers," acrylic on canvas.

"If I can manage that and still be able to live well and pay my bills, then I consider it success!" she said.

When selling her work at First Thursday in the Pearl District, Last Thursday on Alberta or other art festivals, Amy especially likes the interaction with people.

"I enjoy seeing young children reveling in their creativity or a young couple buying something they love to grace their first home with," she said.

"I hope that with each painting I create and sell, I can share a bit of myself and my joy with the world."

ATTENTION ARTISTS: Portland Open Studios is accepting applications and slides for the 2005 October tour. Ninety-six metro-area artists will be chosen to open their studios to the public. Applications due March 15. Check out www.portlandopenstudios.com.

E-mail Amy at freya24@earthlink.net and visit her Web site. You can reach Kathy at kanderson138@comcast.net, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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