Art Town: Putting together art — and artists

Artist Sue Robertson is a collector. She has an amazing art collection, acquiring paintings and sculpture that inspires and delights her. This is a great help to struggling artists that crave not just admirers but sales. It is the lifeblood of the painter to sell enough art if only to buy more paint.

Sue also collects something else that has a positive effect on our art community. Sue puts artists together in ways that build friendships and careers. One such activity is a monthly get-together of 7 artists at her home workplace, Joyful Art Studio.

I am lucky to be in the fold. Sue’s never-ending curiosity and experimentation in her own art has influenced me greatly. I met her 12 years ago at Artists Connect, a local artist’s networking group that meets in Edmonds. Painters Lynn Hanson, Mona Smiley-Fairbanks and Nancy Thompson were also there. As the group’s name implies, we connected. One of the first things a few of us collaborated on was starting the Edmonds Art Studio Tour, which is getting ready to celebrate it’s 11th year. You’ll be able to find most of us on the tour this September. But there is more….

During that same time frame, Sue was also a member of Parklane Gallery, a co-op of artists showing and selling their art in Kirkland. There she met Donna Wallace and Angela Bandurka. Wallace remembers, “I met Sue at Parklane Gallery, on my first day there. I was a new artist and it was my first time showing my work and meeting other artists. I was like a deer in the headlights, overwhelmed by everything. She came up to me and helped guide me through my first meeting. She took me under her wing, I have no idea why, but I’ve been grateful to her ever since.”

Tracy Felix, Sue Robertson, Angela Bandurka-Hoskins, Mona Smiley-Fairbanks, Nancy Thompson, Donna Wallace. (Lynn Hanson not pictured.)

Sue then established Joyful Art Studio as a place to collaborate and share. Because she finds her studio more joyful with other artists there, she invited some of us to join her once a month to paint, and yes — have coffee and lunch. Current members are Sue Robertson, Nancy Thompson, Lynn Hanson, Mona Smiley-Fairbanks, Donna Wallace, Angela Bandurka, and lucky me — Tracy Felix — painting and chatting and collaborating.

“Our group starting meeting once a month approximately ten years ago, and it is still an inspiration and a safe place to have your work critiqued.  Painters normally work alone, and it is important to connect with other painters occasionally to discuss your experiences and the work you are currently doing.  It is interesting to observe the creative pulse when you get seven artists together.” Robertson explains.

Angela Bandurka backs that up with, “Art is usually a solo endeavor, so having a monthly group of artists to bounce ideas off of, to vent to about industry frustrations, and commiserate with on life’s ups and downs is invaluable. We may each be different in our regular lives but we share a passion for making art that brings us together in a way nothing else could.”

The support we offer each other gives us professional depth not just as painters. Individual aspirations have gone in many directions. Amongst our group we have a gallery owner and an art store owner, leaders in local art events, art installations, representation in various galleries and publications, and several of us teach.

As it happens, this group of painters are women. We struggle over that as artists; does it define us? Icon painter Helen Frankenthaler lamented, “Looking at my paintings as if they were painted by a woman is superficial, a side issue.”

Lynn Hanson working at Joyful Art Studio.

Group member Lynn Hanson brings up the fact we are women painters, but it is only one of several bonds we have, “Being part of a group of women who are diverse, and yet supportive, of each other’s individual styles has meant so much to me, creating a depth of feeling that has come from knowing each other for many years.”

When you look at art movements of the past, you will always find a group of artists at the center of it. As with many professions, artists naturally seek out counterparts. The desire to put together “shows” of our collective work is undeniable. Where would the French impressionists be if they had not put together those first three shows outside of the established salon? In that spirit, when our group was offered a chance to show together — June 21-July 21, at the Art Festival Gallery here in Edmonds — we accepted wholeheartedly.

The newly minted official name for our group is NW7, as we are solidly Northwest and seven painters. We are all creating new work, four paintings each, for this show. Although we have a lot in common, each artist is deep enough into her career to have established a definitive style.

Look for “Same but Different” to open June 21 — the week after the Edmonds Art Festival. However, you don’t have to wait to see these artist’s work. Our artwork is sprinkled all over the area at local shops and galleries.

If you are a creative soul, I would encourage you to attend the free monthly meetings at Artist Connect, meet some like-minded artists, and start a group. Mona Smiley-Fairbanks sums it up nicely, “Having a community of artists to work alongside has given me an appreciation of the local art vibe and encouraged me to grow my imagination.” Well said. And thank you Sue for NW7.

Artist Connect meets at the Art Works building at 2nd and Dayton in Edmonds the fourth Saturday of every month. 10am-Noon. Free. All are welcome. For more information go to

NW7: Same but Different Opens with Artist’s Reception for June 21 Art Walk

Arts Festival Gallery

Anderson Cultural Center

700 Main Street

Show Dates June 21-July 21

— By Tracy Kay Felix

Tracy Felix is currently the President of the Downtown Edmonds Merchant Association, and co-owner of ARTspot.

  1. Great inspiring article, Tracy! It really spoke to me, being the solo artist that I am, knowing I need community with other artists if I ever expect to grow as one. I look forward to seeing your NW7:Same But Different show. You are truly a group of formidable artists! Bravo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.