Artist finds inspiration on Camano Island

CAMANO ISLAND — Pollen had a lot to do with it.

If not for his physical reaction to the grass seed fields of John Ebner’s native Oregon, the prolific watercolorist might otherwise be a farmer somewhere in the Willamette Valley.

As a kid, Ebner’s asthma kept him inside during pollen season. He remembers a coloring book given to him to keep him occupied. He started drawing at an early age and fell in love with landscapes and color.

Good thing for the people who love his art.

Ebner’s impressionistic painting “Island Memories” is the poster art for this year’s Camano Island Studio Tour on Mother’s Day weekend and the following Saturday and Sunday.

Forty-some artists, 30 studios and three galleries are on the self-guided free tour. Tourists will see ceramics, glass, furnishings, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, sculpture and textiles.

The tour is Camano Island’s biggest event, attracting thousands of people, said glass artist Mary Simmons of the Camano Arts Association.

“Some people bring their mothers each year and haven’t missed a tour yet,” Simmons said.

Camano has more than its share of award-winning or well-known artists. The beaches, the forests and the views inspire many, including Ebner.

“Everywhere you look, there is inspiration,” Ebner said. “Camano is perfect for an artist like me.”

After high school, Ebner studied advertising art in Portland, then worked in sales and marketing for Hunter Douglas window coverings.

Ebner and his wife and business partner Paula moved in the early 1970s to Bellevue, where they were introduced to the arts and crafts festival there. Ebner remembered how much he liked art.

“Soon after Paula signed me up for a watercolor class. I was hooked and I studied with the best,” Ebner said. “I learned that watercolor has a mind of its own and that sometimes you have to just go with it. Pretty soon I was showing and selling my work at the arts fair.”

The couple moved to the northwest corner of Camano Island in 1998. Ebner is a founding member of the Camano Arts Association and a strong supporter of the studio tour.

Now 72, Ebner is as busy as ever. He paints each day, often from photos he takes just down the road.

He works on his computer and he has a new, huge printer in his studio, allowing him to produce limited-edition prints of his iconic Northwest landscape paintings of Camano Island, Deception Pass, Mount Rainier, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and people walking in the rain on ocean beaches and in downtown Seattle.

Ebner also produces his art on aluminum and glass, experiments with alcohol ink and acrylics, and he and Paula have created an artistic garden, which tour-goers also will see.

The tour’s featured artist this year is Karla Matzke, who will show her pastels. Her fine art gallery and 10-acre outdoor sculpture park on the south end of Camano have been an island destination for years. More than 80 artists are included in the gallery and sculpture park.

Also special this year is a retrospective of the art of the late printmaker Fred Pilkington at Forte Art on the north end of the island.

Another Camano artist and teacher John Delzell, 60, died from a heart attack on April 26. While his studio (No. 10 in the tour brochure) will be closed this year, some of his art will be featured at Studio 22. A tribute to Delzell’s life and art is planned for next year’s tour. A funding website for his wife and young daughter has been set up at

Camano Island Studio Tour 2015 from Johannes Happonen on Vimeo.

Artists on this year’s tour include Yonnah Ben, Chaim Bezalel-Levy, Sally Chang, Roger Cocke, Dian Dangler, Beverly Reaume, Marguerite Goff, Dale LeMaster, Susan Cohen Thompson, Lee Beitz, Marc Boutte’, Mark Ellinger, Ray Fossum, Dolors Ruscha, Mary Simmons, Kathy Dannerbeck, Marie-Claire Dole, Patti Pontikis, Liane Redpath, Gail Thein, Dotti Burton, Marilyn Crandall, Linda Demetre, Sylvia Domoto, Betty Dorotik, Jed Dorsey, John Ebner, Joan Enslin, Jack Gunter, Liz Hamlin, Diane Hill, Dan Koffman, Molly LeMaster, Karla Matzke, Bobbie Mueller, Janie Olsen, Robert Paczkowski, Frank Renlie, John Ringen, Helen Saunders, Pamela Searcy, Wayne Simmons, Sue Uhrich, Kathy Hastings, Terence Rabbitt, Nick Seegert, Chris Tuohy, Jeanne Wolfington, Bill Matheson, Pamela Searcy Wayne Simmons, Sue Taves, Kathy Edelman Hutchinson, Terri Jo Summer and Russ Riddle.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; Twitter: @galefiege.

If you go

The free 17th annual Camano Island Studio Tour is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 8, 9, 10, 16 and 17 on the island and near Stanwood. The best way to start the self-guided tour is with a stop at Windermere Real Estate, Terry’s Corner, 818 N. Sunrise Blvd., on the island for a brochure and map. Or you can download the brochure and map from

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