CAMANO ISLAND — The best thing about a visit to Jack Gunter’s art studio is that Gunter hangs out and likes to chat.
If you time it right, you may get the story about his infamous trip to Russia or an explanation about his exhibit wall filled with paintings of fat men practicing yoga. A former science teacher, the artist produces brilliant egg tempera paintings often laced with social commentary.
Gunter is this year’s poster artist for the 21st annual self-guided and free Camano Island Studio Tour.
One of the founders of the studio tour, Gunter said the original idea was that the look at local artists at work was a way to attract people who spend money to the island, while keeping Camano’s rural sensibilities intact.
“So about 10,000 studio tourists descend on Camano to see great art in beautiful locales,” Gunter said. “On the Monday after the tour, the island goes back to being quiet. It’s a miracle. I am proud of what we created.”
More artists live on Camano than when the tour began, and it’s more developed now, too. For a feel of Camano 20 years ago, start the tour all the way at the south end of the island, where Gunter’s studio is located. In fact, the Camano Arts Association, producer of the tour, suggests that you start there. In the past, some tour-goers haven’t made it all the way to Gunter’s place, he said.
From the south end, you can work your way north in one day or even return the following weekend to finish up. The tour is offered May 10, 11, 12, 18 and 19.
Studio No. 1 on the tour belongs to Gunter’s friend and neighbor, the great watercolorist John Ringen. The Everett native’s impressionistic work is jam-packed into his studio. The exhibit includes paintings from a recent trip to Alaska, as well as a few of his abstracts from his earlier years.
Near his easel, a dozen clay jars hold brushes from many years of creative work. A longtime commercial artist, Ringen always found time to paint and teach art. He is an award-winning member of the Northwest Watercolor Society.
“John is one of the most accomplished artists on the tour. At age 90, he still paints about four hours a day,” Gunter said.
Ringen returns the compliment: “My friendship with Jack provides the motivation to keep painting.”
Gunter’s is studio No. 2, and Sunnyshore Studio up the road is No. 3.
At Sunnyshore, you will find work by the family of Ann Cory, Fanny Y. Cory, Jack Dorsey and Jason Dorsey. Jack is a renowned Northwest watercolorist, Fanny is an illustrator, Jason integrates his art and writing, and Ann works in acrylics. Another family member, Jed Dorsey, has opened his new studio (No. 26) on the north end of the island.
Studio No. 4 belongs to talented glass artist Lee Beitz, who makes kiln-formed jewelry and functional glass art.
Tour stop No. 5 is at artist Karla Matzke’s Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park. Matzke, another of the Camano tour founders, has put up a spring show that runs through June 9.
Featured at Matzke’s gallery are works by Snohomish County artist of the year Janie Olsen; painters Gary Giovane, Diane Hill, Barbara Noonan and others; and sculptors Dan Freeman, Deborah McCunn, Sue Taves, Kentaro Kojima and many others.
“It’s great to see how the studio tour has grown,” Matzke said. “This year is one of our best and most diverse tours yet.”
Sally Chang’s ceramic studio is No. 6 on the tour. She calls her work “perfectly imperfect hand-built pottery.”
Studio No. 7, the last on this list of south Camano stops, belongs to popular oil painter and potter Susan Cohen Thompson, and also features the work of her friend Marguerite Goff, who works in raku, stoneware and porcelain.
Enjoy the tour, especially on the south end. And especially with the poster boy.
If you go
The Camano Island Studio Tour is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 10-12, 18-19. Visit 32 places on Camano and in the Stanwood area.
More information and map at www.camanostuditour.com. Brochures with maps are available at the information center at Terry’s Corner.