Sharing a love of color

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Two artists who share a passion for color and form will fuse their interests with a September art show at the Second Story Gallery. Will Ray of Vancouver is a dedicated watercolorist, while friend Luane Penarosa of Washougal is branching out into oils.

Their show, “Kaleidoscope,” will feature their different mix of artistic styles, but also similarities in their love of color, and dedication to their craft.

“It takes me a long time to paint,” Ray said. “We’re both planners, we paint a little, then look at it, then decide what to do next.”

Penarosa, 68, said she gets a lot of composition advice from Ray, 66, who has been painting for 25 years and has an art history degree.

“I visualize what I want, then I go for it,” she said. “Both of us really like color and form, and that’s why we named our show ‘Kaleidoscope.’ It is all coming together.”

The two met in an independent watercolor studies class at Clark College six years ago and had an instant connection.

“We both love precise application of color and making the colors flow together,” Ray said.

Art has been a decades long passion for him, but Penarosa didn’t begin her foray into the creative world until a cold, dark night six years ago.

She had recently moved to the area from Hawaii, and was having a hard time adjusting to the winter weather.

That’s when she decided to get out of the house and take a basic drawing class through Washougal Community Education.

“I was hooked,” Penrosa said. “I had never done much in the way of art before, just a doodle here or there. After that class, I took a watercolor course at Clark College and just kept working at it.”

She and Ray both belong to a loosely affiliated group of artists who critique each others’ work, as well as get away three or four times a year for retreats in various places. There, they paint for three or four days in a row, uninterrupted by schedules, spouses or children.

“Sometimes I have to tell people to breathe, it gets so quiet,” Penarosa joked.

It was during one such trip to Soap Lake in Grant County, Wash., that Ray found the inspiration for his work, “Forgotten Corner of the Bar,” which will be shown at the gallery.

“We walked into this antique shop and there were these old wheels just leaning against a wall,” he said. “They were all interlocked and looked very interesting.”

The painting has won several awards at regional art competitions, including best in show and first place.

Penarosa is showing a piece titled, “Losing My Marbles,” which she jokes was happening as she was trying to get the colors to flow in her work.

“We’ve all been there, where we feel we’re about to lose it,” she said. “I was about to lose it with that painting, but then I took a break, came back and got it to look the way I wanted it to.”

Both Penarosa and Ray worked in occupations where they didn’t use their creative side very often. He is retired from WaferTech in Camas, and she worked as an aircraft dispatcher in Hawaii.

“Now, I’m totally creative right brain,” she jokes. “Well, almost. I’m still precise about color application.”

Ray, who is similar in artistic temperament, smiled.

“We’re both particular about it,” he said.

In addition to being an artist, he teaches watercolor painting to others in the Vancouver area. He is also a member of the Northwest Washington Watercolor Society and Society of Washington Artists, and treasurer for the Southwest Washington Watercolor Society.

Ray has participated in several shows over the years, whereas the First Friday reception will be a new experience for Penarosa, although she does have her work in a Hawaii gallery, Eclectic Images.

“This show is kind of like my coming out,” she said. “It tickles me. I like a challenge. I’m hoping friends will come and see the growth in my painting.”

Ray said he enjoys showing his work and seeing friends.

“I love it,” he said. “And there is always so much stimulating conversation that happens, too. If you like bright, uplifting paintings, this is the place to come.”

He added that his favorite aspect of painting is how engaging it becomes.

“You just lose yourself,” he said. “You lose track of time and it‘s very calming. I like taking a white sheet of paper and turning it into something else.”

Penarosa said she enjoys the challenge of improving her work.

“I like the chance to create something unique and different,” she said. “I really just have fun with it.”