A Colorful Life

Camas artist Skip Enge prepares for his ‘Themes’ art show, 65th birthday bash

If you go:

What: “Themes,” an art show featuring watercolors and poetry by Camas artist Skip Enge

When: Art show runs April 3-30, with an artist’s reception/65th birthday bash from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, April 6

Where: Stevenson Community Library, 120 N.W. Vancouver Ave., Stevenson, Washington

More information: To learn more about the art show, call the Stevenson Library at 509-427-5471

Artist Skip Enge, a lifelong resident of Camas-Washougal and a substitute art teacher in the Washougal School District, will host a show of his watercolors, titled, "Themes," April 3-30 at the Stevenson Community Library, 120 N.W. Vancouver Ave., Stevenson.

"Avatar" (Courtesy of Skip Enge)

Local artist Skip Enge painted this Lacamas Lake scene in 1974. In 2016, he painted the same view, from the same perspective (pictured above), to capture the area's growth over the past 40 years. (Courtesy of Skip Enge)

"Cabin Fever" (Courtesy of Skip Enge)

"Archemides" (Courtesy of Skip Enge)

"Coins" (Courtesy of Skip Enge)

"Voice" (Courtesy of Skip Enge)

Asked recently if he would like to meet in his studio, local artist Skip Enge had a good chuckle.

“That’s funny,” he says. “A studio! I don’t have one of those.”

Whenever someone assumes Enge works out of a professional studio, he sends a photo of his real work space — usually a chair in the corner of his girlfriend, Ellen’s, living room, or a lawn chair on the spacious Camas property where he and Ellen garden and where Enge does a great deal of plein air painting on good-weather days.

Of course, it doesn’t really matter where Enge works. The art he produces speaks for itself.

“I’ve sold a lot of work over the years, but by no means have I made enough to (have an art studio),” Enge says. “This is just something within me that pushes me to keep creating — primarily for me, in my drive to grow and keep learning. There is no end to that.”

A Camas native, Enge remembers his hometown as a small, mill town with no more than 5,000 residents. He grew up in a mill family, graduated from Camas High in 1971, and, Enge says, spent the next 50 years immersed in art and creativity.

“I knew early on (that) art was going to be what drove me,” Enge writes in an artist’s statement that will accompany his upcoming “Themes” art show in Stevenson. “I spent a career as a museum exhibit designer, illustrator, graphic designer, fabricator and creator of solutions for museums and collections. All the while, I always painted.”

When he’s not painting, Enge, a father of two grown children and grandfather, can usually be found immersed in one of his other passions — writing poetry, some of which accompanies or inspires his paintings; growing his own food, including hundreds of various heirloom tomatoes, in his garden; spending time in nature; working as a part-time paraeducator and substitute art teacher in the Washougal School District; delving into local politics; and even collaborating on a series of songs with Richard Krieger, also known as “Crane,” a vocalist and trumpeter who played and recorded with the iconic American punk band, Minutemen, on several albums.

“It’s fun and satisfying,” Enge says of writing poems for “Crane” to turn into songs. “We’ve done about 17 songs together.”

Of his slightly out of control music-collecting habit, Enge laughs and says he “has a sickness,” then tells a story about the time he went to a party with his then-wife and struck up a conversation about music with another party-goer. By the time the two had exhausted their knowledge of music and bands, Enge looked around and realized everyone else was gone, the hosts had turned out the lights and his wife was outside in their car waiting for him and shining the car’s headlights into the dark house.

Skilled in all aspects of art, Enge has concentrated primarily on watercolors for the past 35 years. He will show several watercolor paintings at his “Themes” show at the Stevenson Community Library throughout the month of April.

Enge, who turns 65 at the end of March, will be the guest of honor at an artist reception/birthday party from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, April 6, at the Stevenson Library, 120 N.E. Vancouver Ave., Stevenson, Washington. His “Themes” show will be on display at the library through April 30.

Pulling together an art show is nothing new for this Camas native. Enge had his first art show at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library in 1974, and has since had about 40 solo shows throughout the region. His work hangs in corporate and public buildings across Southwest Washington and Oregon, including the Southwest Washington Regional Surgery Center, the Oregon Historical Society and numerous law offices in Vancouver.

For the upcoming Stevenson “Themes” show, Enge focused on three different themes important to his life and created paintings and poems to depict the following themes:

  • “The Soft Machine” represents the body and Enge took influence from a 1968 William S. Burroughs’ book, The Soft Machine, and was intrigued by the book’s premise — “how control mechanisms invade the body.”
  • “Cathedral” stands for belief. Enge says this series of paintings may “pose questions about belief, faith and reality through imagery,” and adds that he always encourages viewers to find their own meanings in his paintings.
  • “Seasons End,” a collection of botanical watercolors that Enge, a devoted gardener, painted using inspiration from his own gardens, represent nature. “I love nothing better than painting on a warm, summer day,” Enge says. “I love the seasonal stages of the living things around me.”