Camas artist Paul Solevad likes to “say just enough, but not too much” with his paintings. This way, people can let their own creativity run wild when they view Solevad’s work.
“I try to focus on traditional rules of painting in terms of color design,” Solevad said of his colorful paintings. “(But) they’re abstract enough that people can bring their own ideas into it.”
Though many artists rely on photographs for their paintings, Solevad prefers to sketch the landscapes that inspire him on his day hikes around Southwest Washington or during visits to places like Bellingham — where his eldest daughter, a recent Camas High graduate, attends college — or Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the colors remind him of his California childhood.
“We do a lot of day hikes, into the Gorge and to Bend once in a while and I draw a lot of inspiration from these areas,” Solevad said. “I’ll take a sketch and develop a painting from that.”
Solevad and his wife moved to the Pacific Northwest from San Francisco in the late 1990s, and settled in Camas in 2005. The couple raised two girls in Camas — their eldest graduated from Camas High in 2020 and their youngest is a student at Discovery High School. When he’s not working full-time as a color-matching specialist for a building materials distribution company, Solevad, who earned his can be found in his garage-turned-art-studio working on his paintings and oil pastel drawings.
After earning his bachelor of fine arts degree in 1992 from California Lutheran University, and studying for six months in Glasgow, Scotland, Solevad worked as a commercial and editorial illustrator before returning almost exclusively to his true passion — painting.
“I’ve been painting ever since I can remember,” Solevad said. “I used to do a lot of illustrations for Willamette Week in Portland and other newspapers throughout the country, but I felt like (painting) was ultimately what I wanted to be doing.”
The Camas artist has shown his work at galleries throughout the West Coast, including the Jupiter Gallery and Onda Gallery in Portland; the SOMAR Gallery and Artworks Co-op in San Francisco; and the Left Bank Gallery and Evans Visual Concepts Gallery in Jackson and Walnut Creek, Calif.
Solevad also has opened his Camas studio to the public during the annual Clark County Open Studios Tour, and is gearing up for the 2021 tour, which offers a chance to see 50 Clark County artists at work in their own studios this weekend, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6-7. The artists will preview their work at a reception and preview exhibit from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, at the Vancouver-based Art at the Cave gallery.
Solevad said he enjoys engaging with the people who come out for Artstra’s self-guided Clark County Open Studios tour.
“My studio is not entirely huge, but I usually am able to engage with each person for a few minutes and then there will be a space of time when I can paint or sit and draw,” Solevad said. “For me, it’s always been the right amount of people.”
The mix of Open Studios attendees also has pleased Solevad over the past few years.
“I enjoy talking with people (during the tour), whether it’s someone who collects art or someone who doesn’t really know anything about the arts,” Solevad said. “I love to show my work to people and meet a lot of other artists. And, if you get a sale here and there, that’s a bonus.”
The Clark County Open Studios Tour took a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Open Studios Director Jennifer Williams said in a news release that tour organizers were looking forward to celebrating local artists and artisans “in their native habitat” this weekend.
“This year we’ve taken special care to ensure that both the artists and visitors feel comfortable,” Williams said. “COVID safety precautions will be in place for each studio configuration. We’ll also have alternatives to the in-person tour. Artists will be sharing video demos online leading up to the tour, and after the tour many artists will be open for additional studio visits by appointment as well as for online shopping.”
Solevad is one of four Camas-Washougal artists taking part in the 2021 tour. Other local artists opening their studios this weekend include:
- (Artist No. 49) India de Landa: A contemporary jewelry artist who moved from Texas to Camas just two months before the pandemic began, de Landa told The Post-Record in 2020 she has never liked traditional gold or silver jewelry or precious gems.
“I like working with something brighter, bolder,” de Landa said of the materials — primarily plastics and aluminum – that make up her array of bright, bold, modernist necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
“My jewelry is bold yet elegant, with inspiration coming from abstract artists Mondrian, Kandinsky, Klimt and Herbin. My goal is to create art for those who want to make a statement,” de Landa said.
To learn more about de Landa’s art, visit indiadelanda.square.site or instagram.com/indiadelanda.
- (Artist No. 48) Cheryl Mathieson: The president of the Northwest Oil Painters Guild, Mathieson is known for her plein air paintings and is a regular at the annual, downtown Camas Plein Air painting event that precedes the Downtown Camas Association’s September First Friday celebration.
“Plein air painting was the creative hook that changed everything for me and has been driving my painting in recent years,” Mathieson notes in her Open Studios biography information. “Observing how weather affects the landscape and then working quickly to capture the effects alla prima (working wet on wet), all the while being immersed in nature, directly impacts my studio painting. Bringing the viewer into emotional resonance with a particular place is my focus.”
Describing herself as “primarily a landscape painter,” Mathieson said she also paints portraits and still-life paintings in her Camas studio.
“I focus on direct painting from life in a realistic, yet painterly style,” she noted.
To learn more about Mathieson, visit cherylmathieson.com.
- (Artist No. 50) Liz Pike: A self-taught artist who works from her art studio at her Fern Prairie farm located just north of Camas, Pike said in her artist biography she “continues to be inspired by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the lush gardens at her organic farm.”
Some of Pike’s recent work includes a series inspired by sunflowers, images of farm animals and a triptych of Mount Hood’s snow-capped peak.
To see more of Pike’s still-life and landscape paintings, visit LizPike.art.
The 2021 tour features 50 artists located throughout Clark County. The event kicks off from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, with a free opening reception and preview event at Art at the Cave, 108 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver. The exhibit will remain at Art at the Cave through the month of November.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6-7, the public can take a free, self-guided tour of the artist studios, using maps and artist profiles available online at artstra.org/open-studios.
Williams said the tour will give artists and art lovers a chance to reconnect after such a long period of isolation during the pandemic.
“Artists are resilient, always looking to learn new skills and finding ways to adapt. The results are prolific art making, new techniques, and some very powerful bodies of work,” Williams said. “Open Studios offers artists the missing link–an opportunity to reconnect with an audience on a personal level and share what they’ve been creating.”