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Washougal Studio Artists Tour offers inside look at creative spaces this weekend

Visitors can tour nine Washougal art studios from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 7-8

Contrivuted photo courtesy Suzanne Grover Washougal artist Suzanne Grover works mostly with pastel, acrylic and watercolor, specializing in pictures of wildlife and portraits of horses and pets.

Washougal artist Suzanne Grover often portrays pets in her artwork. Grover is one of several artists participating in the Washougal Studio Artists Tour, May 7-8, 2022.

Contrivuted photo courtesy Suzanne Grover Washougal artist Suzanne Grover works mostly with pastel, acrylic and watercolor, specializing in pictures of wildlife and portraits of horses and pets.

Washougal artist Suzanne Grover’s life changed on Feb 28, 2021. 

That was the day her doctors told Grover she had stage-four small-cell lung cancer. 

The diagnosis came as a shock to Grover, a lifelong nonsmoker, but she refused to think of the news as a death sentence. 

Instead, Grover went to her radiation appointments strengthened by three things: her faith; an outpouring of support from friends and family members; and her passion for art. 

“Art was a litmus for how I was feeling,” the Washougal resident and lifelong artist said. “As I started to get stronger, I started to do more art. Then it became, obviously, a therapy, too. I started glomming onto opportunities to do something creative at least every day. It was always kind of a dark day when I wasn’t able to. It gave me something familiar to turn to, something positive and optimistic that could make me say, ‘I can get through this.’”

Today, Grover said she feels “almost normal.” She is creating artworks nearly every day and is in the process of expanding the Washougal studio, SStudio C, she shares with her sister, Charlene Hale. 

This week, Grover is looking forward to participating as a featured artist in the annual Washougal Studio Artists Tour.

The tour, which invites members of the public into artists’ studios to better understand local artists’ creative process, will be held this weekend, from from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 7-8, at nine studio locations in Washougal.

“I’ve been involved in (the tour) from the very beginning, and just to see the different faces come through is pretty amazing,” Grover said. “You always find your friends who come through, but it’s nice to have new people that don’t know you come to your studio and ask questions and get to know you. My studio is evolving right now, so it’s not a solid space yet, but I hope to have a space that’s nice and comfortable in the next year.”

Grover is a multimedia artist, currently working with pastel, acrylic and watercolor. She mostly draws pictures of wildlife and paints portraits of horses and pets. 

“I have a strong connection with animals — I’m most attracted to the majesty and power of the horse,” she wrote on the Washougal Studio Artists Tour website. “And even when in a relaxed state, cats exude an electricity that pulls me in like a tractor beam. The eyes are the most critical to perfect to show if it’s a lazy, chill moment, or a fight-or-flight one.” 

“Pet portraits are a challenge, especially to get the expression just right. I did a portrait for my best friend, Nancy. Her black cat, Snowball, was painted on black paper with just the highlights of his shiny coat faintly showing, but his dancing eyes leap from the page.”

Grover also sells photo cards of several of her pieces. And when she wants to play with a lot of color, she creates acrylic pour paintings, paint jewelry, bookmarks and ornaments. 

“I love the feeling of bringing a pet’s life to paper with chalk,” she said. “It’s really been great to refine that to a level of realism where people look at (a piece of my art) and do a double-take or triple-take to see if it’s a photograph or not. That’s a compliment, it really is. It’s been fun to see my own work advance and to see peoples’ reactions to it, especially when they get their own pet in a portrait. It’s pretty fun. I never worked with pastels when I was a young student artist — I worked with watercolors and acrylics. I didn’t know how precise I could be with pastel until I really started to work with it, and it’s amazing how much detail you can put into a painting with just chalk.”

Grover started drawing pictures of horses when she was a young girl, partly inspired by her grandmother, an oil painter. She took art classes in high school and entered college as an graphics art major, but “didn’t click” with the subject and moved on to landscape architecture.

She set her art aside until 2007, when her mother invited her to go to an acrylic art class. After that she “started painting all the time.”

“That’s when it really started again for me,” she said. “I went from acrylic to watercolor to pastel. I bounded around to all of those in different levels. It’s hard to explain (why you love something) when you have that talent that runs in your family. My mom and I (recently) went to Hobby Lobby, and we had to walk down certain aisles, seeing the color blending on the papers and the paints and the tubes and everything, it’s kind of like a fix, or a drug. I don’t know if that makes much sense when (you’re talking about) paint. But it just gets into your heart and you need to create.”

Grover tends to work on multiple smaller pieces at once in order to produce a large amount of work in a relatively short amount of time. Sometimes, she’ll work deep into the evening and not stop until midnight or 1 a.m. if she’s “really on a roll.”

“(My inspiration) does change piece by piece,” she said. “For example, I watched a documentary on crows, so then I became fascinated with crows and did three little pieces of crows right after another. Something just sparks my attention, like a particular songbird or the way I see a photograph of a horse, and I want to recreate it in a different way. Because I work with wildlife, that’s what I’m trend into for the most part. Living where I live and being around birds all the time and watching them out the window, I just become charged by that.”

Grover struggled to produce any artwork at all, however, after being diagnosed with cancer. But soon, her desire to create returned in a big way — and she learned to take advantage of it. 

“It took me a while to even be able to do art because I was sick for a while, and I just didn’t want to do anything,” she said. “But I was always craving (something, like), ‘I really need to create something.’ I had a little notebook, and I would start sketching things as I was feeling better. I feel like (my disease has) really opened my time up to be able to do more art. I do art almost every single day now.”

Grover said that she feels “really blessed” that her healing from cancer has gone so well over the past year. 

“I definitely feel better than I was just before I got diagnosed because I was really sick for a while before I went to the doctor,” she said. “I feel almost like I did before I got really sick, so that’s a really good sign. Every once in a while, I have a little hitch in my giddyup, but I’ve really gotten a lot stronger lately. I just had a PET scan (last month), so I’m pretty optimistic that the cancer is at or near downgraded to ‘disease.’”

Nowadays, Grover is again thinking about ways she can expand her artistic repertoire. 

“I have a pattern for a three-dimensional papier-mache horse that I’m interested in building and painting, so I’d like to move into that realm,” she said. “I want to try something new. I still have designs someday to paint on a big scale, and I don’t know if that means oil or acrylic, or even maybe getting into murals down the road. But not too soon. That’s a ways off for me, but that is an interest. I’m looking forward to not stopping where I am now, but continuing to advance and move into different areas where I can grow my art.”

Grover’s work can be viewed online at sstudioc.art and in person during this weekend’s studio artists tour. 

IF YOU GO:

What: Washougal Studio Artists Tour

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 7-8

Where: Nine artist studio locations throughout Washougal 

Who: Trish Johnston (watercolor and water media), Suzanne Grover (pastel, watercolor, paint pours, mixed media), Charlene Hale (fused glass), Sandy Moore (fabric collage, mixed media), Sharon Buckmaster (fiber arts jewelry), Stu Ager (organic metalwork design), Kathy Marty (hand woven eco-friendly rugs, home decor), Samuel Shrout (casted metal), Noah Anderson (wood vessels, urns, containers), Tamara Dinius (mixed media), Toni McCarthy (handmade beads and metals), Shirley Bishop (fused glass), Sharon Ballard (acrylic painting), Cyndee Starr (mixed media), India de Landa (resin, acrylic, metal jewelry), Anna Wiancko-Chasman (ceramics, mixed media), Char McHugh (ceramics) and Jean Hauge (watercolor, pastel, acrylic).

More information: Visit washougalstudioartists.org or facebook.com/washougalstudioartists