After her husband, former Washougal School Board member Ron Dinius, moved to an assisted care facility in 2022, artist Tamara Dinius found herself alone on the couple’s 5-acre property in rural Washougal.
“It was sort of isolating,” she said. But over the past few months, Dinius hasn’t felt nearly as isolated as she used to feel, thanks to the presence and support of a few other local artists.
Tamara Dinius and five Clark County residents — Deborah Nagano, Angela Swanson, Regina Westmoreland, Elizabeth Nye and Ellen Nordgren — formed the Adret Artist Collective, a group of artists dedicated to creating unique, thought-provoking artwork that explores the boundaries of mixed media and multimedia techniques, earlier this year.
The artists share studio space at Dinius’ residence, where they feel free to come and go whenever they please.
“When I met these gals, it sort of became my ‘go-to,’” Dinius said. “Now I have people coming and going, and it’s just been lovely. For me, art is therapy. It’s how I work through the stress and everything of my daily life, and I think we all have some of that in common. All of us have baggage that we work through. To be in a group of others that understand is really helpful.”
All of the women except for Nordgren classify themselves as mixed-media artists, meaning they use more than one medium or material to create their work. Swanson, Nagano and Nordgren use acrylic and oil, while Westmoreland prefers fabric. Nye specializes in colors and texture, and Dinius focuses on watercolors. The work of Nordgren, meanwhile, is more abstract, layered with oil paint and wax.
“Everybody has an expertise in different things,” Swanson said. “We all have different processes, different techniques, so we share those (with each other), and we’re all growing all the time. My work wouldn’t be (improving as much) if I wasn’t part of this. I’m not saying it wouldn’t elevate, but it would take longer.”
Dinius compared the shared studio space to a child’s “secret clubhouse.”
“The fact that we can all come and go (is a big deal),” Dinius said. “I had keyless entry put in, so everybody comes and goes as they want. Sometimes we’re here at the same time, sometimes we’re not. We bring snacks, and sometimes there’s wine. Just hearing somebody else laughing, talking, the radio, there’s a certain joy in that.”
They critique each other’s work, but do so to encourage, not criticize.
“It’s never taken as a negative,” Dinius said. “It’s always given in this really empowering, uplifting way, like, ‘Let’s elevate that a little bit.’ We’re going to be honest. We’re going to help one another, because I want to be the best I can be, but in this collective, we want each other to be the best that we can be. (We) empower and support one another in our art journeys. I’ve never had one bit of jealousy. It’s just really collaborative.”
“What’s unique about our group is that everybody is super supportive,” Nye said.
They don’t just talk about their art. They discuss their lives and, as Nagano said, “celebrate each other’s successes” and help each other through their struggles.
“It’s turned into something way more than what we all thought it would be,” Swanson said. “It’s beyond art now, which is really cool.”
Studio artists tour returns
The members of the Collective are scheduled to participate at the 2023 Washougal Studio Artists Tour, to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 13, and Sunday, May 14, at nine Washougal locations.
“The Washougal Studio Artists Tour, now in its sixth year, is excited to invite art enthusiasts to explore the artistic heart of Washougal,” a news release states. “The tour celebrates the artistry found within the community, offering visitors opportunities to discover and admire the eclectic group of artists who produce a variety of media, including sculpture, mixed media, handmade jewelry, acrylic, watercolor, oil, fused glass, fiber arts and more.”
The Ardet Artist Collective will show their work at Dinius’ residence, the sixth stop on the tour, and will showcase several new artists, including David Van Zandt (bronze sculpture and paint), Jennifer Patel (pottery), Jenny Armstrong (pyrography and leather arts), LesleyAnne Ezelle (woven alpaca fur items and pottery), Nancy Carkin (acrylic paint) and Jeff Mayhew (woodworking).
“We are thrilled to celebrate our sixth year of the Washougal Studio Artists Tour and excited to offer visitors our interactive website and driving map for a more immersive experience,” co-organizer and participating artist Shirley Bishop said. “Our artists are eager to share their passion for art with visitors and give them a glimpse into their creative process.”
The tour’s redesigned website offers visitors an opportunity to learn more about each artist, with in-depth profiles showcasing their creative processes. It also features an interactive map with directions to each studio location as well as local restaurants and hotels.
For more information, visit washougalstudioa rtists.org.