“I have some students who are nervous, scared even,” the Seattle-based artist said. “But if you just jump in, you’ll find out quickly if it’s something you’re into.”
Kahler has taught watercolor classes for the past 15 years, and also gives occasional presentations like last week’s at the Cottesmore Retirement Center. She’s been involved with the PAL since she was asked to be on the jury at this year’s Gig Harbor Summer Art Festival.
Kahler said that new artists can get too caught up on capturing a precise image of what they’re trying to paint, rather than thinking of the bigger picture.
“If you’re painting a boat, don’t focus so much on the boat. Focus on the essence of the boat,” she said.
It’s the same philosophy that guides her oil painting, and what made her interested in the art form. Kahler studied oil painting and drawing at the University of Washington, and said that the medium speaks to her.
“It’s just a fun conversation with the paint,” Kahler said of working with oils. “I get to work with color, shape, texture. It’s not about the painting so much as it is about the paint. It’s a dialogue.”
Her Gig Harbor talk emphasized this point: that oil painting is all about interaction. Kahler focused specifically on beach interpretations, especially her recent work capturing the Totten Inlet.
Most of her work reflects the outdoors, and Kahler said that living in the Northwest helps her surround herself in her subject matter. She spent a good deal of time at Totten Inlet sketching and outlining her paintings before taking her work home to her studio from completion.
“I like to paint outside – it gives me an excuse to be out there,” Kahler said.
Once a year, Kahler and her husband, who is also a partner in the kitchen design firm that fucntions as the artist’s day job, venture into the wilderness for a few days of total immersion in nature and art. This year they hired a boat to take them to Sucia Island in the San Juans for several days.
“It’s a dedication to outdoor painting,” Kahler said of her trips, which leave her without a car or any distractions from painting. “It’s a focus thing. There’s no phones, tablets, computers, anything. You’re just saturated in it.”
Kahler’s demonstration was accompanied by a presentation from local jeweler Joan Tenenbaum, who showed members the results of the scholarship she received from PAL last year. The group partially funded Tenenbaum’s five-day trip to California this summer to take a class with master cloisonne enameling artist Merry-Lee Rae.
Tenenbaum has worked with metals for 53 years, but she had not engaged with enamels since she was in high school.
Cloisonne enameling is the art of decorating metalwork objects. Artists use wires soldered to metal to create designs, which are then colored with enamel powder made into paste and fired in a kiln.
“It’s very exciting to be able to use color,” Tenenbaum said.
The class provided her with her first chance in five decades to bring color into her art, she said.
“I’ll be able to add that element and dimension to my work,” she said.
Tenenbaum expects the technical addition will take some getting used to.
“This will be a steep learning curve for me, probably for the next year,” she said. “It’s really going to be a change.”
But for the professional metal artist, the scholarship has opened up a whole new style. Tenenbaum said PAL scholarships are available for the organization’s members in good standing, and artists can apply every two years.
Tenenbaum’s work can currently be seen at Stonington Gallery in Seattle, where her solo show opened at the beginning of November.