The annual Artist Studio Tour features and array of local art

Twenty-three artists will open their studios during the 33rd annual Artist’s Studio Tour Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Many of the studios also include guest artists, meaning the tour actually includes 66 island artists. The Journal connected with four of these guest artists, each long time islanders: Amanda Azous at Kristen Reitz-Green’s studio, Daniel Finn at Susan Williams Roseblade’s studio, Jim Nollman at Gretchen Allison’s studio and Lynn Mercer at Mary Gey McCulloch’s studio.

“It’s really fun having people, islanders, say hi and look at our art,” Mercer said. This will be her second time as a guest artist in the tour. “Mary’s studio is beautiful. It is well worth the trip down Cattle Point.”

Mercer has drawn since she was a child, she said, and took lessons from her hometown’s local artists as a teen. Her experience with an art professor at Berkley turned her off painting professionally for decades, although she continued the practice for herself. Flash forward to 2003, when Mercer took a class by Marsha Macallister. “She was very encouraging, supportive of each artist and did not try to make them do things the way she would do them,” Mercer said. “So she was a big instigator getting me painting again.”

While she has also stuck her feet into the world of writing, her current favorite creative endeavor is painting, with acrylic being her chosen technique. “I love playing with color, it takes me to a place that isn’t part of this world,” Mercer said.

“I want to be a medium for the painting, and what that entails is kind of a scary frustration because you don’t know where it is going to go, you are not in control,” Mercer explained. With that in mind, knowing when a piece is finished is nearly impossible to know. “I just stop when it feels right,” she said.

The pieces she is featuring at the show are primarily new works, including “Ingadda,” and “Falling in Love,” although “Marmalade Cat,” is an older one.

Like Mercer, Finn’s love of art and painting can also be traced to his childhood. During collage at Evergreen State in Olympia, Washington, he studied art and art history. Islanders may know him from his music and theater, but over the last several years his creative focus has been watercolor landscapes. “It’s a demanding technique. It took me a long time to figure out how to make something that is always changing.”

Finn takes inspiration from the past – what he has learned and continues to learn about art history – which has had a significant impact on his work, according to Finn, who explained: “In my own limited way, I’ve engaged in [art history]. It’s kind of like you blend what you can with what you’ve seen, and what you are seeing now.” It’s a mix of the past well as the present, influenced by painters like Dega and Cezanne, to his long-time island artist friends Dana Roberts and Joe Miller.

Like so many artist before him, Finn builds off techniques painters developed long ago, adding new methods, new perspectives.

When asked if there is a central theme to his work or message he would like viewers to take away, he responded, “No, it’s really about landscape, its design and color. It’s what the view takes away, the opportunity to lose yourself in the present moment looking at what you are looking at.”

Azous spent much of her life and career in the sciences. In a recent press release about an art show at the San Juan Community Theatre, it explains that she was an analyst, scientist and engineer, but later in life, Azous began to paint transformational abstract expressions of nature, energy and emotions, saying “I find art to be very analytical but free of the often tediously strict protocols of science and engineering.”

Pre-Covid, she took classes at Alchemy Arts Center, but then during the pandemic, while the Center was being used less due to social distancing, they allowed Azous to use the studio whenever she wanted.

“It’s like this inner artist came out in me, and it just felt like so much joy,” she explained.

Oil quickly became her favorite. “It has a richness of color and transparency to it. If you look at my paintings, there are a lot of layers of color that would muddy in other techniques,” Azous said.

Similar to science, according to Azous, art has a very methodical, analytical process to it. “People often perceive artists as being randomly creative, but it is actually a very analytical process,” she said. There is a mystery to it, however. “Sometimes I come away and I don’t fully understand how I did what I did,” she laughed.

While all her paintings are abstract, they are a study in energy and light. “I see the world as energy and abstract art resembles that,” she said.

Nollman is well known for his music, particularly for playing for and with wildlife. While he always loved music, he never wanted to be an entertainer. During the 70s, he pondered an array of ways to play in and amongst nature. He convinced a radio station to do a Thanksgiving special recording of him playing with Turkeys. “I knew I could coax the turkeys to vocalize,” he explained. The segment became so popular it continues to occasionally be played on NPR at Thanksgiving to this day. That experience led him to play with a variety of animals, including wolves, kangaroos, buffalo, and especially cetaceans. “I have never played with the orcas on San Juan,” he clarified. One of his favorite experiences was with belugas on Hudson Bay during a film event about beluga calls. He and one other person were on a boat playing with a particularly friendly pod of belugas, and they decided to put their heads in the water and blow bubbles for the whales. One beluga approached Nollman and put his lips around Nollman’s face. A segment of that film and that encounter can be found on YouTube.

The drawings he will be showing during the tour are inspired from these adventures and showing how nature is conscious. “All animals have a level of sentience. I’ve worked hard to get that message out there.” Nollman said. “It’s spreading though, through young people.”

Nature will be highlighted by many of these artists. Azous said she will be showing several smaller nature-oriented pieces, and Finn’s landscapes are without a doubt inspired by the natural world around him.

“Some of these artists have been working together [in the Studio Tour] for a long time. It puts on the level of a team sport,” Nollman said. “I very much appreciate the artist community and their support.”

To see a full map of all the artists and studios visit

Contributed photo
“Jouer Avec Ta Vie” (French for Play with your life), by Lynne Mercer

Contributed photo “Jouer Avec Ta Vie” (French for Play with your life), by Lynne Mercer

Contributed photo
“Window Creek” by Danial Finn

Contributed photo “Window Creek” by Danial Finn