COVID SAFE TOUR In 2021, our tour will be conducted safely via state requirements: visitors must wear masks in all studios, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated; and studios will limit the number of visitors at one time to allow for social distancing. Don’t worry – with 100 artists to visit in greater Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, we know you won’t have to wait long to meet your favorite artists.
Portland’s oldest and largest art studio tour is back on this October! Visit 90+ artists in their studios in many neighborhoods in greater Portland (find our contactless tour guide at www.portlandopenstudios.com). Not only do you get a peek into how an artist works – we like to think of our artists as superheroes, with some incredible origin and back stories. Below, meet four favorites from this year’s lineup:
Mayfair, Studio #15
Mayfair’s current large-scale, beautifully rendered oil and acrylic paintings might remind you of presidential portrait artists Kehinde Whiley or Amy Sherald, but his only artist training came in spray paint. Born in El Salvador, he moved to LA at age 4, and started out, like many kids, drawing cartoon characters. As a seventh grader, his older sister introduced him to her high school graffiti artist friends, and “I was the little kid that tagged along.”
He credits those kids with teaching him how to create his own characters, and to learn lettering, using Rapdiograph pens and Design markers. Drawings were kept in a “piece book” or “black book,” a hard-bound sketch book with thick stock blank pages graffiti artists used as a portfolio to share their work – and even to collaborate. “We would exchange books with the people we liked and trusted, and leave drawings in each other’s piece books,” he said. “That was before cell phones, of course, so that’s how you showed what you could do.” He graduated to spray painting walls at age 16, and deep-dove into graffiti painting for several years.
Soon after, he became a father, and he left spray-painting – and painting in general – behind for work to support his daughter. He didn’t approach paint again until his early thirties, when he moved from the spray can to paint brushes and oils on canvas. “My first oil painting took me five months to complete, it was very tiny and that’s how I learned to use oils, lots of trial and error,” he says. While primarily self-taught, he credits his work with the Graffiti Crew, Hit And Run, with honing his rendering skills and gifting him the mindset that “painting is a contact sport, where you are always trying to push yourself and your crew to paint better.”
Hazel Glass, Studio #8
One look at Hazel Glass’s delicate, intricately sculpted paper cut scenes, and you’ll feel transported to a new world. “I feel like I’ve always been doing art. I have a distinct memory from the age of 4 where I was reading a little kids illustrated book. ‘I want to write and illustrate my own book someday’ was the first conscious thought I had about choosing this life,” she says.
Flash forward to art school in 2012, when Hazel put together an art book in which each page was cut differently to lead down to an image on the back cover. “It so easily flowed,” she recalled. “People kept looking at me and saying ‘wait, how did you do that?’ and I couldn’t tell them. It just came to me.”
That was at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where Hazel was studying. She transferred to the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and in March of 2015, she developed what would become the intricate work she does today. She quit her day job in 2017 and has focused completely on her art career since then, honing her craft and imagery. “This work reminds me of the earth’s strata,” she says. “You know, a paper strata, with layers and layers building up to the final image.”
Julio Marin Aleman, Studio #25
If you are wondering why you haven’t seen Julio Aleman’s hyper-realistic and inventive portraits, Portland Open Studios is his first large-scale artist launch since he arrived in Portland 17 years ago from Austin, Texas. Though he’d drawn since childhood, “developing this obsessive dedication to realistic rendering and fine tuning” on his own, a painting teacher in college opened his eyes to color and color theory. That was pretty much all the help Aleman needed to launch into painting, and when his best friend invited him to move to Portland he jumped at the chance. “I found the art world harder to break into here,” he says, “So I dropped painting for about 15 years and got caught up in other creative things.”
That included starting three businesses, including the dance studio Pulse PDX, and for the past seven years working as an apparel designer for Adidas. He credits his fellow creative colleagues at Adidas for encouraging him back to the easel, and he credits the pandemic for giving him time to dive back into painting again. “This entrepreneurial spirit is warring to come back out,” says the 42-year-old. “I love my job, that pays the bills, and I love to paint, and there is no reason I can’t do all of it.”
Amy Reader, Studio #97
Reader, 28, is a fiber artist and co-winner of the Kimberly Gales emerging artist award, who has been drawing, sewing, and painting since she was six. She learned to sew and crochet from her grandmothers, but always saw sewing as separate from painting and drawing. That was, until her senior year at the University of Richmond, where she saw the potential in combining the disciplines. “That’s when I started sewing large, colorful sculptures and it was that cliche lightbulb moment - this was the work I wanted to make.”
Reader and her husband moved to Portland just a year ago, and she was quick to meet a PDXOS alum, landscape painter Catherine Freshley, who worked in the studio space next to hers. “She brought me in,” said Reader. “I’m so grateful, and so excited, to meet people and get to know the community this year through Portland Open Studios.”
During the past year, Reader has expanded the types of work she makes. She still sews her colorful sculptures as well as fiber art jewelry, but “when the pandemic hit, my focus changed - I had a production line of masks for months!” Later, she started exploring embroideries and embroidery kits, all rooted in what she describes as the core of all her art: “bold, joyful colors, thoughtful details, and layers of texture.”