Creamy paint, graphic lines

Katie Kowalski,
Posted 2/28/17

A tattoo artist and a retired graphic illustrator are joining their creative forces to present a two-month show of fine art that is influenced by their respective careers.

Clae Welch, who owns …

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Creamy paint, graphic lines


A tattoo artist and a retired graphic illustrator are joining their creative forces to present a two-month show of fine art that is influenced by their respective careers.

Clae Welch, who owns Towns End Tattoo, and artist Nancy Van Allen have wanted to do a show together since they met.

“We have a high admiration of each other,” said Van Allen, noting that they share an appreciation for aesthetics.

The two artists strive to express their creativity not only in their visual art, but also in their working and living spaces.

Welch completely renovated the interior of his tattoo shop on Washington Street, along with that of its next-door neighbor, a hair salon owned by his wife. Van Allen remodeled her garden and home, which last year was featured on the AAUW Kitchen Tour.

The show is on display at Pippa’s Real Tea in downtown Port Townsend, 636 Water St. Both the artists are to attend an opening reception set for 5:30-8 p.m. during Art Walk, Saturday, March 4.


Welch’s pieces in the show are influenced by, yet are distinct from, his tattoo art, he said.

“They’re different than a traditional American tattoo, but they’re definitely graphic and iconic.”

Welch grew up in the Bay Area, and learned to paint and illustrate from his artistically trained mother.

As a teenager, he became involved in the street art scene of his time, which influenced him to later become a tattoo artist.

“There was sort of an early ’90s renaissance in street art,” he said. “Graffiti was just what was happening at the time.” Embedded in the era of skateboarding and punk rock, the avant-garde art form inspired many youths like Welch to risk their safety and freedom to show off their work.

Being a graffiti artist provided a foundation for his interest in tattooing, another social art form.

Tattoo artists play off of each other, Welch said. “[It’s] an art form that has all of these celebrated images that we, as a community, work on and progress.”

There are different styles of tattoo art in which Welch excels – including traditional American tattooing, and Japanese and Polynesian tattoo art – and he has a large library of his own designs from which to draw.

When Welch works with an individual client, he creates a design that is specific to that person’s desires.

“It’s a personal piece of art,” he said. “It affects that one person deeply for the course of their life.”


Van Allen had a long career as a graphic artist and uses her sense of design to tell a story in her fine art.

The series displayed in this show is called “Creamy and Dreamy.”

The “dreamy” is a reference to “The City of Dreams,” Port Townsend’s nickname at the turn of 19th century, and some of her pieces will be familiar to locals, such as Chetzemoka Park and the Point Wilson lighthouse at Fort Worden.

The “creamy” is evoked by her use of thick, colorful paints and the sensuality of her images. “Nature is very sensual,” said Van Allen, who tries to live in gratitude with Mother Earth.

Like Welch, Van Allen was born into an artistic family and was artistically inclined at an early age.

In her paintings, she tries to capture the awe that her surroundings inspire; she paints from photos, often several photos that have been digitally combined together, to create works she refers to as “altered reality.”

Often, the images in her paintings are based on visions that have come to her completely formed.

Van Allen approaches everything in her life, from garden landscaping to painting to interior design, with an eye for beauty. “Everything I do has an aesthetic goal,” she said. Her garden is decorative and includes 23 fruit trees, while her home features a well-crafted interior, which includes red-stained cabinets she made herself; they were a favorite amongst attendees on the Kitchen Tour, she said.

“I have in all my adult life been called the Martha Stewart of the Northwest.”


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