This year, The Masters’ Atelier of Drawing and Painting in Port Townsend has not only devised a way for the community to maintain safe social distancing while enjoying public art, but is also …
This year, The Masters’ Atelier of Drawing and Painting in Port Townsend has not only devised a way for the community to maintain safe social distancing while enjoying public art, but is also showcasing the work of its recently inaugurated resident artist.
From now through the end of the month, the fine art school is partnering with Elevated Ice Cream & Candy Shop to present the works of its students and local associated artists, including the school’s resident artist, C.W. Sawyer.
The Masters’ Atelier opened its resident artist position this year, which school founder Nancy Lucas Williams sees as a means to afford an emerging artist space to develop their work within a supportive artistic community.
“Sawyer comes to us after spending the last few years traveling the U.S. and the world at large,” Williams said. “He grew up in Seattle and started drawing at the tender age of 23. After deciding he needed a real career, he joined a drawing and paint atelier with Seattle painter Mark Kang O’Higgins, and he hasn’t looked back since.”
Sawyer has recorded his travels in a series of “Postcard Projects,” a subscription-based art project that sends postcard-sized paintings and prints to patrons; more of his work is at SeeSawyerPaint.com and on Instagram at “seesawyerpaint.”
Now 32, Sawyer looks back on drawing, and art in general, as one of those things “I could never do,” but that he always wanted to do.
“While working for Seattle Central Community College, I was allowed to audit classes, so I thought I would finally face that desire,” Sawyer said. “Little did I know I would end up in a painting class under an incredibly generous teacher named Royal Alley-Barnes. That class was the first time I saw the magic in action. I saw color become light. I saw little spots of paint arranged just so, and suddenly, I could see myself. I decided this was magic and I would devote my life to this magic. My parents were very surprised.”
Sawyer self-deprecatingly described his own artwork as “very much still in its Cambrian stages of its evolution,” referring to the ancient geologic period that predates even the Jurassic.
“I literally went into my art program drawing stick figures,” Sawyer said. “Five years later, thousands of hours in front of an easel, and I have an awesome art foundation. Now, the gargantuan task of getting some legs under me has really just begun. There’s a lot that no art school can prepare emerging artists for, so my most recent four years have revolved around identifying and trying to understand some of these barriers, both internal and external.”
Among the more notable locations he’s traveled to and through along the way have been Egypt and Spain, both of which he said possessed their own glamor.
“In Egypt, seeing art that was some 4,000 years old was chilling,” Sawyer said. “Since the dawn of humanity, we’ve been putting a mark up on a wall and giving it meaning. It’s such a human thing to do. Egypt also helped me feel worldly, which was the boost I needed to do my first postcard project.”
Sawyer described a similar emotional experience in Spain, as he painted after walking the Camino de Santiago.
“I traded and sold my art, and had a series of subscribers who received a postcard once a month during that four-month adventure,” Sawyer said. “It was inspiring to live off my art. I’ve been doing more of that since I got back.”
Back in the United States, Sawyer said he’s been “all over.” The Badlands of South Dakota furnished him with fruitful lessons about how to include words into his work — “I’m seeing those seeds sprout now”—while Pennsylvania provided “a lesson in boundaries,” because “it’s so dangerously easy to put art down in exchange for a weekly paycheck.”
Sawyer attributes much of his skill and insight as an artist to his first two teachers, the aforementioned Alley-Barnes and O’Higgins.
“These two teachers were so incredibly honest with my work,” Sawyer said. “They forced me to confront failures and taught me how to dissect them, to look at them honestly and learn from them, which in turn has taught me how to identify successful paintings with confidence.”
Sawyer offered no shortage of praise for The Masters’ Atelier for giving him “wonderful insights into business and how to get myself out there,” as he lauded Williams as “a good role model for that.”
Part of what’s kept Sawyer going is his belief that “each of us has an art, some action that brings immense satisfaction to a part of our inner selves. For some, it’s math. For others, it’s clothes or growing things. For me, it’s paint.”
Sawyer encourages prospective artists to get trained in their fields.
“One would never expect themselves to pick up wood and tools and make a beautiful violin or a carved bear on their first go,” Sawyer said. “And yet, we expect this of ourselves with art. There’s a myth that you either have it or you don’t, and that’s a load of baloney.”
Sawyer has found his residency at The Masters’ Atelier exciting for precisely this reason.
“Nancy has started a great little school, and it’s been really educational to bounce ideas around with her,” Sawyer said. “I was taught how to paint, but I wasn’t taught how to do business, and having someone else who’s worked through that has been immensely informative.”
Sawyer invited the community to approach him online with questions they might have about entering the world of art.
“I still remember learning the magic that drawing and painting can be, and I think it helps give me a unique perspective on teaching,” Sawyer said.