Mirrored in another mind’s eye

Puget Sound Portrait Guild debuts at Bistro Pleasant Beach.

Eighteen local artists put a good face on things for the debut show of the Puget Sound Portrait Guild.

Founded on Bainbridge but welcoming any Puget Sound portraitist, the guild was formed this fall to present and support the wealth of Northwest portraiture.

The impetus came from Lara Cannon, who returned to her native Northwest in 2000 from studies at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Moving to Bainbridge Island, Cannon decided she wanted to meet the other portrait artists who lived here.

“I thought it would be really fun to see what’s going on, because I’ve seen samples (of portraiture) here and there, but no organization,” she said.

For Cannon, the guild was a way to bring the area’s portraitists together. The collective energy that resulted has spurred individual creativity, she says.

The debut show at Bistro Pleasant Beach embraces styles from formal to interpretive, as well as a range of media, including oils, watercolors, pastels and charcoal.

Work from professional artists hangs cheek-by-jowl with pieces by emerging talent.

Judith Barnett and Wanda Kemper each boast four decades of portraiture and have earned national reputations, while Chris Tipton is a senior at Northwest College of Art and Nicole Belieu studies art at Bainbridge High School.

Most of the portraitists work from life, but Marci Collins prefers photographs, and Cynthia Dice’s cartoon-like paintings – including an image of a child being nuzzled by a dog, captioned by the line “That tickles” – don’t aspire to realism.

The group has an international flavor, with Scottish painter Lindsay French, South African Francis Gace and English painter Gillian Bull.

Bull explores Britain’s kinship with Australia in a portrait of a woman sporting a maroon velvet beret, a hat designed specifically for the Melbourne Cup.

“Australia’s horse races are like our British races; people wear hats,” Bull said. “For me, her hat was something to hang the picture on.”

While 17 of the guild artists paint the human face, Pam Fermanis, an interior designer, extends the genre to include house and dog portraits.

“I just love animals,” Fermanis said. “And houses do have a personality.”

Many of the guild members paint together in weekly sessions at Wing Point Country Club. Their works, made from the same model and exhibited on the restaurant’s second floor, range from impressionistic to close rendering.

The variations on a theme underscore one of the genre’s strengths: a narrowly defined defined subject matter – the human visage – that may serve to emphasize the variability of interpretation.

“I knew that once we got together, we’d all look different,” Cannon said, “because everyone has a different intent.

“The person who’s looking to do a polished portrait on commission will be different from the professional artist who wants to try portraiture, and the person who’s looking to portray an interior mood or emotion.

“For me, it’s got to be a likeness – and it’s got to be ‘on.’”

* * * * *

Members of the new Puget Sound Portrait Guild show work at Bistro Pleasant Beach through February.

An opening reception featuring live music and portrait demonstrations is 2-4 p.m Jan. 11.

A portrait session with Wanda Kemper will be raffled to benefit the Bainbridge High School musical instrument drive.

Information:, 855-7940 or

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