When a couple came into her Montana gallery and started pointing at various artwork they wanted to purchase immediately, Deliah Albee realized she was having a very good day.
A $4,000 worth of personal artwork sales kind of day, actually.
“I’ll take that one, and that one,” Albee recalled watching the couple pointing out art they wanted. “By the time they were done, they had 10 pieces, at least. That was pretty exciting.”
That was when Albee discovered her watercolor artwork would sell well if the right kind of people walked through the door.
It encouraged her to continue life as an artist.
Now, years later, Albee has made her way back to Bainbridge Island, where she first picked up a paintbrush. She’s known for her Sumi-e, a Japanese-style of painting, of flowers — poppies especially. The most impressive part of her talent, perhaps, is the fact that she is self-taught and used art as therapy for years to work through life issues.
For the month of May, Albee’s work will be on display at the Bainbridge Public Library. Framed watercolor images of unicorns, flowers and horses currently adorn the walls of the library’s conference room. Since her May 1 opening, she’s sold several of her paintings, including all of her re-purposed and painted furniture pieces. Painting furniture has become somewhat of a new canvas for her to splash with her creativity recently, she said. In the last six months, she’s sold 20 pieces of her painted furniture.
“I love taking something ugly and making it beautiful,” she said of her furniture pieces. “That was what I would say is my calling.”
Like wall art, it’s a unique canvas for her to explore with her watercolors.
“I got addicted. If I could do that all day long, I would,” she said of painting furniture. “I love color. It’s just so not stressful.”
After moving back to be near family after the tragic death of her husband, Albee is settling into life again, including considering opening a gallery where she can invite people in — like that couple — to admire and purchase her work. In the meantime, she’s reestablishing her roots, commuting to Bainbridge Island once a week to teach art classes at Wacky Nut Farm.
“Her technique is really fun to learn,” said Linda Meier, Albee’s stepmother. “I have been involved in the art field for many years, but do not consider myself an artist. Even I found that what I created from her watercolor Sumi-e class gave me a creative challenge, but left me with a piece that I could look at without cringing.”
Eventually, Albee hopes to have a gallery again, where she can sell her own work and the art of other artists she respects. Vashon Island would be the ideal location for her, she said, but she would settle for Poulsbo, too. While she enjoys Bainbridge, she knows that Vashon is an island that could use another artist.
“I don’t want a big gallery,” she said, noting location is everything. “You can be the best artist in the world, but if nobody walks in the door, they’re not gonna see it.”
Originally, her life goal was to have a career in the psychology field. After getting pregnant with her son, Adriel, shortly after college, she knew that wasn’t going to work out.
“I really, really wanted to be a shrink,” she said. “Then I had a baby and I was like, ‘I don’t care about anybody’s feelings [but his].’”
So, she turned to painting in hopes of selling artwork to make some extra money. In the beginning, she taught others as a substitute art teacher. Throughout the experience, she realized she could teach and continued to do so while painting on the side and selling her work. Painting offered her a soothing experience at home while watching her baby, she discovered.
She said her inspiration comes from a variety of artists, but her favorite is Georgia O’Keeffe.
As a self-taught artist, Albee said she often found herself working within parameters and not being “free” with her work. Nowadays, her goal is to freely experience her art without boundaries. Without limits, she can spend as little as 10 minutes or 40 hours on a single piece.
“I really enjoy it because it’s so fast,” Albee said of Sumi-e painting. “They sell really, really well. People love Asian art.”
Yet, somehow, Albee is convinced it isn’t her talent that creates the images of life-like sunflowers or birds. For her, she believes it was the years of practicing. Ten years, in fact, before she felt her work could be sold to the masses. Up until that point, she kept the artwork for herself or gave it away.
“I didn’t know at the time it was the hardest medium to work with,” she said of watercolor painting. “It’s so many layers.”
A piece is done when she wants to keep looking at it, she said. Then she knows she is through and can let it go for others to enjoy.
“Luckily, I love flowers and so does everyone else,” she said.
“When it’s ready, I just know.”
Love local art?
Visit Deliah Albee’s website at www.deliahalbeestudio.com to see her watercolor art. Her work will also be on display through May 31 at the Bainbridge Public Library.