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Painting Posts

Selective Focus: Jeffrey T. Larson

Jeffrey T. Larson is a painter and founder of the Great Lakes Academy of Art, located in the former St. Peter’s Church, 810 W. Third St. Larson has been working and teaching a classical style of painting in that location since 2015. There will be a student-instructor exhibit at the school May 24-26. Larson talks about his classical training and how working and teaching fit together for him.

JTL: I was fortunate to have found and be accepted into one of the last ateliers (studios) left in the world taking on apprentices and training them in the manner of the old masters. It was a sort of visual Julliard. I work pretty exclusively in oil paints. The tradition that I studied in is really more about retraining your eye to see nature honestly and truthfully as it is about learning how to paint. My style is really my reaction to what I see as beautiful filtered through my personal aesthetics. More simply put, I would call myself a classical impressionist.

Selective Focus: Shelley Breitzmann

Shelley Breitzmann is a landscape painter who like many artists in the area, draws inspiration from Lake Superior. From her website: “It’s hard to live near Lake Superior and not be fascinated with its weather and how it impacts the life around it. To try to get that feeling on canvas is pretty compelling.” Her paintings feel huge and vast, and while she works, she pushes and pulls things in and out of the misty, foggy atmosphere of the paintings.

SB: I’ve been working with acrylic on canvas for about 10 years, after working primarily with watercolor since high school. The change really resuscitated my connection with art and the painting process. Since acrylic dries fast, it’s probably not the best medium to achieve the soft, foggy landscapes I’m drawn to, but blending and manipulating it is a challenge I really enjoy. The change in humidity from summer to winter alters the painting process pretty drastically and is something to adjust to throughout the year.

Selective Focus: Naomi Christenson

Naomi Christenson has been featured here before as a dancer, this week we get to see her work as a painter. A self-described “detail junkie” she gets inspiration from unusual places, including fungus and lichen. Her paintings are filled with immaculate detail and vibrant colors, abstraction and pattern.

NC: I primarily work in acrylic paint, though I’ve also worked with oil and gouache for some projects. When I started painting, it was in a classroom and we worked primarily on still lives. The instructor set up a backdrop with a diverse collection of objects in the foreground and we painted it. In that setting, I found myself most drawn to the complex objects with lots of detail. An old gumball machine with its glassy top, red metal body and shiny silver flourishes springs to mind as one of my favorite objects to paint. Beyond classes, the more I painted the more my style came into view. For example, I found myself happiest with paintings that not only had a lot of detail but also a lot of color. Years later I discovered my love of natural patterns and the mix within my work became more interesting.

Selective Focus: Zoey Cohen Leege

Next Thursday at Red Herring Lounge, Zoey Cohen Leege has an opening reception for her paintings related to Lake Superior. She has a background in art and art history, but only over the past year has begun painting regularly.

ZCL: My paintings are acrylic on masonite. I like having a smooth surface to paint on; canvas feels too rough. Also, masonite is affordable. Each painting is based on a photo I took of Lake Superior over the last year, combined with something I find interesting, beautiful or just strange. I have an undergraduate degree in art history, so elements from ancient art and architecture are a common theme. I also love antiques, archeology and am fascinated by secret societies.

Selective Focus: Ingeborg von Agassiz


Ingeborg von Agassiz is a multimedia artist who writes and performs music, paints and draws, creates videos and also teaches music. She just released her album “O Giver of Dreams” and hosted a combination release show / art show at the Red Herring. Her art will be up into the month of April at the Herring. In December, she and her students worked with PDD on a video for “Oh, the Hillside,” a song from the new album. Her music embraces technology with looping vocals, synths and effects, while her paintings are distinctly handmade with bold lines, shapes and strokes.

IVA: I work as both a musician and visual artist. I’ve shared my visual art publicly under another name for over a decade and once I launched my musician project as Ingeborg von Agassiz, I decided to use that name for all the art that I make. I make acrylic paintings on canvas and also pen & marker drawings on paper. And sometimes I use watercolors and also typewriter text on paper. I’ve created a couple of zines with drawings, doodles, essays, song lyrics.

Selective Focus: Matt Kania


Matt Kania is an artist who has won awards for his plein air paintings that capture the light, the feeling and the experience of being in a place. His work brings life to scenes that most of us would walk past without noticing.

MK: I am a professional oil painter and an original printmaker. With most of my artistry coming in recent years in the form of plein air painting (that’s French for ‘in open air’ or ‘on location’).

Selective Focus: Karen Owsley Nease

Karen Owsley Nease paints large images of waves, capturing the characteristics of the water and its shapes with layers of transparent oils. She is hosting an opening of the work at the UWS Kruk Gallery on Oct. 5.

Tell us about the medium you work in, and how you came to work in your style.

K. O. N.: I am a visual artist whose primary medium is paint. My most recent works are oil paintings built up with numerous layers of thinly applied glazes. This particular method of painting dates from very early in the history of painting and I employ it because the rich luminosity I can achieve within the paintings from its use. My current series of paintings are intensely observed close- ups of breaking waves. This subject matter lends itself to explorations on many levels, both formally and intellectually.

Selective Focus: Linda Naughton

Linda Naughton just opened a show of her intensely bright and beautiful watercolors at Lakeside Gallery. The show will be up through July, and Linda talks about the work.

L.N.: For painting, I start out with transparent watercolors. But I want my work ultimately to express the joy of exuberant color. If I’m happy with the initial result, then I don’t add anything else. But if the painting isn’t as dynamic as I want, then I might add India ink or alcohol ink or both. If I still think it needs more oomph, I will add acrylic ink, colored pencil and/ or oil pastels. Finally, if all else fails to thrill, I have a large supply of hand painted collage papers, handcut stamps, and stencil designs!

Selective Focus: Patricia Canelake

Patricia Canelake is a painter and teacher who creates large, colorful paintings that combine figurative drawing with the spontaneous drips, layers and other effects of paint.

P.C.: My aesthetic is an aesthetic of attraction — both obvious and mysterious. Simple figurative, and animal subjects, leashed and unleashed, are the subjects of my work. That push and pull are recognizable experiences. My painting style is a fine balance between storytelling and the rough elegance of form, line and color.

Selective Focus: Aryn Bergsven

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Aryn Bergsven is an artist and an art teacher at Harbor City International School. She talks about sharing her time and energy between her own work and the work of her students.

A.B.: I work in acrylics primarily but also dabble in watercolors and ink, mostly for sketching and traveling. I love to work with portraiture. This has always been an area of interest for me, even when I was in middle and high school. I think it’s even more compelling to me now though as a mother and an art teacher. So much of my life focuses on people and relationships I have with them that the act of really studying faces and reading between the lines has become second nature in some ways.

Selective Focus: Adam Swanson

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This week we hear from one of the area’s most prolific and recognizable painters, Adam Swanson. Adam has an opening reception tonight (Friday, Aug. 5) at the Tettegouche State Park Visitor Center.

A.S.: I work primarily with acrylic paints on tempered hardboard panels. In my youth and studies I experimented with a wide variety of media and techniques. Though I’ve always rallied against specialization, I accidentally grew to love acrylic painting.

Selective Focus: Plein Air Duluth-Paint Du Nord

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Next week the Duluth Art Institute will be hosting its second annual outdoor painting festival, Plein Air Duluth: Paint du Nord, from July 10 – 16, 2016.

Selective Focus: Moira Villiard

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This week’s Selective Focus subject has a solo show opening next Monday, June 6, at Zeitgeist Arts in the Atrium. Moira Villiard talks about her paintings and the physical toll her work has taken on her.

MV: People are often surprised when I tell them I haven’t been a painter for very long. I’ve always been involved in the arts, but my skills didn’t mature all that much until I got out of high school and spent my first few post-secondary years sketching portraits I found in old National Geographic magazines. Prior to that, I used to draw doodles in my class notes and took pride in calling myself a “surrealist,” though everything I’d done had been on notebook paper.

Selective Focus: Jonathan Thunder

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This week’s selective focus subject has appeared on PDD before; doing the Robot on every street corner in Duluth. He even made the Best Videos of 2014 list. Even more impressive than his dance moves are his paintings. He’s also an animator and filmmaker. Jonathan Thunder tells about his diverse work.

Painting in the BWCA

Duluth artist Ken Marunowski describes the process of making a wilderness landscape painting.