Local artist Liz Coke works almost every day in the studio her husband built for her, with a north facing window, overlooking a courtyard garden. Inside there's a variety of works in various stages of completion, awards, personal treasures and of course her easel, paints and brushes. There are frames of various sizes stashed for the future. She used to mat her own work but now finds it easier to fit her work to a pre-made frame that already has a mat.
Coke said, "I used to do mostly oils, but they take so long to dry and I'm in a hurry," followed by a laugh, "so I use acrylics because they dry so fast, and if something's not right I can fix it."
"I've been painting all my life. When I was in high school we did Lady of the the Lake, we had to do a little booklet about it, and I painted the front of it. My teacher thought I had a little talent so she arranged for her friend to give me some lessons, and that started me I guess."
"We moved here in '46 and I couldn't find anyone to teach me. You know those little signs that said 'Draw me?' Well I did that and sent it in. It was a $500 correspondence lesson, it was expensive, I did it and I'm glad. Year's later, when I started teaching I used those books for drawing and perspective."
"I worked for the state and I'd have to go to the outlying districts, to the schools and judge the kid's work." She said she "enjoyed the kids, you could tell right away who had some talent." A blizzard in Myrtle Point put an end to that chapter of her career.
She and her husband, a contractor, owned The Fireplace Shop for many years where Liz had a little gallery in the back room. She said, "I sold pretty well there and always put something in the front window."
Coke added, "I taught at Coquille Art Center for years and when Coos Art Museum was on Market Street, in the old library, Maggie Carl was there upstairs and I taught in the basement."
"I put a painting in a show at Coos Art Museum, open to anyone, it was only about 2 by 2 and it was a floral. Of all the paintings there I won; winning a right to a show upstairs in the Mabel Hansen Gallery."
"Right next to mine was the most beautiful painting I'd ever laid my eyes on. It was huge, painted by Peggy O'Neal. Now that gal is an artist! And here's that little thing of mine. I was sick, I went to the office and said there's something wrong."
"Come to find out my students thought they were doing me a favor, they went in and voted for me. I was so embarrassed I've not entered a painting in a show at Coos Art Museum since."
Recently Coke's friend Betty Bangs asked her to do a show at Gallery By the Bay and being a good friend she agreed. These days Betty Bangs isn't painting but is helping book shows at the gallery. Ladies don't usually discuss their age but both are over the 90 mark and very active. Coke said she told Bangs she "didn't think sales would be good in January, but I'll do the show anyway."
The artist's reception will be from 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6, at Gallery By the Bay located at 2100 Union in North Bend. At 6 p.m. there will be a raffle drawing for one of Coke's paintings, and the winner must be present to win. Refreshments will be served and live music will be performed by harpist/guitarist Robin O'Neill.
Coke told me, "I did a show at Evergreen Court recently and did quite well." She said, "It feels good when someone pays me a compliment enough to buy one of my paintings and I'll keep painting as long as people want them."
Coke said, "I try to paint a little every day." She takes "at least a dozen pieces for shows, a variety, because everyone has their own taste."
"I like to rub shoulders with the artists," Coke said. She paints with a group every Friday at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, and in the summer with the Plein Air artists.
"I am an Honorary Member of the Coquille Valley Art Center and Bay Area Artists Association. I've judged shows, I used to judge for Coos Art Museum."
"I watch on television any of the arts that come on. There is one at 9 a.m. Thursdays. As old as (96) I am, I'm still learning."
She told me, "My hearing is starting to go and I wear glasses now, but I am going to keep painting. I get a little high, you know."
With a laugh Coke says, "I'm going out fighting" and I hope it's painting, doing what she loves.