Andy Charles will be the featured artist at Gallery by the Bay for the months of January and February, 2020. A reception will be held in his honor at the gallery will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4th. Robin O’Neill, guitarist/harpist will provide music throughout the social evening of fine art, great music and good food. At 6 p.m. an original painting by Charles will be raffled, and the winner must be present to win.

We’re bringing Andy Charles, artist extraordinaire, out of retirement to see what he has been up to for the past fifteen years. It turns out he’s been doing what he has always been doing….painting!

His studio is an exhibit in itself! Wall to wall paintings, surf boards suspended from the ceiling (he is a serious surfer), a guitar, ukulele, and banjo align themselves on the couch, waiting for Andy, the musician, to choose one to fill his break-time. He also plays mandolin. On the worktable is a painting in progress, as a matter of fact, there are several paintings in progress there. 

I visited him in his studio where I was surrounded by awesome pieces of art. I didn’t know where to start, but conversation is easy with Andy, so in response to my question about the incredible bead-work of one piece, a beaded vest hanging from a studio rafter and several 3 feet long spear holders on a post in the room’s center, it turns out the artist is responsible for the exquisite work I saw exhibited there. It is the result of years of his driving interest in all primal history and artwork enhanced by his travels to many destinations globally. It is obvious this is an artist who knows no bounds in the choice of medium or tools with which to achieve his desired objective.

While most youngsters start out with some variety of crayon or paint, he relates that one of his first tools as a child was his pocketknife, experimenting on wood. 

Andy was born in Washington, D.C. in 1958 and was there at the time of the Martin Luther King assassination. He and his family came West in 1973 and settled in Walla Walla, Washington. It was here he was introduced to the Native American culture through collectors and those who knew the fine points of history and authenticity of the indigenous tribes.

By this time he was working in acrylic, oil, watercolor and Prisma color and as he says, “selling my work for cigarette money.” 

He calls his work representational with overtones of surrealism. Surrealism, to me, means the piece holds a meaning beneath a meaning. When I asked him what his definition of surrealism is, he said, “Just call it Andyism.”

He uses many layers on his paper when using Prisma pencils, or glazes when using watercolor. “I am un-schooled” he says of his art education, but it is obvious the prolific artist life of Andy Charles is rich in experiences and years of in-depth study of his subject matter. “I painted what I was inspired to paint, that of primal culture and the natural world,” says Andy.

While I was in his studio, he kept pulling out full sheets of watercolor and Prisma color paintings from a large carrying case to show me. There was obviously no room on the walls of the studio for these treasures. I thought what a shame these have not been available for people to enjoy, each one proclaiming its own ethnic story. While these are not, as yet, framed pieces, they will be on exhibit at the time of the gallery reception.

In 1979 he was Artist in Residence at Carnegie Art Center in Walla Walla, illustrated two children’s books, a book cover and many now-forgotten pieces of work. He was also part-owner of McMinnville, Oregon’s Current Art Gallery for 3 years. His work may be viewed at the present time at Rain Forest Gallery in Langlois.

Charles will be teaching classes on Tuesdays in the Art Salon classroom of Gallery by The Bay this next year, focusing on drawing, watercolor, acrylic and/or Prisma color and later, fine bead work. Classes are set for Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-noon. There will be a sign-up sheet for any of those classes at his reception. You may call 541-373-7148 for more information or registration in any of the classes.

Make this art reception for Andy Charles your first most important event of the new year 2020.

Gallery By the Bay is located at 2100 Union in North Bend.

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