I once lived in a charming old house on Woods Street in Monroe.
One day I had tied clotheslines between the posts on the front porch and hung my scarves out to dry in the afternoon sun.
As I sat in my deck chair reading a book, three cars stopped in the street. A woman jumped out and enthusiastically asked if they could paint my house. I replied, “Sure.”
That woman was Joan Pinney.
She and two of her students set up their easels and painted until the sun went down. The exquisite watercolor was on display at Joan’s gallery in Monroe and, as a result of a small windfall, I was able to purchase it. Although I no longer live there, I treasure my beautiful painting, as well as my encounter with this celebrated artist.
Many offices and homes in the Sky Valley are graced with art from the brush of Joan Pinney. These unique colorful paintings are full of light and life and express the character and charm of our area.
Joan, a Western Washington native, began painting after her daughter was born. The passing of her mother some years later inspired in her a strong desire to paint, and she dedicated herself to watercolor.
After exhibiting in local venues, Joan opened a gallery of her own. In 1987 she purchased the building at 110 S. Lewis St., where she displayed not only her art, but that of other local artists. This venture lasted for seven years, until Joan found that running the gallery did not allow enough time for her passion. So she rented out the building, and set up a studio in the upper floor of the Monroe Historical Society where she painted and taught classes for 10 years. In 2000, her husband retired and she moved her studio to her home.
Joan has always preferred to paint in what the French call the plein air style, or open air. She would choose a site, set up her easel and paint as long as the light lasted. Often, she would take a photo of her subject and complete the piece in her studio. Her lovely works of art capture quaint vintage homes and businesses. Her subjects are sites through the Sky Valley and beyond. She also paints seascapes and portraits.
As her work became known, Joan was commissioned by individuals to paint homes and local scenes for offices. The old medical clinic in Monroe purchased 45 paintings to liven their space. Her art can be seen in the Snoqualmie Hospital, Everett Region Medical Center, the new Providence Towers and many galleries, including Arts of Snohomish and the Shack Art Center in Everett.
In 2014, the Snohomish County Arts Council selected Joan as artist of the year.
Joan shared a memorable experience from a commission by a couple living outside Index. The only access to their home was to take a cable basket across the river or to wade the mostly shallow water. She and an artist friend held on to each other for balance as they made their way over the slippery rocks and watched in amazement as salmon swam by. It turned out the home was large and modern, built in the best Northwest tradition. Both artists painted the home to the delight of the owners.
During her long career, Joan has had many interesting encounters. Several years ago, she was commissioned by two local teachers who were going to work in the Philippines. They asked her to do a quintessential Sky Valley scene to remind them of home. “Farm Boys” is a classic image of a barn with a flowering garden, the majestic Cascades beyond and two young boys looking toward them. Recently, Joan received a call from a gentleman in Texas who had purchased the painting from a thrift store. He wanted her to know that the boys reminded him of his grandsons and how much he loved the painting.
Joan has published a collection of photographs of her art in several books. She recently made available “Monroe Homes and Scenes,” which features the Sky Valley Bakery on the front cover. She also has a book on cats, seascapes and old Snohomish. The new book can be viewed at Sky Valley Bakery. To purchase her books or paintings, call her studio at 360-668-8805.
When asked what wisdom she would like to impart to our readers, Joan said that to be creative is to connect with everything. Whatever art form inspires you, flower arranging or cooking a fine dinner, the process of creating is deeply rewarding, and it engenders compassion. Also, she says, “Artist friends are the best!”
Joan is hosting an open house 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 9-10 at her home studio, 21302 Echo Lake Road, Snohomish. Besides her beautiful work there will be handmade items from other artists, jewelry, soap, jam and garden art. Stop by and share in the fun.
And the next time you drive by the Monroe PUD office, check out and appreciate Joan’s lovely paintings hanging on the back wall. I find it a treat to know that we have such treasure right here in our community.