Art?  It’s Our “Second Nature!”

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By Jack Penland

Say “Nature” and one usually thinks of the great outdoors and Whidbey and Camano Island’s natural beauty. It’s a point of pride for residents and an enthralling experience for visitors.  From the sea canyon of Deception Pass to the grand vista of Barnum Point, to the distant views of the Olympic and Cascades Mountain ranges, nature brings her best.  Then, to top it off, she surrounds it with the water of the Salish Sea and fills it all with amazing creatures.

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Mother Nature and our "second" nature, art, together at the Matzke Gallery.


"Today, these waters are still an essential part of life for islanders. "
Today, these waters are still an essential part of life for islanders. Our compulsion to be near the sea has only intensified, as outdoor spaces have become the safest place to be. So gather up the kids and explore a new beach, or an old favorite. Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor has many special features, including over 2000 feet of waterfront trail, perfect for pushing a stroller or wheelchair. The vast Fort Casey State Park stretches well over 400 acres and offers a dose of military history along with stunning views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
  • Comfort - artist Sabah Al-Dhaher
    "Comfort" by Al-Dhaher at the Matzke Gallery
  • Island Spirit by Wayne lewis
    "Island Spirit" by Wayne Lewis in downtown Oak Harbor
  • All Things Equal
    "All Things Equal" by Jennifer Kapnek" at the Price Sculpture Forest (photo Bonnie Rae)
  • Waiting
    "Waiting" by Daniel Sowards at the Oak Harbor Marina

A Natural Inspiration

One Whidbey Island artist called the islands ideal for bringing together artists in a way that might not happen on the mainland.  Small things like shopping for material, turn into a group project and when artists gather, ideas start to happen.  Large open spaces give room for imaginations to run free, yet everyone is close enough to each other for group creativity to happen.

You can imagine journaling while sitting on driftwood at a beach or being inspired by the way a forest canopy filters sunlight with rain.  A long walk on a beach where your hands never left your pockets, but your head is filled with new ideas.  You may be enjoying a local musician playing from the heart when your mind drifts away and smacks into inspiration.  Yes, some even set up easels on the beach and paint en plein air.

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Oak Harbor Music Festival

"Music fills our streets, not just our venues."

Just the presence of nature, or maybe the absence of urban pressure, seems to be what everyone’s “inner artist” needs to grow and thrive.  Watching a sunset from one of the many bluffs is one of those wonderful moments when doing nothing is the best possible thing you can do.

Music fills our streets not just our entertainment venues.  From Langley to Oak Harbor to Elger Bay, buskers, jam sessions, dances, and multi-day music festivals fill the air with music ranging from classical to classic rock.

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Coupeville Arts & Crafts Festival

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The Allgire Project - Oak Harbor

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Glass Flowers Callahan's Firehouse - Langley

Man in a rowboat

Djangofest - Langley

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Boy and Dog - Langley

Streetscapes are lined with sculptures, some large and bold, while others are small, yet arresting in their own quiet way.  In recent years blank walls have become canvasses, with artists from all over eager to entertain with their ideas.

Langley is one of the state’s first creative districts and other communities are in the process of doing the same.

Art is celebrated here with events all year long; an early-season studio tour on Camano Island, a mid-summer festival and tour on Whidbey Island and an arts and crafts festival that has been held each August for more than 50 years.  But there’s also an art trail the length of Whidbey Island. More formal galleries exist in every community, with art walks and restaurants doubling as galleries. Wine tours feature artists, informal galleries pop-up, and even outdoor galleries entice, all with works ranging from serious to sappy.

And during all this merriment, the “first" nature is also there; both as beauty to be admired and preserved in her own right and as an inspiration for art, which is why we call it our "second nature."


Painting on Ebey's Landing

About the Author: Jack Penland has lived on Whidbey Island for two decades and is still learning new things about the islands all the time.

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