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Watercolorist at the Waterfront

Judy Priest is scrambling.

She was informed of her selection as March Artist of the Month at Port Angeles' Waterfront Art Gallery just a month before she had to have all her pieces ready. Since then, Priest has been rushing to complete her work.

"It's my goal each time I have a show to have all new work," she said. "It forces to me finish things and get things done. So it's been busy."

Priest's artwork is a bit of an institution in the area - she's lived in and been painting in Sequim for 52 years. After growing up and being educated in Oregon, she moved to Sequim after marrying pioneer descendant Ronald Priest.

Since then, Priest has not only been showing her own work but has taught drawing and watercolor classes through Peninsula College, the Museum and Arts Center and the Sequim Senior Activity Center, as well as private lessons.

Priest's love of art began at the age of 8 when she began painting for fun. After studying at the University of Oregon in Eugene, she continued at the Portland Museum Art School.

"I did silkscreen in school," Priest said. "But there were just too many fumes, which really hurt my lungs."

Upon graduation, Priest said, "I turned to watercolor."

Priest ran her own gallery, in the building where The Buzz is now located, and taught lessons in the back. After 14 years of operating the gallery, she closed it on Christmas Eve of 1996, because she said "I was ready to retire and didn't want to sell it because I didn't know how it would turn out."

In her latest show, her first at the Waterfront Art Gallery since 2005, Priest said she has mostly watercolor pieces, although there are some pen-and-ink drawings.

"A lot of the paintings are on watercolor paper, but I also painted on tissue paper or masa paper (a Japanese rice paper)," she said. "It gives it a different sort of feel."

Priest prefers to stick to nature paintings and is not a big fan of drawing or painting people or animals.

"I'm not into doing that," she said, laughing. "You have to be very precise with people. Skies and water, they change all the time. Nobody picks on me when I do skies and water."

She has managed to sneak in a few "people pictures," though. One of her newer ones depicts her husband walking with the neighbor's dog, Dude.

"Sometimes Dude comes on walks with us and it's a wonderful sight," she said. "So I guess I do people and animal pictures once in a while."

She said she didn't have the dog in the picture at first but later decided to add him next to her husband. These last-minute inspirations, according to Priest, are often the best part of a painting.

"Sometimes," she said, "afterthoughts work the best."

Artist of the Month

What: Judy Priest is March Artist of the Month

When: Opens March 1; reception 6-8 p.m. March 14

Where: Waterfront Art Gallery, 115 E. Railroad Ave. No. 103,

Port Angeles

Contact: 452-8165, www.artwaterfront.com



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