Inside the Artist’s Studio

Four local visual artists show us where the magic happens

Jerry Ross

Jerry Ross has always been a pioneer: first by helping to sustain the New Zone Art Collective, followed by spearheading the creation of Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts.

Now the renowned Eugene oil painter has created his signature style, “American Verismo,” after discovering the Macchiaioli movement led by a group of rebellious Tuscan painters working in Florence in the mid-19th century.

“I was kind of astonished that here’s a group of painters painting in my style,” Ross says. “It’s a looser brush, freer, more spontaneous pre-Impressionist kind of painting. So I’ve kind of adapted it to American scenes.”

American scenes include those like the homeless advocacy group SLEEPS, which Ross painted downtown during Create! Eugene’s Plein Air Paint Out last month, channeling the Macchiaiolis’ inclination to use their art to comment on social issues. Through American Verismo, Ross creates figurative and landscape oil paintings that straddle the line between Impressionism and abstraction.

A fervent Italophile, Ross travels with his wife to Italy every year for inspiration, returning to his Eugene studio lofted high in the barn of an alpaca farm. Muses range from his wife to Italian beaches to the alpacas grazing below his studio. “I paint directly what I see,” he says. “If I’m in Italy I’m painting Italians; if I’m here I’m painting the faces of animals!” Catch Ross’ art at Out on a Limb and Noli Ristorante Italiano through September before he jets back to Italy.

Read Ross’s American Verismo manifesto at

photo by todd cooper

Analee Fuentes

As the leaves change from summer green to the burnt auburn of fall, so do the artistic influences of Mexican painter Analee Fuentes. Having just been featured in American Angler magazine and the Eugene Celebration’s Mayor’s Art Show for large oil paintings of the midsection of colorful Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout, Fuentes slowly starts pulling away from her scaly summer friends and starts to paint creatures of a different kind — Día de los Muertos skeletons.

Most noted for her tongue-in-cheek Day of the Dead depictions like the “Bona Lisa” and “Sacrilege Sells: Michtlantecuhtil’s Revenge” (featuring a new spin on Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale label), Fuentes recently combined her love of fish and reptiles with a deep-rooted fascination for the upcoming Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos. The hybrids come to life in the form of mermaids — half fish, half beautifully bathing skeletons.

“This time of year I start thinking about the fall and the cycles of life and death,” she says. “I thought I’d keep within the fish theme and do some mermaids.” When Fuentes’ mother, a painter and craft hobbyist, died, she inherited folders that housed clippings of her mother’s creative influences; one in particular was titled “Mermaid Ideas.”

“They’re a big deal in Mexico,” she says of the mythical creatures. “So it’s kind of a personal thing, like finishing something my mom started, but also a cultural thing.” Fuentes’ mermaids, as well as a few other skeletal surprises, will be on view at the Maude Kerns Art Center’s 20th Annual Día de los Muertos exhibit Oct. 19 to Nov. 8.

See more of Fuentes’ work at

photos by trask bedortha and todd cooper

Bryan Putnam

Journey into Bryan Putnam’s ongoing narrative art epic I A M R A I N I E R, which tells the story of Northwest legends and tackles the tension of human beings’ separation from the natural world. The Washington native explores wilderness theory and folklore in the form of sketches, paintings and prints (think Smokey Bear meets environmental collapse) as well as installations that employ video, text and performance.

“I think what I’ve always loved about art is the ability to create another world and just exercise your imagination,” he says. At his exhibition Free Range at the LaVerne Krause Gallery in January, Putnam created a visual environment using video, text, drawings, paintings and potted plants, as well as wearing a brown bear costume to bring his character “Hokey Bear” to life. Putnam explains that his paradoxical character is a light-hearted way to explore the feeling of having a domesticated barrier between himself and the world he wishes to be closer to.

Recently Putnam was asked to contribute four traffic box paintings for the city’s Art the Box project. He says each painting is about a “desire to bring this wildness into town.” Come October, Putnam will have a chance to bring the wildness into the town of Sweet Home through the Art in Rural Storefronts project. “Art is like planting a seed,” he says. “I really want to be able to create something that is dynamic enough and rich enough that you can kind of get lost in it.”

Enter the epic at

photos by trask bedortha and todd cooper

Jenny Kroik

Whether she’s collaborating with filmmakers on stop-motion film projects, updating her watercolor blog with new tutorials or creating beautiful paintings for commercial use, Russian-born artist Jenny Kroik is a true Renaissance woman.

“I try to be very diverse in my ways of painting so I don’t become a slave to one process,” she says. “If you sit and draw for too long you just go insane.”

As a painter, Kroik uses a classical watercolor style to bring everyday characters to life in her bright bouquet of paintings, lending a sense of timelessness to 21st-century quotidian scenes: a flannel-clad man using a smartphone on the train, a blue-mohawked woman at a body piercing parlor. “I’m kind of a gawker and I stare shamelessly,” she admits. Kroik jokes that browsing through her paintings is “kind of like taking a walk with crazy Jenny on the street.”

Kroik, a UO art instructor, started thinking of how she could use technology to get people excited about art and created her blog so that anyone could access step-by-step watercolor tutorials. She also collaborates for animation and stop motion film projects. Her project “Mud Lair” with local filmmaker Julia Oldham will be showcased in New York this October. Kroik’s next project will be an ode to her local love affair. “I’ve been wanting to do a book with all my Portland portraits,” she says. “I might do one of Eugene!”

Take a walk with “crazy Jenny” and view her art at See Kroik’s ‘Paige vs. U-Lock’ on cover.

photos by trask bedortha