Irene Torres

Portrait of Marcia Horan by Joseph Barrow. Photo: Ed Johnson, KP News

Joseph “Joe” Barrow describes his art group as “a great gang, loving art.” He and six others, calling themselves the ArtPhARTs, have been meeting weekly on the Key Peninsula since 2004. They gather every Tuesday at the Longbranch fire station, spread out their art supplies and “dabble in different mediums,” Barrow said.

Suzanne Stuhaug joined the original members, Marcia Horan, Ann Craven, Pat and Trish Thompson, Carolyn Wiley and Barrow, in 2005. “Almost all of us took this up at a relatively mature age,” she said. “The group has no particular mission, except to encourage artistic expression.” Newcomers to the group include Patty Carroll and Jan Prichard.

“We all put in time with Arts in Schools and Two Waters,” Stuhaug said. “We are painters, a potter, a quilt maker. We paint. We enter shows. It’s nothing special.

“In the classroom, so much is observing what they see and drawing it,” she said. “It’s a different way of looking at things. We teach art along with subject matter. We include drama, poetry and other artistic work. It has many applications, and more freedom.”

“We get together for brunch once a month,” Barrow said. “We laugh and joke. We critique and encourage one another. We are a tight-knit group of folks; we are social friends with a constant sharing of ideas. The critiques we give one another are designed to talk about general principles of art and all the things we do. It’s very inspiring.”

Sherry Bales, a watercolor teacher at Tacoma Community College, has demonstrated techniques for “painting out of focus, into focus, how to merge colors, softening edges, when to use hard edges, and even how to use Saran Wrap to make patterns,” Stuhaug said. “It’s an interesting effect, what happens between water and paint.”

Due to space limitations, they have kept the group small. “We are not exclusive,” Stuhaug said. “It’s just that nobody leaves. We have to bring all the materials and spread out. We’ve pretty much maxed out the table space.”

The ArtPhARTs exhibited their work in September at Kimball Espresso Cafe in Gig Harbor and at the Blend Wine Shop in Key Center. They plan future shows with the Peninsula Art League and the Northwest Watercolor Association. The group takes trips to the Seattle Art Museum, galleries and the Daniel Smith paint company, “the premier paint maker on the West Coast,” Stuhaug said. The ArtPhARTs have already registered as a group to attend a two-day workshop with watercolor painter Jean Haines from the British Isles in October 2017.

“Anyone who wants to come watch what we do is welcome. Come, look and talk to us, 10 to 2 any Tuesday,” Stuhaug said. Another group, the Art Tarts, meets at the station on a different day.