His prints and paintings explore the mysteries of nature


LANGLEY – This time, Rob Schouten himself is in the spotlight at the Rob Schouten Gallery & Sculpture Park.

The October exhibition, “Eaux-fortes et tableaux à l’aquatint”, presents six etchings in aquatint and five oil paintings by the gallerist. His works examine the mysteries of nature and stretch the imagination.

“Because the gallery is doing so well, my time to paint has been cut dramatically,” said Rob Schouten, the gallery’s namesake. “I was probably doing half a dozen paintings a year. I currently do maybe two paintings a year.

A self-taught painter and printmaker, Schouten earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from the School of Graphic Arts in the Netherlands. After working in advertising for about a year, he moved to Seattle and became an artist.

This is only the second time Schouten, 64, has had his own exhibition at the Rob Schouten Gallery. His last exhibition took place in 2017.

“As a gallery owner, it’s very important to Rob that all of our artists are well represented,” said gallery co-owner Victory Schouten. “He tends to be wrong.”

His etchings were made with the Island International Artists on the island of Guemes around 1998. In the aquatint etching method, the printing plate is blocked, step by step, from a snowy white to a velvety black . It allows the artist to work with a wide range of grays to create an image.

“I’ve shown one or two at a time in the gallery, but I’ve never shown all six at once,” Rob Schouten said. “We printed them in black and white, which I’ve always preferred with them.”

His recent paintings are done in transparent oil glazes in the underpainting technique. A layer of paint is applied to the canvas before painting it. It serves as a model for the image, allowing the artist to control light, value and contrast.

Schouten’s work draws inspiration from surrealists like MC Escher, Salvador Dalí, and René Magritte, as well as symbolists like Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, and Gustav Klimt.

He is most proud of “Confluence”, an elaborate oil on canvas painting. A radiating pattern of squares shows a mountain stream, its rocky banks covered with logs, ferns and moss. Outside the squares is Mount Shuksan in the background and Picture Lake in the foreground.

“I made a mask for the painting so that in the gallery I could show the image that is inside the squares,” he said. “It’s a very complicated picture, so it’s very difficult to see exactly what’s going on with it.”

An aquatint etching and an oil painting, inspired by the San Juan Islands, are both titled “Skylands”. When the mist lifts from the water, the islands seem to float on the clouds – so he painted the islands as if they were hot air balloons.

“You know what the islands look like here, don’t you?” says Victoire Schouten. “It’s just those perfect round things where you wouldn’t be surprised if they just peeled off.”

Schouten sold his paintings at Seattle’s Pike Place Market from 1980 to 1982, then when he moved to Whidbey Island in 1983 he exhibited his work at galleries like Kirsten Gallery in Seattle, The Conner Gallery and Carolyn Hartness Gallery in Seattle. He used to work in watercolour, but now he prefers oil.

The gallery is also showing new art from 12 North West artists until November 1 – you’ll see cool paintings, sculptures, glass and woodwork.

The artists are Robert Adamson, Anne Belov, Kathleen Frugé Brown, Carolyn Doe, Georgia Gerber, Dan and Joi LaChaussée, Steph Mader, Gerard Del Monte, Sharon Spencer, Don Wodjenski and Angèle Woolery. Each artist will have one or two works exhibited.

Owners Rob and Victory Schouten founded the gallery in 2008. Rob is the artistic director; Victory is the general manager. In 2016 they moved their operation from Greenbank to Langley and added a sculpture garden.

Victory Schouten said her favorite on the show was “After the Fall”. Oil painting inspired by South Whidbey State Park’s Wilbert Trail shows a fallen tree in the background and a skunk cabbage in the foreground – the new opening in the canopy lets in more light for new growth. Hidden in the roots of the tree is a Buddha.

“There is this pervasive peace,” she says. “The fall of a big tree is a destructive thing, yet there is growth that comes from it.”

Rob and Victory met through her art. Victory was working as a marketing director for the Seattle Group Theater in 1987.

The Seattle Group Theatre, which closed in 1998, featured Seattle-area performers in the lobby of its performance hall. An artist’s works were available for purchase and hung in the lobby while a performance was in progress.

When Victory’s star performer for “Orphans” backed out, Rob offered to replace him. They married about a year later.

“It’s a window into the interest he is,” said Victory Schouten, who has been his fan from the start. “How caring he is, how he notices and cares.”

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; [email protected]; @sarabruestle.



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