Return to the art world

Posted: Thursday, November 09, 2000

Artist Sharron Lobaugh looks to the scenic beauty of Southeast Alaska for many of her paintings. But last year she was digging through the dump for a work of art.

Lobaugh worked for most of last year on a watercolor of two king crabs. She sent the painting to Germany to have prints made and they came back in late December. The package was opened at U.S. Customs at the Juneau Airport, and her husband Cliff Lobaugh brought the prints home. The original was not there.

"It must have been in the packing material between sheets of cardboard," she said.

By the time she called the Customs Service, the package had gone to the dump. She headed for the incinerator and faced the mountain of trash slated for destruction. The attendant told her it was hopeless and she reluctantly conceded it was gone forever.

Lobaugh's faced plenty of ups and downs in her 40year career as an artist. This weekend she presents her first exhibit in more than a decade. Her crab print and more than 50 original watercolors will be unveiled at an opening reception from 1 to 7 p.m. Friday at Gallery Art and Framing, 3340 Fritz Cove Road. The exhibit will be open from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Ten years ago, Sharron Lobaugh walked away from a promising art career, frustrated with the business of being an artist.


Lost original: "The Royal Dance" is a 1999 watercolor by Sharron Lobaugh. A print will be shown in Lobaugh's upcoming show, but the original was accidentally thrown away by customs officials.


She had been painting more than 30 years. She had earned a degree in fine art from Washington State University, and after moving to Juneau in 1962, she taught art at JuneauDouglas High School and the University of Alaska. She entered her paintings in statewide juried shows and won. She had a watercolor selected for exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and showed her work at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle and the Alaska State Museum. Her paintings were purchased for private and public art collections.

Then she gave it up.

She said making art is just part of being a professional artist. The other aspects bookkeeping, marketing, competing in art shows, dealing with galleries from Ketchikan to Fairbanks became increasingly frustrating. In 1990 she decided to get away from the business side of art.

She continued to paint, but painted for herself. She began working for the state of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and devoted time to issues relating to the environment, mental health and education. When she retired two years ago, she returned to art recharged.

"I'm not so pressured by competition," she said. "I'm painting for myself now. I paint what inspires me."

Her son and daughterinlaw are helping with the bookkeeping and marketing chores, freeing her to focus on art. She's also changed her approach.

She said she used to adhere to a watercolorist's ethic. Scenes were painted outdoors, usually in a single sitting, and never from photographs. She never used white or added white to a painting.

Now she's relaxed a bit on that. She said she feels better about her work as well.

"I feel like I can bat 1,000," she said. "I used to feel that about half didn't really turn out."

Lobaugh has done some watercolor portraits of local people, but the majority of her paintings are outdoor scenes. The Mendenhall Glacier, Atlin in fall colors, the waterfront of Petersburg and the rich and varied landscapes of Southeast Alaska. She's painted flowers in the wetlands and mining relics in Nome.

"It excites me to get not only the beauty but the force behind the environment," she said.

In addition to the 50 original paintings, Lobaugh has chosen six watercolors for limited edition reproduction using a new printmaking technique called glicee prints. The image is scanned in and processed by a computer program that allows the printer to fine-tune the colors. An ink-jet printer, not an offset press, reproduces the print on high quality paper. Only 50 prints were made in each edition, and Lobaugh is delighted with the results.

"They're almost indistinguishable from the originals," she said.

For the past year she's focused strictly on watercolors, and her show this weekend will feature only watercolor paintings. She also paints with oils, but takes a different approach.

"I do oils from my watercolors, and they become more abstract as they develop," she said. "I think my next show will be all oils."

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