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Pamplin Media Group – Spiral Gallery presents Peggy Skycraft’s August art exhibition

Artist Estacada shows off her marbling technique in the Spiral Gallery exhibition in August

PMG FILE PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Peggy Skycraft's "Brain garden" exhibition will be available at the Spiral Gallery for the month of August. Almost 70 years ago, 12-year-old Peggy Skycraft sat on her porch drawing a Pegasus. The young man sitting next to her looked at her work and told Skycraft that she was an artist. And that statement rang true.

Now, at 81, Skycraft is still just that, an artist, and has spent her life working with various mediums, retaining that role.

Skycraft is the featured artist at the Spiral Gallery this August with her “Brain Garden” show. The exhibition will be present in the gallery throughout the month and includes seven pieces by the artist.

COURTESY PHOTO: PEGGY SKYCRAFT - "Song of the dawn" by Peggy SkycraftSkycraft specializes in a technique called marbling in which they pour paint over water and lay the paper on top, transferring the design to the paper. You first learned this technique from a single page of an educational book.

β€œIt was a piece about marbling peanut butter jars and oil paints, and I thought, ‘that’s great,’” Skycraft said. “So I played around … and that’s how I learned it and gradually learned more about the more sophisticated methods.”

Now, Skycraft primarily uses a traditional English technique in his work, dropping oil paints onto the water so you can lay the paper on top.

However, Skycraft worked with various mediums such as finger painting, Goodwill’s fused pastels to achieve his art. She is an innovator, she always thinks about what she can do next. In one case, she Skycraft painted a roller brush with puff paint so that she could create her own unique roller stamp to use in her work of hers.

For some of his works, Skycraft even makes his own paintings. This idea came from a teacher she had while attending the Chicago Institute of Art who encouraged students to really investigate what their painting was. For the water marbling work, Skycraft mainly uses lei-made paint, based on pigment and methylcellulose.

Skycraft sees the particular works of art featured in the show as “different levels of consciousness”, hence titled the show “Brain Garden”. In this collection there are some floral themed pieces where Skycraft painted multiple layers to achieve the marbled effect as well as painted flowers.

Skycraft was born in San Diego, California, but moved to Portland when she was about ten, living in a cabin-style home on 65th Street.

As a child she spent her school days drawing, to the point that her teachers eventually allowed her to start decorating classrooms with her work.

“They had these bulletin boards in the front of the room and they put some butcher paper in them, so I had to do murals,” Skycraft said.

However, spending days drawing in his Grant high school classes ultimately led to Skycraft being accepted into the Art Institute of Chicago. He studied design there for two years before returning to Portland and earning a bachelor’s degree in painting from Portland State University.

“I was at the Art Institute for two years and suffered from lousy jobs, lousy boyfriends for a couple of years, and eventually went back to Oregon,” Skycraft said.

As we are in the Spiral Gallery discussing Skycraft’s work, a tall man with a bright smile walks in, placing his hand on Skycraft’s shoulder. He is her husband, Jack Townes. She is surprised when she sees him. He was out of town and decided to stop by the gallery, not even knowing Skycraft would be there.

They have been together since 1977 and got married when Skycraft was 65.

Their love story, just like Skycraft art, grew out of a love of art, as the two met at the Portland Art Museum in 1975 when Jack helped Skycraft prepare his art for a ‘ installation.

“Jack was working for the museum and I had this room of stuff to set up and he’s the guy who came to help me do it.”

From then on they started working together on different projects and officially got married in 2006.

COURTESY PHOTO: PEGGY SKYCRAFT - "Star flowers" by Peggy SkycraftTownes works with Skycraft in his business where he makes paper designs for use on book covers. One of his most important works was creating paper book covers for RL Hubbard’s books for the Church of Scientology, in which he made 5,050 paper covers for the group.

“It was a horrible job. I worked for them for years, but they were really horrible. This is my torture talisman,” Skycraft said with a small laugh, holding up the rolled up paper he made for the church.

Skycraft’s work has covered many books, from high school science textbooks to the limited editions of CS Lewis’s “Berlicche’s Letters”.

Although some of the jobs were exhausting, the work allowed Skycraft to create and perfect his marbling technique and generate business from his passion.

“I took something that was fun to do and interesting and went into it like crazy, and I pushed it into a really successful business,” Skycraft said.

Now, Skycraft is retired, lives in Estacada with her husband and spends time at the Spiral Gallery when she can. And, just like she was when she was a child, she Skycraft remains a devoted artist.

“I’m an artist, I was born to do it,” Skycraft said.


You can catch the Skycraft show throughout August at Spiral Gallery, 341 Broadway St. The gallery is open from noon to 5pm Tuesday through Sunday.

COURTESY PHOTO: PEGGY SKYCRAFT - "White water" by Peggy Skycraft

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