Pam Ingalls | The Beauty of Common Things

Reflecting, oil, 11 x 14
Reflecting, oil, 11 x 14
By Gussie Fauntleroy

Pam Ingalls admits it’s probably her most often used phrase, preceded by a quick, excited intake of breath: (Gasp!) “I should paint that!” What is it that stirs these thoughts of canvas and brush? It could be a bear-shaped honey bottle and a peanut butter jar, a bathroom sink, or the subtle curves of someone’s face. It doesn’t take much. And that’s really the point.

“The inspiration to paint usually comes from the light, and that’s what I see all the time: the light coming across a counter, the light through curtains. Even when I travel, I like the everyday things, the things you might pass by—even I might pass by—but then I take a second look and go, Ooh!” the artist relates.

She’s sitting in the cedar-shake waterfront cabin that serves as her studio on Vashon Island, WA, a 15-minute ferry ride from Seattle. Nearby is the small cabin where she and her two cats live. “The light—that’s what makes me want to paint something. It’s such a normal thing for a painter to say,” she acknowledges, “but it’s true.”

With sunshine filtering through long, wavy red hair, the 6-foot-tall, 49-year-old artist with a ready smile is not likely to fit anyone’s stereotyped vision of “normal.” She spent a year in Italy and a semester in an Irish boarding school as a child. In her 20s she lived on a stipend while helping Seattle’s elderly and inner-city poor. She has walked from Seattle to the East Coast, across Europe, and on to Bethlehem with 20 others and a radical Jesuit priest who asked everyone along the way, respectfully, how bombs and war could possibly be understood by Christ. She’s produced thousands of tourist maps through a venture begun by her mother, built a house with her own hands and the help of her father-in-law and friends, and slept in the bathtub—in her cabin’s sturdiest room—during western Washington’s gale-force storms in the fall of 2006. Yet any lingering radical bent is offset by a genuine love of the human race. And Ingalls’ travels have taught her that she has one true passion in life: to paint…

Featured in May 2007
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