plein air workshop

Seeing with a ‘backwards brain’

Painter Michael Orwick, whose work will be included in an October show in Astoria, says his dyslexia helped him become an artist

Reading his bio, the first bit of information you learn about artist Michael Orwick is that he nearly died at birth (he’s not entirely sure, but he thinks the umbilical cord was wound around his neck) and that while his mother thought he was perfect, his physician father “knew better.” It’s something of an inside joke, but as it turns out, also true – at least in some eyes. But a learning disorder others might see as a deficit Orwick soon discovered could, in fact, be quite the attribute — one he says he “wouldn’t trade for a minute.”

Next month, the Beaverton painter will lead his usual plein air workshop in Cannon Beach, albeit with a very limited number of participants, thanks to the you-know-what. In October, he and his 16-year-old daughter, Elena, will participate in the Sins of the Father show at The Secret Gallery in Astoria, which will feature artists and their fathers. We talked with Orwick about his life as an artist and the imperfection that helped shape him. His comments have been edited for clarity.

Artist Elena Orwick, 16, and her father Michael Orwick will have their work included in the October "Sins of the Father" show at The Secret Gallery in Astoria.
Michael Orwick and his 16-year-old daughter, Elena, will have their work included in the October “Sins of the Father” show at The Secret Gallery in Astoria.

On your webpage, you mention that your parents realized early on that you were dyslexic and saw things differently. How did that affect you?

Orwick: I could tell early on I was meant to understand things that I wasn’t understanding. Things weren’t supposed to be as hard as that. But I was able to put disparate things together to make something really creative. I just had a different way of seeing things.

In a thank you letter you sent to the “people that shaped me,” you wrote: “You should understand, growing up dyslexic, school was hard. Any subject with letters, or numbers, or dates or facts — they seemed harder for me than most kids. Although, if the assignment was visual, or creative — AHHHHH, it was like the clouds parting and angels singing! I felt like saying, “Step back citizens, I have this, everything is under control.”

Did being dyslexic make it hard on you as kid?

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Coast calendar: a little dancing, a little strumming

BodyVox visits the forest near Astoria, plein air painting in Cannon Beach, and Appalachian fiddle tunes in Manzanita are among upcoming offerings

Dance, music, art – there’s a bit of everything happening on the North Coast in coming weeks. 

In Astoria, Portland’s BodyVox will combine dance and theater on Saturday, Sept. 14, in a typically Oregon setting: the forest.  With the roaring Columbia River providing the backdrop, BodyVox@Big Creek performers will share their awarding-winning dance under the open skies. 

poster for BodyVox at Big Creek

In its 22nd season, the company founded by Emmy Award-winning choreographers Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland is known, according to its website, for its “visual virtuosity, distinctive wit and unique ability to combine dance, theater and film into breathtaking productions rich in imagery, athleticism and humor. … The company has a tradition of excellence with a unique voice that is equally influenced by its Northwest roots and world view.”

Bear in mind that the unique working-forest setting comes with conditions. Private vehicles are not permitted on the property, so shuttle buses will pick up ticket holders at the Knappa High School parking lot and deliver them to Hampton Lumber’s Big Creek Forest property about 13 miles east of Astoria. Best to arrive early for the 15-20 minute ride over logging roads. Shuttles will run about every 20 minutes from 4 to 5:30 p.m. You’ll be dropped off less than 100 feet from the performance area so “walking will be minimal, however, be advised that gravel roads and the natural characteristics of the landscape might present challenges for those with mobility issues,” organizers warn. 

Tickets are $20. You’ll find more details on tickets and what to and not to bring here.

ALSO IN ASTORIA, the 45th Parallel Universe chamber music collective joins with the historic Liberty Theatre in presenting a series of five musical performances, beginning Oct. 11 with Primordial Swamp. The performance features flutist Martha Conwell Long and cellist Marilyn de Oliveira performing Reza Vali’s vivid Folk Songs. 45th Parallel players complete the program with Dohnanyi’s Sextet and Martinu’s brilliant Nonet. For more on the 2019-20 lineup, and prices for individual or season tickets, go here.

CANNON BEACH DEBUTS its newest festival, the Earth & Ocean Arts Festival, Sept. 20-22. It takes the best of the former Plein Air & More Arts Festival, which ended a 10-year run in 2018, and adds a few environmentally themed twists.  Leading up to it, landscape oil painters Michael Orwick and Anton Pavlenko offer a five-day plein air workshop, beginning Sept. 16.

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