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William Steidel - Whimsical Meets Fantasy in Cannon Beach

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CANNON BEACH -- Jazz is playing in the background, and there’s a fire flickering in the cast iron stove in the center of the Steidel studio.

 

It’s a drizzly day, and artist William Steidel is thinking about sunshine.

 

“We have seven and a half miles of beach,” says Steidel, engrossed in a new painting.

 

“Do you know what we have that east coast beaches don’t?” he asks, without missing a brush stroke.

 

“This is all public beach,” he says, with evident pride.  “On the east coast, if you’re on the beach, someone will come out and say you can’t be there.  They’ll say, ‘didn’t you see the ‘no trespassing’ signs?’ ”

 

Steidel, snug in a leather chair stained with paint in many colors, makes it obvious he considers this ridiculous.

 

It might be why he left New York state for Oregon 54 years ago.

 

It’s definitely why he stays.

 

Steidel has lived in Cannon Beach so long, he’s an institution.

 

His sea-weathered studio on Hemlock St. has a 1906 marker, but Steidel is sure that the main room where he paints and greets guests, was built in the 1800s.

 

 

 

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“I call it Western Victorian,” he says, when asked about the Hobbit-style building that houses his works of fantasy.

 

The Steidel studio is part of the charm of Cannon Beach -- whimsical art, and long-time residents with character.

 

At 83, Steidel still paints with the imagination of a younger man who got his commercial start as an illustrator of children’s books.  Several books with Steidel’s fanciful characters are displayed on an easel at the studio.

 

The grey wood exterior is brightened by a scattering of daffodils, crocuses, grape hyacinths and primulas along an interlocking brick path.  An open door invites visitors inside, drawn by warm lighting and dozens of gorgeous prints and paintings.

 

There are watercolors of songbirds in several seasons:  “Cardinals, Spring” is so popular Steidel had it printed as an oversized business card.

 

It was printed in a limited edition of 2,000.

 

One of the best-selling works in the place is the vertical “Springtime Nap” with sleepy birds on long, slender branches.

 

But fantasy rules here.  Quirky characters abound.  Colors like jelly beans pop from some work, while softer pastels make birds and forest animals dream-like.

 

There are so many creatures hidden in the foliage of “Lullaby Tree” for instance, that Steidel challenges young visitors to find several dozen. Prints are available in a limited edition of 600.

 

“I have all these crazy, imaginative ideas in my head,” Steidel says, almost as an apology.

 

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Painting while he speaks, Steidel explains he enjoys all media and doesn’t prefer watercolors over acrylics.

 

“Whatever I’m working on at the moment -- that’s my preference,” he says simply.

 

His son Sam, 49, also exhibits here.  His Haida-like style punctuates the studio with bold, multi-layered works.

 

The jazz tempo picks up in the background, and Steidel taps his left foot in time to the snappy music.  His brush strokes aren’t hurried at all.

 

More info:  www.steidelsart.com

 

Photo credit Hadi Dadashian

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