Jayati Ramakrishnan

Known for painting ocean scenes that walk the line between abstract and realism, Brookings artist Spencer Reynolds, along with his wife Stacey, has spent the last year pursuing a new project: opening Semi Aquatic Gallery.

A Brookings native, Spencer has lived many lives — selling his art at outdoor shows, traveling, working for educational media companies — but the gallery, located at 654 Chetco Avenue, allows him to achieve a larger goal.

“A lot of restaurants were opening in this area, and I saw several of them sticking around,” he said. “I thought it was a good time to open a gallery.”

The anniversary event will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 at the gallery, and is open to the public.

Reynolds had been interested in opening a business in that particular spot, too — a triangular space with high ceilings and lots of light. On the walls are dozens of his paintings, which mirror his surroundings — the rugged coastline and waterways of this area.

“He’s a surfer, so his love of the ocean is what inspires him,” said Stacey, a graphic designer and the gallery’s business manager. “The last few years, he’s been doing more regional and landscape type of paintings. As with all our careers, there’s no set path, so we’ve had to try a lot of things.”

For many years, Reynolds worked as a commercial artist, and then made a living selling his art at outdoor shows. But after their son, now 5, was born, he began to look for different ways to make his career work.

“As we established our family, it became apparent that was going to be really challenging,” Stacey said. “It seemed like there needed to be another way to continue a career as an artist. Some outlets are traveling for shows or being in boutique shops, but for Spencer, it made sense to have his own space — a place for people to come in and see what he’s created.”

Reynolds paints mainly with oils and reclaimed wood, and is inspired by the Wild Rivers Coast — many of his works feature familiar Brookings spots like Thunder Rock Cove, Secret Beach and the Chetco River.

His style, which features bright colors and distinct lines, and marries abstract and realistic themes, has developed over time.

“I’m not entirely self-taught,” Spencer said. “I did schooling and studied with a Russian impressionist painter after that. But that’s such a short period of your life. That stuff helps, but you just have to dive in and draw and paint as much as you can. I draw or paint every day. And your style develops.”

He also tries to push his style, sometimes making snap decisions about the content of pieces.

“Most pieces aren’t planned from start to finish,” he said, pointing to a piece with dark reds and colorful, electric waves coursing across the canvas. “That piece was completely spontaneous — I just started painting.

“What I’m kind of seeking right now (is) to push landscape painting to an area I haven’t seen it before,” Spencer said, looking at a painting of Highway 101 and the ocean — with neon blocks of grass in the foreground. “If you get a style that’s making money and that works for you, some stop here. But I’m not interested in that — I almost try to discard that when I feel like I’m getting a little too comfortable.”

Though the paintings on the walls are all Spencer’s, the shop also displays wares crafted by other vendors — many of whom are from Curry County. There are tables with jewelry, blankets, hats and handmade soaps, as well as books by a local author. Lining the walls are also T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, all featuring designs by Spencer.

“We’re both passionate about supporting local and small businesses,” Spencer said.

“Things that are handcrafted and made in the USA by nature cost a little more, but we really like having a place that’s an outlet for that,” Stacey said. “And we also wanted to carry things that encapsulate the beauty of where we live.”

Now that the business is up and running, the couple hopes to turn their attention to some specific things.

“The first year went better than we hoped,” Spencer said.

“In the future, we hope to provide some educational opportunities,” Stacey said. “People who come in here are often interested or want tips in painting, and kids really gravitate toward his style. We hope to add some classes.”

Reynolds also wants to refocus on an old interest: T-shirt design.

“That’s kind of what got me into art in the first place,” he said. “My dad influenced me — he was an artist — but there were also these shirts (with designs) I used to love that got me interested in art. In a way, my shop brings my career full circle — it brings me back to what got me into art in the first place — apparel.”

The anniversary event will celebrate Spencer’s art, as well as other local artisans. Refreshments will be available, and the event is open to the public.

“Behind all this, we hope to build (the gallery) into something that serves the community — especially youth interested in arts,” Stacey said. “Arts are always a tough career to pursue, but there are lots of creative ways to do it. That’s what we hope to inspire in others.”

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