PORT ANGELES — He’s an artist drawn to offbeat canvases: suit jackets, bridal gowns, Douglas firs.
And six years ago, Richard Metz, also a high school art teacher in suburban Philadelphia, discovered the forest encircling the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.
This was thanks to his friend, Clark Wegman, a Seattle artist, who told him: “You’ve got to see this place.”
He saw it first in 2005: Webster’s Woods, the five-acre art park at 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd. where dozens of artists before him have integrated their own work, from fish in the trees to sculptures in the meadow.
Into the woods
Then, this summer, Metz left school two days early to come back west — and go into the woods, where he found nine creatures of his own.
These creatures, which the artist said live somewhere between plant and animal, revealed themselves on the bark of evergreen trees along the trail, where Metz walked with his palette.
Using natural pigments — made of paprika, indigo, turmeric, even black dust from his wood stove — Metz painted faces onto trees, allowing the whorls and sinews of the bark to guide him.
There’s one he calls “Goat Boy,” a Bigfoot-like “green rasta man” with roots for legs, an orange-and-green kinglike character and a handful of other playful sort-of-people.
After two weeks, Metz departed Port Angeles on Friday, leaving the cool, canopied woods behind for Philly’s heat and humidity.
“I’ll be sitting around not spending money” this summer, he quipped.
Metz traveled here, you see, on a small stipend from the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center and even gave up two days’ pay from his job at Abington Senior High School.
This project “doesn’t pay for itself,” he said, not at all grudgingly.
“These are the most amazing woods . . . it’s a terrific opportunity,” to work here, he added.
Just then, a deer appeared among the trees, took a good look at the artist, and melted away.
“When you’re surrounded by kids all day, all year,” said Metz, “this is a nice place to be.”
Metz has taught art to teenagers for the past 20 years. In his own studio, he used to paint on suit coats and wedding dresses bought at thrift shops.
Then he quit the bridal gowns — “it almost seemed sacrilegious” — and began experimenting outdoors.
Leaves, flowers, faces
Leaves and flowers found their way into his sketchbooks. He’d picture fern-shaped bodies, pine-cone-headed figures and flower-eyed faces.
These, along with his work in other media, are at www.MisterMetz.com.
And now, they’re appearing in Webster’s Woods — though unlike many works of art, they’re not meant to stay.
“A lot of what artists do is battle against nature to make stuff last forever,” Metz said.
But since he uses natural pigments, his creatures will fade away over the next year or so. Which is fine with him.
“I’m going to let nature win,” Metz said.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.