What Came First, The Paint Or The Painter?

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Of all the art that fills Gino Ater's life, jewelry came first -- in 1979.

He inlays stone in geometric shapes for his pendants, rings and bracelets.

Ater lives in the log home he constructed east of Payson, from the trees on his property, the old Mead Ranch homestead.

"I made the windowsills and the top of the bar and that morphed into making chairs and table lamps," he said.

From there, he decided to make free-form yet rustic, tables with inlays of travertine, slate, azurite and other stones.

He is one of the 26 artists featured in the sixth annual 'Neath the Rim Self-guided Studio Tour that began this morning.

The 16 studios are open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., May 4, 5 and 6.

Painter Jim Strong is opening his Round Valley studio to Ater and several other artists.

"Just being on the ranch with Jim in the beautiful valley and (around) the talent and creativity of the other artists is inspiring and fun," said Conrad Chapek.

Chapek fell in love with native manzanita wood when he moved to the Rim Country from the Midwest. He cleans, then varnishes, the wood, until its rich colors emerge, then he adds silk leaves, one by one.

Some of his larger custom trees have 4,000 leaves on them, but Chapek has made smaller trees for this weekend's tour.

Pat Dobeck will also be at Strong's ranch studio with her Southwest paintings and portraits.

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The work of Gino Ater, such as this table, can be seen during the 'Neath the Rim Self-guided Studio Tour this weekend. Ater is one of 26 artists featured in the sixth annual tour.

"My pictures kind of speak to me when I'm painting," Dobeck said. "I get lost in the process. Time seems to just stop."

She finds the process of creation satisfying, yet at the same time, it can be frustrating trying to get the oil, acrylic or watercolor just right.

"I feel like I own the whole world, when I get the exact color the exact lines I want," she said.

She felt she captured the story of an Indian chief from a small photograph in one special painting.

"He looks like a wise, old man, very solemn. (He seems to be) thinking, ‘You can paint my picture, but you better do it right'," she said.

Doing "it" right is somewhat different for batik artist, Marilyn Salomon.

Batik is an ancient Indonesian process of drawing with hot wax on silk and then dyeing the fabric.

"It is unpredictable," Salomon said. "I love that the batik process is mysterious and you never know what you have until you iron (the wax) out. Life is like that. You can't control what happens in life, you must just let it happen."

Despite the mystery, there are things Salomon does control, starting with the preconceived image in her mind and what she sketches.

Salomon's layered collage pieces evolve on a theme, such as wood, earth or water.

In the process of adding layers of silk, new colors and patterns often appear.

Jan Ransom is another artist who finds joy in unusual patterns. She takes time away from her other love, quilted fiber art, to pick up her watercolor or oil palette and paint each week.

Lately, she has also worked on what she calls, "negative painting" with watercolors.

"It's not what you are seeing when you are working on a space," she said. "It's more like a puzzle."

She puts a wash on the background and, from there, paints the landscape or floral and the wash brings out the tone, for instance, of the leaves.

Maps of studio locations may be obtained from the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce at the corner of the Beeline Highway and Main Street, and at the Payson Public Library, 328 N. McLane Road.

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