New mural celebrates Oak Harbor’s best
— Created June 1, 2022 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Those of us cruising along SE Pioneer Way heading into historic downtown Oak Harbor may have noticed a new mural gracing the side of Riverside Café.
This new work of art was created by local artist Timothy Haslet shortly before Memorial Day weekend. His work, mainly landscapes, can be seen at Penn Cove Gallery in Coupeville and at local events such as the Oak Harbor Music Festival and the Anacortes Arts Festival. It is only in the last year or so Haslet has added Navy planes to his repertoire.
“I’m not sure if it’s me reaching into a boyhood fascination of all things fast and powerful, or if it just simply falls in line with the motion and bold color of my landscapes (many of which I have blurred with my hands or a rag),” he said. “Maybe it’s a bit of both.”
Haslet said as he was processing this new direction in his art, conflict over jet noise within the Whidbey community occupied a great deal of his thoughts.
“A question came to me that I knew I needed to solve: What would a picture of ‘the best of both worlds’ look like?” he said. “And who are we, as a community, and where are we going? Can we create artwork that could be a bridge between the two? I have been inspired by fellow artist Makoto Fujimura and his writings on what he calls ‘culture care.’ Artists, who often themselves feel like they don’t belong anywhere, have a calling to create ‘generative’ (not destructive) works, and at their best, have a knack for bringing people together.”
The mural project came about after a discussion with the founder of a local, artistic nonprofit.
“I shared my dream of this vision of ‘the best of both worlds’ with Therese Kingsbury, of Rogue One Guerilla Arts Network last October, I think it was, and things started falling into place quite rapidly,” Haslet described. “What better way to display this concept than as a ‘Welcome to Oak Harbor’ mural? So, in effect, the vision fit the need.”
“He showed me this idea and I got really excited,” said Kingsbury. “I showed the [building] owner, who said yes. This was more or less an opportunity to put legitimate art on a wall, not just a mural. Timothy is a rising star in our community and on our island. He’s also one of the nicest humans on the planet, so this opportunity for him to expose his art to everyone is perfect timing for his trajectory.”
Haslet, who has lived on Whidbey Island for 21 years, grew up in the Seattle area and holds a bachelor’s degree in art – drawing, painting and printmaking – from Whitworth University. He said he has always had an interest in art.
“I was raised taking art lessons and going to children’s theater in Seattle, which grew in me a sense of wonder and also gave me an early confidence while creating,” he shared. “Many of my family members are also artists and art teachers, so it’s pretty clear that this is something that I was designed to do.”
This is not Haslet’s first mural. He’s done several, in fact. His first was one he did with his brother while they were in college for the exterior plywood walls of an eyeglass retailer at the Bellevue Square Mall. His next mural project was for Mailliard’s Landing Nursery in Oak Harbor.
“I got to paint a wetland scene (complete with mallard ducks, dump truck and my first Prowler jet, a last day add-on),” he described. “This job was special because I know the owners and staff through my landscaping work, which also began around the time I moved to the island, and it was painted during the winter season when work can be harder to come by.”
A black and white Allgire Project mural at the intersection of Dock Street and Pioneer Way came next, followed by a giant painting of Deception Pass for The House on Penn Cove, an AirBnB off Scenic Heights Road. Last November, Haslet painted three leaping orcas on the corner of a building at the Island County Transfer Station in Coupeville.
“Each project is a real thrill, complete with big vision, surprises and great stories to share,” he said.
Next, Haslet will spend the week between Flag Day and Father’s Day working on a mural of a PBY aircraft at the Navy Exchange on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
While Haslet said he loves working on a large scale, projects such as this latest mural are not without their challenges.
“Not only did I have to paint high up, but I was basically painting on top of a roof with a railing in between me and the surface, which makes it a couple of stories high on one side,” Haslet said. “Our solution was using bungees on ladders and homemade brush extensions, which increased my reach another two or three feet. Some of it was rolled, but most of the paint was brushed on, which drew out the textured concrete surface among the layers.”
Haslet said his style has been influenced by a number of artists. There’s a hint of impressionism, which focuses on the play of light on objects, but also post-impressionism – he said to think Van Gogh, Cezanne and Gauguin – where there is more of an emphasis on edges and colors to better capture the mood of a painting. But his biggest influence, he said, is the cutting edge ‘Landscape Pop Art’ work by British artist David Hockney.
“Pop Art is accessible, and not elitist,” said Haslet. “We can instantly recognize familiar elements and scenes, and yet also take away with us more layers of meaning. I love how people from many different walks of life can instantly connect with it. We live in a wonderfully diverse community, especially for our size, and we need art and public projects to reflect and honor this.”
Kingsbury said there is only one way to think of Haslet’s latest mural.
“This is a huge gift to Oak Harbor,” she said. “The last mural was there since the 70s, I’m told, so his painting could be there for decades to come. Getting that quality of art on a wall in our town is almost as much of a miracle as the gift of being offered a sculpture from a world-renowned artist.”
Haslet said he hopes his work offers a sense of both joy and hope.
“When I first shared my dream to paint Navy planes with Whidbey landscapes on social media, I received from a couple of people associated with the Navy the message, ‘Thank you for seeing us,’ and I was honored and honestly shocked,” he said. “I found that I had stumbled upon a segment of our community that hadn’t felt seen, recognized or heard. This mural is me saying to them, ‘I see you.’ I want everyone walking by this artwork to see the joy and hope in this piece and to walk a little taller and prouder as a result.”
Learn more about Timothy Haslet and his art at timothyhaslet.com.