Often when we think of an artist, we picture a solitary figure plying his or her craft in a quiet studio, working alone for days and weeks at a time on a single masterpiece.
Arlon Rosenoff is not that kind of artist.
Stop by the Arlon Rosenoff Fine Art Studio & Gallery on 4th Street in downtown Coeur d’Alene most Saturday afternoons and you’ll find Arlon in a paint-spattered apron applying oil paints to a panel with a palette knife. He starts at 1 p.m. and works until he’s finished. It might take one hour, it might take three, depending on what he’s painting. And who is watching.
“One of the things I’ve noticed,” he said, “families walk by and the parents are on a mission. But every one of the kids wants to stop. They want to watch.”
Depending on their age, sometimes he’ll even let a child pick up a palette knife and do some strokes on a painting.
A contemporary impressionist, Arlon has been palette knife painting for 11 years. He waited until his children were grown before he began painting seriously, dabbling in print-making and pen-and-ink drawing before falling in love with oils. He showed his work at farmers markets, joined a co-op gallery, and eventually progressed to selling in 13 galleries around the country. But he missed meeting and interacting with the collectors, artists, and general public who bought his work, so decided to open his own studio gallery, first in Kirkland, then in Langley on Whidbey Island, and in December of 2017, in Coeur d’Alene.
Participating in outdoor shows, including Art on the Green and Best of the Northwest, sparked Arlon’s passion for working with an audience.
“One of the things I grew to really enjoy about doing festivals is painting with people watching me, especially kids,” he said. “The most important thing to me is engagement. To me, that is the energy; that is the fun.”
Doesn’t painting in front of people make him nervous?
“I had to get past it,” he said. “I had to get past it really quick.”
When Arlon and his wife moved to Coeur d’Alene, he approached the director of the Rypien Foundation and offered to do a live painting during a benefit dinner to be auctioned at the end of the evening, donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the foundation. Since then, he’s done similar fundraisers for nonprofits including the Coeur d’Alene Symphony and Family Promise of North Idaho, and is proud to have raised over $25,000 for local charities.
The gallery participates in Music Walk and Art Walk year-round, offering complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres. In fact, the first musician they hosted for Music Walk in January 2018 was a young artist named Jacob Maxwell.
Arlon finishes each painting in one sitting.
“I don’t like to go back and work on something the next day; I lose interest. I paint really fast. I actually paint better under pressure.”
The longest he’s taken is five and a half hours to do a five-by-five-foot painting. The smaller ones he can finish in an hour or two. He compares his business model to the “Apple Store” method in that he builds his own panels, does all of the prep work, the painting, the finish work, the hanging, and the selling.
Arlon has a day job as the director of safety and security at Empire Airlines. He’s been a pilot since high school, and has worked for Alaska Airlines and Boeing, flying every day for about 15 years. He learned to fly gliders at the airport that existed where Silverwood now resides, and was a glider instructor in Arizona for four years.
He’s also an accomplished sailor, learning on Lake Coeur d’Alene as a teenager before buying a boat and sailing in Puget Sound and Bayview. Currently, he’s restoring a 20-foot Buccaneer 200, a trailerable sailboat that he and his granddaughter can daysail on local lakes.
How does he find the time to pursue all of his passions?
“There was a time in my life for each of those things; I don’t know that I could do all of them together. I couldn’t be an avid soaring pilot, an avid sailor, and an avid painter. Now, I’m in this mode where painting is really what I’m about. You never quit learning, of course. But it’s just wanting to do more.”
The gallery is located at 116 N. 4th Street in Coeur d’Alene, and is open Wednesday through Saturday 12 to 5 p.m., Sunday 12 to 4 p.m., and on Art Walk Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. His website is ArlonRosenoff.com.