A showcase gallery for Warren Knapp

The Pike-Pine area has an unusual new gallery at 1530 Melrose Avenue, right next to the Bauhaus coffee shop.

Oh yes, it has paintings hung on the walls - tall, bright tulips, martini glasses, heavily textured, bright seascapes and pianos - and several low, moveable dividers with more paintings; and yes, it has that high-ceilinged, airy feeling. But all of the paintings in the Warren Knapp Gallery have been created by owner Warren Knapp, and when you visit you are very likely to be dealing with the artist himself.

"I think the trend is that artists are opening their own galleries," Knapp said. He was in his shirtsleeves, hanging pictures, while his partner, Erik Marquez, was up on a ladder with a drill, installing hanging hardware. Knapp said that owning the gallery himself saves him 50 percent of the selling price.

The pictures range in size from about 6-by-2 feet to pre-framed items 20 inches square. Some pieces are painted on several, separate, side-by-side canvases. Marquez explained that not only can they be separated to fill a larger space, or even be separated into separate rooms, but the smaller canvases are easier for the owners to move and install than would be one large canvas.

They are representational pictures. Knapp calls himself "An American Impressionist" on his printed materials, and he likes bright colors.

"That means I can be a little freer and looser with the paint but still end up with a good, finished product," Knapp said, explaining the impressionist moniker.

Knapp likes to work with interior designers, customizing commission works to meet the designers' needs. In fact, Knapp said about 75 percent of his work begins as a commission.

"Our turn-around time is very quick," Knapp said. His gallery hangs the paintings and he customizes them on site to match the d├ęcor.

According to Knapp, his customers are about half designers and half private individuals. He said he has a large number of repeat customers, and lots of first-time art buyers. The first-timers he attributes to his reasonable prices.

Most of the pieces in the gallery are $500 to $1,000, some of the pre-framed items are as little as $250. Knapp prides himself on taking a populist approach to art.

"A lot of people tell us they are thrilled that they can afford original art," Knapp said proudly with a broad smile.

Knapp has a 2-year-old gallery in San Francisco, which he plans to have his staff run while he lives here in Seattle. Knapp, a graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., is represented internationally with work in corporate lobbies, conference rooms, retail stores, hotels and private residences.

"I grew up here, in Gig Harbor," Knapp said, adding that Northwest weather is something he is very used to and enjoys. Marquez made a face from the ladder. He has been living in California for some time, has never lived in Washington, and was clearly not enthusiastic about what he had heard about the weather.

Knapp and Marquez plan to have quarterly, catered openings at the gallery when they will invite their clients to come see new work. This is a routine he has followed also at his San Francisco gallery.

Besides his work decorating the gallery, Marquez maintains and manages the gallery's Web site, www.warrenknapp.com. A majority of Knapp's sales are over the internet, and Marquez found himself amazingly busy last year after an unusual bit of publicity for Knapp's paintings.

"Our tulip paintings were featured on Trading Places," Knapp said, referring to a nationally popular home decorating show. "We had 5,000 hits the next day on our Web site."

With the Web site, e-mail and a store front, Knapp said he thinks he is poised to take advantage of several different ways of selling art.

"I think we are staying current with what is happening and what is coming up in the future," he said.

Knapp also enjoys doing pet portraits. Starting at just $250, you can have a life-size portrait of Bowser or Fluffy to add to your family photos.

"These are enormously popular," Knapp said, holding a beguiling portrait of a droopy-face hound.

Another unusual feature of the gallery is that it will also be a working studio. Knapp has his main studio in San Francisco right now, but it will be a regular feature for visitors to come into the gallery and see Knapp at work. They will even be encouraged to watch him and discuss the art in progress.

"We want to embrace that, let people look over my shoulder. We like having a real, working gallery with paint on the floor," Knapp said. He added that his clients really enjoy that and feel that they are actively involved in the art.

The new gallery is now up and running. Knapp and Marquez began working since the beginning of January to turn the space, which is in a nearly 100-year-old building, into a suitable art showcase. Knapp said they have had an eye on the space for a long time. When it became available last Thanksgiving, they jumped at the opportunity.

Knapp said that he and Marquez really like the neighborhood, especially the Bauhaus coffee shop next door and Ristorante Machiavelli across the street.

"We feel that it fits right in," Knapp said. "The neighborhood welcomes a gallery."

"Especially one that is not stuffy," added Marquez.

The Warren Knapp Gallery is open Monday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. For more information visit www.warrenknapp.com or call 381-3335.

Freelance writer Korte Brueckmann lives on Capitol Hill.

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