OCEAN PARK, Wash. - Andrea Weir savors her connection to watercolor painting.

"I use it all the time, in kind of my own way."

Though she started out as a watercolor artist, Weir has made a name for herself with stained glass. But she hasn't abandoned her first love and uses watercolor to design concepts for her stained-glass creations.

"The only time I make a really faithful representation is when I'm dealing with a client, because they have to see what they are going to get," she said. "But when I'm doing my own work, I will draw and paint, just loosely, to kind of know how I want my lines to go. How I want things to flow."

Painting on glass is different. "You cut the pieces and then you paint them with a very fine glaze. It's very, very different from watercolor," she said. "It's a case of applying paint and taking it away. Watercolor is strictly additive. You're adding paint all the time."

Weir prefers to do "dry" watercolor paintings, in which less water is used.

"I will work with overlays of color and actually build it up. I'll have the areas where I work with it loosely and allow the color to flow and be wet. And then in other areas I'll work with it very, very dry."

She works with lead and draws into the painting.

Weir is known for her landscapes, using a blending technique so colors move in and out of each other. She also uses stretched paper. The result is almost like working on canvas.

These days, Weir sees watercolor painting as a means of relaxation, relating it to meditation.

"I will think something out and just play with it. When I do pieces like the landscapes, that's just kind of kickback time."

Before starting a watercolor, Weir stretchs her paper to give it almost a drum-like surface on which to paint.

Weir was born in Astoria and grew up in The Dalles. But when she was old enough to leave home, she did, traveling to other cities. In 1974, Weir discovered glass painting. "To this day I'm still a glass painter. There are not too many of us around, we're a very small breed."

In 1991, she and her husband, Sven, moved back to the area from Denver, after residing there for 18 years. They settled in Ocean Park where they found their home, which also houses her studio, made from an old wooden boat barn out back.

"It was time to come back," she remembered. "Our family always came over here, it was much more comfortable here. Ocean Park - is like Astoria was when I was a kid - it has that same feel to it."

Weir has no fear when it comes to branching out into other areas, or in using mixed media on various stocks. She has used ink, acrylic and crayons on wrapping paper.

"They were done in a part of Denver that was really pretty hard-pressed, and I really got into working very, very loosely," she said. "They're very roughly done, but this is the background that I come from."

In the years since that series, she has learned to be much more controlled in her technique, something that she believes came from her working with glass.

"As I got into working with glass I think I became much careful and controlled with it."

In 1997, she designed and painted the poster for the annual garlic festival in Ocean Park, an intricate design that featured characters to represent different garlic related themes, including Bela Lugosi as Dracula. The painting became the cover of a garlic cookbook, published by the Ocean Park Area Chamber of Commerce.

Weir has used her talents to create the 38 pieces of art that will illustrate a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition, which she wrote.

It is aimed toward older children.

And she plans to continue making money with glass painting while soothing her mind with watercoloring.

"It's just a really comfortable medium to just relax with. Glass is my livelihood these days, but watercolor is enjoyable."

- Damian Mulinix

Damian Mulinix is a Chinook Observer staff writer