When Linda and Mick Davidson met three decades ago at a bygone Winslow gym, Linda had no intention of falling in love. “I had been divorced for more than four years and my kids were almost grown and gone,” Linda says. “I had a plan—and my plan did not include a relationship.” Mick, a single parent for more than 10 years, noticed Linda watching the news on a gym television, transfixed by coverage of a hurricane in Florida. He stopped and asked if she knew someone in the impacted area. Linda explained she had been born in Florida and still had many family members living there. Continuing to chat, Mick learned that Linda was an adolescent drug and alcohol counselor. He persuaded Linda to meet with him to discuss a professional referral.
“We met at the Harbour Public House and sat out on the deck,” Linda recalls. “As I listened to Mick talk about his kids, I realized he was possibly the nicest guy I’d ever met. This was the good news—and the bad news!” Linda often crossed paths with Mick at the gym during their early-morning workout sessions. Her vision of solitude began to waver as their connection strengthened.
In April 2019, Linda and Mick will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
The couple originally lived in Eagledale, finishing the remodel of a farmhouse at the corner of Old Mill and New Sweden that Mick (Millard), a former architect, had been working on for years. Mick was also taking a painting class in Seattle from Ron Lukas, a renowned painter in the tradition of Russian Impressionism, which is known for strong emotive landscapes and portraits based on precise color relationships. Linda, who had always been creative, wanted to improve in watercolor painting. She realized she needed to work on drawing technique. Mick suggested Linda join him at his weekly painting class, where he would paint and she would learn to draw as he had. Linda took to the work with passion and quickly excelled.
When Mick’s youngest son graduated from college, Mick and Linda followed their love of baseball to southeastern Arizona, where they subsequently lived for 17 years—designing and building a passive solar house, painting in oils, having joint and solo art shows, connecting with the artists’ community, traveling, and spending time in Mexico. But the pull of Bainbridge never faded. “At the end of the day, I missed Bainbridge Island every day I was away from it,” Linda confesses. “I love the Bainbridge climate. I like the rain. Honestly, I liked Arizona best when it rained! We decided Bainbridge was where we wanted to be.”
Four years ago, the couple returned to the island, settling into a light-filled Northwestern contemporary home on Hidden Cove. Linda picked up right where she’d left off. Mick, however, was struck by how much the island had changed during their absence. “It was a whole different island,” he says. “It had grown a lot. There was greater proportion of retirees, and the median income level had increased.”Despite the island’s changes, Linda and Mick were glad to be closer to their family, which now included grandchildren.
Refuge and Relief
A year after their return to Bainbridge, Linda’s father took his own life. Heartbroken, Linda poured her grief into her garden. “I threw myself into the yard and the landscape. The garden became my sanctuary. My plants were my prayers.”
A shoulder injury and hand issue had forced Linda to give up painting regularly. While the garden was the focal point of Linda’s healing, the fine artist within her beckoned. “Two or three years ago, when I was at one of my lowest points, I ran across an article in an art magazine about a woman doing bas relief. I put the article aside, but I didn’t forget about it,” Linda says. “Last year, I ran across the article again. I decided it was time to begin. The learning curve is tough, in part because there isn’t much information on this technique. I started experimenting with different clays and plasters, taking plants from my yard and creating from the place of plants as prayers.”
The result is botanical bas relief tiles that reflect Linda’s voice, aesthetic, and a lifetime of interest and observation in the natural world. “Nature is tough, tenacious, and comforting,” Linda says. “I lived a large portion of my childhood with my grandparents on Green Springs Mountain in Oregon. Hours were spent playing with my brother in streams, ponds, and meadows filled with wildflowers.”
Each of Linda’s pieces is one-of-a-kind. “Everything I learned about design, composition, and negative space transfers from painting to what I do with the tiles. I’m very lucky to have had that training,” she observes. Mick adds: “Everything comes together with Linda’s tiles. They’re a wonderful synergy of her artistic strengths and passion.”
Mick became serious about painting when his children were still young. “Thirty-three years ago, I was harried single parent with primary custody, trying to start a new architectural business. Overwhelmed by time management, I went to see a counselor. She asked me: ‘What are you doing for yourself? What do you like to do?’ Honestly, I couldn’t even wrap my mind around those questions. Finally, I said, ‘Well…I like to draw.’ I committed to taking a drawing class in Eagledale Park once a week. That class led me to study painting with Ron Lukas. I had a lot of trepidation about painting because I’m colorblind. But I persisted.”
Over the years, Mick relied heavily on Linda for guidance with his color palette, which he had to memorize until color-corrective lenses became available.“I was floored by Mick’s commitment and dedication to painting, given the challenge of colorblindness,” Linda says. “He’s incredibly disciplined and consistent in his work, which I respect. I don’t create that way.”
Mick’s motivation to paint comes from a desire to connect. “I enjoy creating a picture that people can relate to,” he says. “I like connecting with people emotionally through my work. I appreciate representational work because I enjoy learning more about what I’m seeing. I learn more externally about the world around me. And at the same time, I’m learning more about myself.”
If the sum is greater than the parts combined, Linda and Mick are a creative force with which to be reckoned. Each a remarkable artist, they work from adjacent studio spaces at their home on Hidden Cove. “We’ve always shared the same studio space,” Linda says. “This is the first time I’ve had a solo studio. It’s great to have a place where I can go for solitude, quiet reflection, and creating.”
While the couple no longer shares a studio, they are still united in a shared aesthetic. “There’s a level of respect we have for each other, and we trust each other with input,” Linda says. “Whether it’s input we want—or not. We listen to it.”
“We really do work hand in glove,” Mick agrees. “Just the other day, Linda looked at a portrait I finished, and she could see right away what I needed to fix. We always work better together. In the yard, or painting, or selecting something at Costco,” he says with a laugh. “If we’re alone, it’s always more trips back to Costco.”
Linda and Mick have participated in Bainbridge Island’s Working Studio Tour, which is an excellent way to view their art. Mick will also have solo shows this coming year at the Treehouse Café and Grace Episcopal Church. Find out more about the Davidsons’ work at www.biworkingstudios.com/682220/davidson-studiosand millarddavidson.com.