Leonard McCreary

Art by

Leonard McCreary

Like the air we breathe, time is not something that can be conglomerated, hoarded, or created out of nothing. No matter who we are, or who we think we are, we are given a limited supply.

And then there are trees. When it comes to time, they tend to enjoy a greater chunk of it than humans do. Sequoia, yew, Bristlecone pine — these have lived in the low to mid thousands of years. But even trees reach the end of their time, and when they do, Leonard McCreary has a means of keeping them going:

He makes clocks out of them.

The Salem, OR, artist has been working around wood for most of his 88 years, having worked as a logger and road builder with artistry on the side. He started making clocks 40 years ago.

“The father of a ‘kid’ I worked with in the woods gave me a 4′ x 7′ piece of redwood burl. I made a table out of it. After that, I discovered making clocks.

“Most of the wood I use is either cedar, maple, or black walnut, and I cut most of it myself when I was clearing land.”

Carol Betker

Art by

Carol Betker

Inspired by oil painters Richard Schmid, Jessica Zemsky, and Dreama Tolle Perry, Betker creates vibrant impressionistic paintings of florals, landscapes, animal portraits and equine art. Now retired from a career as art education teacher in Finley and Burbank public schools, Betker paints every day from her dining room studio. The natural light streaming through the windows there, she says, is perfect.

She prefers Alla Prima, a technique by which the artist applies wet paint on wet paint. She describes the experience in terms of skydiving:

“I know I’ll land eventually, but I have to learn to enjoy the process and not get uptight!”

Inspiration for each piece comes through the process of living, and Betker finds that, before she finishes one painting, she has one – or more – in mind for the following. The secret, she says, is simply showing up behind the easel.

“When you show up at the easel – not waiting to be inspired but simply showing up every day – you will BE inspired as you begin.”

artisan soap scent bars biker b bathworks

Scent with Love — Artisan Soap by Biker B’s Bathworks

artisan soap scent bars biker b bathworks

An array of artisan soap scent and color by Biker B’s Bathworks, owned by Meredith and Gene Bretz of Dayton, WA.

It’s pretty easy to guess what a soap named Pine Forest will smell like. Ditto with Apple Pie, Pumpkin Spice, Red Rose. Sea Breeze is more challenging, but your mind takes you there.

But what does a soap named Naked Man smell like?

Long ago, artisan soap maker Meredith Bretz confronted that question, and when she reached the answer, she found herself with two products that resonate with customers — Naked Man and Naked Lady soaps.

“There are flowers called Naked Ladies, and the scent is a light floral with powdery notes,” the Dayton soap artist, who co-owns Biker B’s Bathworks with her husband Gene, explains. “We started making it for about a year before some people were saying we needed to make a Naked Man soap.

bath salts truffles scent biker b bathworks artisan soap

Bath salts and truffles add a sense of luxury to one of the best parts of the day.

“We were selling in an indoor market at the time, so we had a contest. ‘What should a soap named Naked Man smell like?’ we asked our customers. They could submit their suggestions and then, at the end of the month, we picked the prominent scent that was suggested.”

It turns out that a Naked Man — after the bath, not before, Bretz emphasizes — is redolent of lime with a bit of cinnamon and touch of patchouli.

“Both of the Naked soaps are very popular,” Bretz says.

Just for Fun

Bretz and her husband began making soap in 1997, just because they thought it would be fun. With no intention of forming a business of it, they made a batch and shared it with friends and family. Soon there were requests for more, and after that, custom requests. For a long time, they didn’t even have a business name, because they didn’t consider themselves a business. When a vendor at a craft fair asked for their business license, they were in a state of surprise.

“We didn’t realize we needed one,” Bretz remembers.

Shaving kits for men include a mug, badger haired shaving brush, and a soap with a masculine scent

“The next thing we know, we’re at the office applying for the license and they ask us what our name was. We had no idea what our business name was.

“So Gene said, ‘How about Biker B’s?’ We both ride Harley-Davidsons and our last name begins with B. It sounded right.”

And so, a business was born. Living in Seattle at the time, the couple — who were both still working full time at the Seattle VA Hospital — created chemical mastery with little more than oil and lye, a stove and a sink. They started selling in Farmers Markets in Kent, then added Issaquah, Sammamish, and North Bend. From there, they added regional craft fairs and selling online.

They have moved a number of times since 1997, and are now retired in Dayton, but, Bretz says, “Though we are now retired from working away from home, we are definitely not retired.”

Experimenting with Scent

In addition to soap, Biker B’s creates reed diffusers, soy wax candles, bath salts, tub truffles, roll-on fragrances and other aromatic treats for the bath. Because the couple has never lost their desire to have fun at what they do, they are constantly experimenting, especially with scents.

soy candles scent color biker b bathworks gifts

Candles are an excellent way to add scent, and light, to one’s life.

“Boredom can set in, making the same things all the time, so we try to work along with the seasons.

“We have certain scents that are all year long, then we try to make season-related soaps, such as pumpkin in the fall, fruit scents in the summer and fall, to add to the ones we have all year long.”

The research and development for new scent blends, she says, is especially fun, and those ideas can come by taking a drive in the mountains, window down, and smelling the trees.

Custom Scent, and Names

“We try to custom blend our own scents, and the idea comes from something we smell, which we try to recreate. or, it can be that we see an interesting name somewhere and wonder what a soap of that name would smell like.”

Speaking of interesting names, they focus on those, going back and forth until they find the perfect nomenclature for their custom blends: Happy Hippie, Zen, Woodstock, Rasputin, Pacific Rain, Walk in the Woods, Palouse Falls, Nature’s Bath.

“The names of the soaps can be a conversation starter.”

Like, say, Naked Man.

Quality with quirky — it’s a chemistry that works as well as the saponification of oil with lye. Bretz and her husband have fun creating a unique, artisan item, and customers enjoy an affordable luxury item that isn’t stamped out from a machine. That human touch — it matters.

“That’s one of the biggest benefits of purchasing handcrafted soap: you know who made it and what is in it.”

Wenaha GalleryBiker B’s Bathworks is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from February 23 through March 22, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

water dance swan bird painting impressionist relaxed not uptight

Not Uptight but Relaxed — Impressionist Paintings by Carol Betker

water dance swan bird painting impressionist relaxed not uptight

The Water Dance, original oil painting by Carol Betker. Relaxed and calm — you can’t get more opposite from uptight than that.

When you jump out of an airplane with a parachute, you have a pretty good idea of where you’ll end up: on Earth. It’s the process of getting there that you can’t predict. Unnerving? Yes, but that’s also part of the adventure.

For artist Carol Betker, starting each painting is akin to jumping from the plane: she knows what she wants the finished painting to look like, but the process of getting there is flexible, dynamic, even mercurial, more so because she paints Alla Prima, a method by which the artist applies wet paint on wet paint.

blue springs horse equine water wading impressionist painting carol betker

It’s a relaxed splash and plash through the water in Blue Springs, original oil painting by Kennewick artist, Carol Betker

“It’s a method that allows fresh brushwork,” the Kennewick oil painter says.

“I often feel in the beginning of all the creative messiness like I’m sky diving. I know I’ll land eventually, but I have to learn to enjoy the process and not get uptight.”

On Her Feet and Behind the Easel

Betker describes her style as loose, impressionistic, expressive, so she can’t be uptight when she’s behind the easel.  Her background as a public school art teacher (she retired in 2010) means that she has worked in, and taught, many mediums: from pottery to printmaking, and in the painting realm — watercolor, acrylic, oil, charcoal, pencil, and more. For years she worked in acrylic, with which she describes having a love/hate relationship.

“Acrylics are easy to clean, odor free, and dry quickly.

“On the other hand, drying quickly can inhibit the blending of edges which I like in my work. So I’ve been leaning toward oils in the last five years. I am intrigued with how oils blend in the wet on wet technique.”

landscape not uptight relaxed breathe peaceful impressionist painting carol betker

Who could feel uptight in a landscape so calm, so peaceful? Breathe, original oil painting by Carol Betker.

Working out of her dining room studio, where she paints pretty much every day, Betker explores subject matter from florals to landscapes, from pet portraits to the human face. If she doesn’t have another painting planned when she finishes her latest project, she doesn’t worry — or get uptight — but rather, relaxes into free fall.

“I think every successful person knows that, if you just show up, that’s half the battle.

“Showing up at the easel — not waiting to be inspired, but simply showing up every day — well, you will BE inspired as you begin.”

Remember the Camera

Exhibiting her work in multiple venues around the Tri-Cities and Prosser, Betker has garnered collectors in Washington and Oregon, as well as Missouri, Virginia, South Carolina, and Canada. She names Richard Schmid, Jessica Zemsky, and Dreama Tolle Perry as artists whose work and technique inspire her. She also credits her education at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA, where she received her B.A. in Art Education.

With a husband who loves photography, and with her own trusty Canon Rebel camera nearby when not in hand, Betker says that she reaps the benefit of having more images than she could possibly paint. Her main problem is remembering to bring the camera.

garden flowers color path happy plants carol betker impressionist painting

It’s a place for a quiet and gentle stroll. Color My World, original oil painting by impressionist painter, Carol Betker.

“I can’t tell you how many shots I’ve missed by leaving it behind.

“Judging from sales, though, even using a shot taken at 60 miles per hour through a windshield is usable as inspiration. I love a challenge!”

The image she photographed from the moving car, she explained, was “a spectacular Dogwood tree in full bloom with a little picket white fence, and parts of a white house peeking through. My husband was driving, and for some reason he doesn’t like to stop every time I see a great shot. But it did turn out, as the painting I created from the photo sold very quickly.”

Relaxed, Not Uptight

Betker looks for a feeling in her reference image: the turn of a head, glance of the eyes, a ray of light dancing across the surface of the landscape. When she isn’t in a moving car, she finds inspiration closer by, at a more leisurely pace:

“I enjoy the endearing expressions of my tortie calico cat, Missy, as I maneuver around, camera in her face.”

Seize the moment. Land on your feet. Make sure the parachute is packed. Let go of being uptight. Don’t forget the camera. And show up every day.

Along with art, Betker taught these life lessons to her students at Finley and Burbank schools during her teaching career, and the reason she could do so is because she lives by them herself. Painting art and living life both take imagination, creativity, a willingness to work, and an appreciation of joy. The result is well worth the act of jumping out of the plane.

“I’m in a good spot in my art where more times than not I am finding satisfaction in my work,” Betker says.

“I’m not going for perfection but rather for being authentic — capturing the Creator’s little treasures that come into my view.”

Wenaha GalleryCarol Betker is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from February 9 through March 8, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

Rock and Stone — The Sculpture of Sandra Matthews-Sarve

perfect pair birds stone carving sandra sarve

A Perfect Pair, stone carving by Sandra Matthews-Sarve of Walla Walla.

We see them every day.

Most of the time we walk by them, ignore them, overlook their existence. There are so many of them; they are so common, so ordinary, so completely lacking in what we consider value, that we accord them little attention or respect.

They’re rocks.

carved rock by road mother child sarve carving

Rock by the Road, mother and child, by Sandra Matthews-Sarve.

“We live on a rock. This planet is a rock,” says Sandra Matthews-Sarve, a stone carver from Walla Walla. “But most people take rocks for granted. They ignore rocks.”

Not so Matthews-Sarve. Finding new life for unexpected or undervalued items has always been an interest for the artist, who has made wall decorations out of old frying pans and kitchen decor from discarded blocks of wood.  She turned her attention to rocks four years ago when she became curious about engraved stones. She made a few, found she liked working with stone, and eventually transitioned from engraving to sculpting.

The Value of Rock

“Years ago, part of the reason I gravitated initially toward discarded items was because they were cheap materials,” Matthews-Sarve explains.

“It was a time when I was single and very poor, but loved to make things.

“But I also realized my attraction to discarded items was making something considered useless into something useful — and maybe even beautiful again.

“I enjoyed looking beyond the expected uses of objects and finding their other uses. Rocks are just another item most people consider useless and ignore or toss aside.”

petal soapstone carved rock pot sarve

Petal Soapstone Pot by Sandra Matthews-Sarve of Walla Walla.

In the world of rocks, there are rocks, and there are rocks. Because humans like to classify, rocks, like other items, find themselves being described as valuable and worthless, essential and unnecessary. Matthews-Sarve sees worth beyond the labels, and works with rocks across the spectrum.

Of course many of us, when we hear of stone carving, immediately think of marble, alabaster, soapstone — the cream of the rock world. They are, indeed, a delight with which to work, Matthews-Sarve affirms. She likes their hidden unpredictability. Cracks and fissures, small pieces of gravel and other material hidden in the stone come into play as she is carving, chiseling or angle grinding.

And while she may enter into a project with a particular result in mind, the stone itself joins in the decision process with its natural shape and buried blemishes.

“One must always be ready to change direction and sculpting plans when working with stone,” Matthews-Sarve says.

She Does Not Limit Herself

Normal carving stones like marble, alabaster, and soapstone, however, can be hard to find, she adds, so as an artist, she does not limit herself.

“It isn’t laying around on the ground. It has to be mined. So it can get expensive to buy it.

“But your average everyday rock is just waiting by the side of the road, or in a river, on a hillside, most anywhere.”

dancer carved stone garden ornament sarve

Dancer, carved stone garden ornament by Sandra Matthews-Sarve

Like its more valuable cousins, ordinary rock also contains hidden unpredictabilities, cracks and fissures, surprises that the sculptor discovers through trial, error, practice, and work. Matthews-Sarve and her husband, Kevin, enjoy exploring the regional roads of the nearby hills, discovering  and picking up rocks along the way. Generally, she creates garden ornaments from these finds.

“Most of the ordinary rocks are basalt — we have a lot of that around here. But some of them seem a little softer and muddier than basalt, and I’m not sure what they are. So I just call them Blue Mountain Roadside Rocks.”

Matthews-Sarve’s studio is outside, alternating between her garage and driveway. Angle grinding, chisel and hammering are driveway projects. Work done with a dremel, file, riffler, and rasp locates itself in the garage or under a canopy. In bad weather, she brings small pieces, like refrigerator magnets, into the kitchen. Projects range from large garden sculptures to tiny little plant pots, and each spends time in her hands and under her eye. The challenge, and reward, lie in finding and shaping beauty, teasing it from the raw, often stubbornly difficult, materials, whether those materials are deemed “valuable” or not.

Intrinsic Value

It’s not a difficult metaphorical jump from rocks to other things, and from other things to people. Matthews-Sarve is especially conscious of this, having worked with and around a disability much of her life. She knows from experience that value judgments are just that, and true understanding takes a willingness to look beyond the surface to the depth beneath. And that’s why she’s willing to look.

“I enjoy making art out of beautiful stone, but I also enjoy making art out of common roadside rocks.

“Most things can be useful or beautiful.

“Sometimes we just need to look beyond the expected uses, and beyond the normal ideas of beauty.”

Wenaha GallerySandra Matthews-Sarve is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from January 26 through February 22, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

jigsaw puzzle pieces leisure fun

Jigsaw Puzzles and Life — Putting Together the Pieces

jigsaw puzzle pieces leisure fun

Somehow, all the disparate pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fit together to create a whole image — kind of like life.

How you approach putting together a jigsaw puzzle says a lot about you.

Of course, how we approach any project says a lot about us, but for now, we’re talking about dumping a box of disparate pieces onto the table, organizing them into some semblance of order, and reassembling them so that they look like the picture on the box.

jigsaw puzzles animals landscapes quilts

Animals, places, quilts and faces. The image of jigsaw puzzle we choose to put together depends upon our likes and preferences.

Some people, when it comes to the “organizing them into some semblance of order” part, get very precise. They seek out the edge pieces, hone in on the corners, and create piles of the rest according to color and form. Others dive right in and match piece with piece. If shapes are still stuck together from the manufacturing process, some people insist that they be separated and mixed back into the box. It’s only fair, they reason.

Others say, “If we’ve got 1000 pieces to put together, why not take advantage of any advantage we’ve got?”

No Rules

I know one man who, when he assembles a puzzle, refuses to look at the box, other than a first glance to see what the eventual goal is. His girlfriend prefers to refer to the image. Neither approach is “right” or “wrong,” just different, a celebration of individuality that encourages us to

  1. Be polite about other people’s way of doing things,
  2. Remain open to trying things a different way,
  3. Recognize that there is more than one way to achieve a goal, and
  4. Accept that rules are not unalterably sacrosanct.

Imagine that — life lessons from a jigsaw puzzle.

But there’s more — one of the most intriguing things I’ve found about jigsaw puzzles is that, though they seem to be nothing more than a jumbled series of random shapes that have little to do with one another, those pieces all fit together, eventually, to make that picture on the box. When we start, it’s easy to despair that we will ever finish, especially when the image has little contrast or distinctive shapes and colors. (There’s another preference: some people gravitate toward homogeneous images, like a pile of Snickerdoodle cookies or a night sky. Others recoil from such visual uniformity.)

Lessons of Life from a Jigsaw Puzzle

300 piece jigsaw puzzles simple art

Only 300 pieces? Don’t underestimate the complexity of a puzzle with fewer pieces. The dog puzzle on the right is delightfully challenging.

But we start, and the more we work on the puzzle, the more familiar we become with the parts. Eventually, something clicks in our brain, saying, “That vibrant blue — it’s connected with that odd vase in the corner somehow.”

And oh, what a feeling of satisfaction when the pieces neatly slide together! In the bigger sphere of life, this happens when a seemingly random fact fits into other information we hold, with a resulting Aha moment: “THAT’S what the writer meant!” But we generally don’t experience this unless we’re reading and re-reading, analyzing and questioning, playing with the facts and the pieces.

childrens jigsaw puzzles big pieces

Little children can be surprisingly good at putting together puzzles, even if — maybe especially when — they don’t follow the rules we adults feel compelled to impose.

Another intriguing element: jigsaw puzzles are companionable projects, providing we remember Points 1-4 above. It’s remarkably comforting to know that, while we’re putting together the trio of horses in the bottom right, another person is tackling the cloudy sky above. We realize, if only for this pleasurable moment, that it’s not all up to us, with nothing getting done unless we’re doing it. While we’re washing the dishes, someone else is sweeping the floor. It is a form of teamwork that is natural and normal, resulting in a finished project about which we feel good.

Quiet Concentration

Not to be discounted is the element of concentration jigsaw puzzles demand of our minds. Unlike watching TV, putting together a puzzle is not a passive endeavor, requiring nothing more than staring at a screen. Each piece has its place, and it won’t find it without a human hand putting it there. And while it may seem trivial to focus so much attention on interlocking all the red and white pieces into a panoply of roses, there’s nothing trivial about letting our minds ruminate in a gentle, quiet, and peaceful state.

The moment comes for the last piece. And then . . . what? Do we immediately dismantle the project and tumble it back in the box? Do we take a picture of it and send it to friends? Or how about carefully transporting it downtown to get it framed, an unusual piece of art in which we have had some part to play? Again, it depends upon the individual, and the circumstances.

That’s the beauty of jigsaw puzzles. In order to fully enjoy them, you really can’t confine them to a box. They’re like people that way.

Wenaha GalleryThe Art of Jigsaw Puzzles is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from January 12 through February 9, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

maple burl clock wood pendulum time leonard mcreary

Time to Create: Clocks by Leonard McCreary

maple burl clock wood pendulum time leonard mcreary

Maple Burl Clock with Pendulum, an elegant way to keep time, by Leonard McCreary

Time.

With the advent of a New Year, it is always a . . . timely subject. Like the air we breathe, time is not something that can be conglomerated, hoarded, or created out of nothing. No matter who we are, or who we think we are, we are given a limited supply.

And then there are trees. When it comes to time, they tend to enjoy a greater chunk of it than humans do. Sequoia, yew, Bristlecone pine — these have lived in the low to mid thousands of years. But even trees reach the end of their time, and when they do, Leonard McCreary has a means of keeping them going:

He makes clocks out of them.

clocks wood maple walnut time leonard mccreary

An array of clocks in maple and walnut, by Leonard McCreary

The Salem, OR, artist has been working around wood for most of his 88 years, having worked as a logger and road builder with artistry on the side. He started making clocks 40 years ago.

Clocking Time in the Workshop

“The father of a ‘kid’ I worked with in the woods gave me a 4′ x 7′ piece of redwood burl. I made a table out of it. After that, I discovered making clocks.

“Most of the wood I use is either cedar, maple, or black walnut, and I cut most of it myself when I was clearing land.”

The wood itself is integral to determining the shape of the finished clock. A cross section cut from the felled tree, each clock reflects the unique shaping that time and weather, environment and circumstances played upon the stem and main wooden axis of the tree. One looks like a bursting star in walnut; another, burled maple, features a swinging pendulum in the midst of a hole in the wood. Still another looked so much like the state of Washington that it wound up being so.

maple burl wooden clock time leonard mccreary

Shaped like a heart, a maple burl clock shows a richness of texture and color, reflecting the life of the tree. By Leonard McCreary

Working out of a shop at his home, McCreary says that the sanding process is time intensive, and when he has brought the shaped piece to a state of perfection, he coats the wood with resin to add a shine.

Each Tree Is Unique

In addition to clocks, McCreary continues to make tables, and later added birdhouses to his repertoire. For years, he sold his work at the Saturday market in Salem, as well as a clock store in Sisters, OR. He wouldn’t describe his clock-making as a labor of love, because it’s not so much work as creative joy. Each piece is as unique as the tree from which it comes, and what it eventually results into being is the result of a “conversation” between McCreary and the wood. Trees, like people, are most interesting when they are most individual.

It is time well spent, McCreary feels. Now retired from logging and road building, he enjoys focused time on creating clocks, and appreciates that there is no hurry about the process. Time is something well worth savoring, appreciating, and using for good purposes.

How we spend it, makes a difference.

Wenaha GalleryLeonard McCreary is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from December 29, 2020, through January 25, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

Frankie Laufer

Art by

Frankie Laufer

“I am very drawn to the landscape between Walla Walla and Dayton as my family has history in this area,” Laufer says.

“I think nature more fully supports us in our birthplace.”

Now living in College Place, Laufer has renovated two rooms in his home into studio spaces: one room for painting and one for storage.

“In my past studios, I often had very little space, so it’s nice to be able to spread out and have room for paints and easels.”

Describing himself as a “late bloomer,” Laufer didn’t begin his art journey until he was 40, when he felt internally that he wanted to paint. He went to a paint store, opened a tube of paint, smelled it, and put some on his finger. At that moment, he said, he knew this was something he wanted to do. For 30 years, he painted at the 110-year-old house of his mentor, artist Benjamin Blake, who made his studio available for Laufer’s use.

Through daily talking, creating, questioning, and interacting, Laufer learned and progressed, developing a style of bold color and brush work.

Frankie Laufer

Collista Krebs

Art by

Collista Krebs

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If something is important to us — really REALLY important — we somehow find time for it. Given that we are human and not omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, this commitment means that something else has to go by the wayside, but the exchange, we feel, is worth it.

For Collista Krebs, the choice came during nursing school, when one of her classmates announced that she was leaving the program. The colleague had just taken a ceramics class and decided to pursue pottery instead of nursing.

“Right then and there I made up my mind: ‘I am going to do that too, only I am going to become a nurse first,’ and so I did,” the Colbert, WA, pottery artist says.

“After getting a BSN, I enrolled in a community clay class, and depending on my job, children, injuries and travels, I have always carved out time for clay.”

That time has not always been a wild foray into creativity, along the lines of what we would see glorified in a movie. In real life, Krebs has worked as a ghost potter and “clay slave,” both experiences important to honing her skill through hard work and repetition.

Collista Krebs

Painting, Thinking, Meditating — Frankie Laufer Abstracts

Riptide, original oil painting by College Place, WA, artist, Frankie Laufer.

When we are not vigilant, we find ourselves hobbled by pronouncements that seem to mean something, but in reality, don’t.

Take, for example, the widely accepted assertion that if we don’t start an activity — playing the piano or speaking a second language, say — by the age of five, or seven, or three, then we won’t succeed. Too many people give up before they start because they’re convinced they missed their chance.

silent way abstract painting oil art frankie laufer

In a Silent Way, original abstract oil by Frankie Laufer

Fortunately, many others choose to believe in themselves as opposed to “expert” asseveration, and, as a result, find themselves happily doing things they were assured they could not do. Frankie Laufer is one of these people.

A self-described late-bloomer, the College Place, WA, artist began painting at the age of 40, and 30 years later, he’s still intensely at it. With hundreds of finished works behind him, he looks forward to a future of hundreds more to go.

One Day He Decided to Paint

It all began on a day, he said, when “I just felt internally that I wanted to paint, so I went to the art store and opened up a tube of paint. I smelled it, and put some on my finger, and at that moment I guess I knew . . . ”

Born and raised in Walla Walla, Laufer moved to California in the late 70s, and while there, met and learned under Benjamin Blake, a painter in his own right. On a regular basis for 30 years, Laufer painted at Blake’s studio in a 110-year-old house, a situation he described as perfect for talking about his work as well as creating it.

lost highway colorful abstract painting oil frankie laufer

Lost Highway, original oil abstract by Frankie Laufer of College Place, WA

“Ben never talked about right or wrong. He only addressed the painting in terms of what was working and what wasn’t.

“This is how the painter hones their skills: painting, absorbing, and listening.”

These elements — painting, talking, meditating, listening, thinking — form the basis of Laufer’s training, and they have served, and continue to serve him, well, he says.

“I didn’t have any formal training at all, and really developed my style through painting,” he explains.

“Art school can help teach formal technique but cannot teach passions or creative process. That is an internal process, not external.”

A Place for Creation and Creativity

Laufer moved back to the area last year, saying that he feels “nature more fully supports us in our birthplace.” When looking for a house, he kept an eye out for one that had two dedicated rooms: one for the actual painting process, and a second for storing the work.

“In my past studios, I often had very little space. It’s nice to be able to spread out and have room for paints and easels.” Nice, but not necessary he adds, recalling the time he painted in a garage.

Untitled abstract original oil painting Frankie Laufer

Untitled, original abstract oil by Frankie Laufer

“Space is nice, but one should be able to paint anywhere.”

As much as he enjoys painting, and spends a significant amount of time behind the easel, Laufer describes his favorite moment of each day as that which he devotes to meditation. The time spent in intense thought spills over to when he paints. Thinking, he says, inspires creativity.

“When I settle down to quieter fields of activity, this allows the mind to experience the Self — which gives rise to more creativity, silence, and energy.”

Success Requires Time

He does not try to make a statement with his work, he adds, nor does he make conscious external decisions about what will be his next work. While he may have a vague idea or intent, he finds that when he starts the process, the paint usually dictates the direction. And that, he points out, is what matters: the actual process of creativity:

“Success in painting is having the time to paint.

“If you have time to produce your work, you already have it made.

“Don’t spend much time worrying about making it, selling work, being famous, or any of that.

“Spend time painting, only focusing on that: what follows is not important.

“A painter paints. That is their role.”

Wenaha GalleryFrankie Laufer is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from December 12, 2020, through January 11, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.