mushroom pickers women polymer clay imagination nancy gresham character dolls

Imagination Play — Artwork by Nancy Gresham

mushroom pickers women polymer clay imagination nancy gresham character dolls

Two friends picking mushrooms invoke a smile from the viewer. Character dolls require a keen eye, skillful hand, and a dose of imagination. Mushroom Pickers, polymer clay sculpture by Nancy Gresham

In the art world, what you paint on is called the substrate. Many times, this is canvas or panel, although parents of toddlers know that walls are also options. The major limitation, really, is that paint adhere to the surface, so one’s imagination is free to go wild.

And that’s what artist Nancy Gresham let her imagination do — go wild. While the White Bird, ID, painter uses traditional canvas, panel, or paper when she works in acrylics, watercolor, and colored pencils, she also accesses more untraditional fare: river rocks.

“I love painting on smooth river rocks,” Gresham says. “For some unknown reason, I actually prefer painting on rocks to canvas.”

heart hummingbird painted rock nancy gresham

With a dose of imagination and skill with the paintbrush, Nancy Gresham transforms a rock into a painted masterpiece. Heart Hummingbird rock painting by Nancy Gresham.

Now when Gresham says she paints on rocks, she means it: she creates intricate and detailed images of flowers, birds, butterflies, undersea gardens, and even commissioned pet portraits on rocks of all sizes, from those you can hold in your hand to her largest so far, a 50-pound rock with three dogs, surrounded by Asian lilies. Some rock art works are freestanding, others lie flat, and still others Gresham trims around the edges to make them stand upright. Finding them is the first step, then scrubbing them clean, letting them dry, and priming them before getting out the indoor/outdoor patio paint. A non-yellowing protective varnish is the final touch.

Using up Her “Stash”

“I started painting on rocks 10 years ago when a client made a special request. I found it addictive and so easy to take on trips for evening projects.”

Gresham, who readily admits that she is “an art supply hoarder,” is always looking for new and unique ways to use her stash, and that’s where that go-wild imagination comes in handy. About the same time she discovered rocks as substrates, she stumbled upon a block of polymer clay in her studio. It had been there a long time, and she decided she either needed to use it up or give it away.

pelican bird swimming rock painting nancy gresham

A pelican swims through its circular rock substrate space in Nancy Gresham’s rock painting.

“At the time, the Salmon River Art Guild, to which I belong, was getting ready for its Fall Regional Show, and we were considering removing the sculpture category due to a lack of sculptures. I brought up playing with clay to one of my art friends, and we decided to give it a try.”

Trying Something New

Though her first creation was “one of those masterpieces that live forever in the closet,” subsequent online research introduced Gresham to the concept of character dolls, creations in clay that reside within a certain environment or  setting that creates a story. Not only did Gresham use up the polymer clay in her stash, she now had reason to buy more:

fisherman polymer clay imagination sculpture nancy gresham

Using accessories that she creates from clay and other materials, Gresham creates an imagination story around each of her polymer character dolls. Catch of the Day, by Nancy Gresham.

“My character dolls are primarily created from imagination,” Gresham says. “I love them to be whimsical but somewhat believable.

“I love unique features and expression, everyday people such as the ’roundtable’ coffee drinkers who meet at the cafe and solve the problems of the world.”

Gresham incorporates her character dolls into specific sets revolving around a theme, such as the coffee drinkers, or people waiting at a bus station, a fisherman reeling in a big one, or two women searching for mushrooms. To this end, she also creates the necessary accessories, whether from polymer clay or carefully chosen, organic items, to complete the visual vignette.

“I build the story as I am creating the dolls,” Gresham explains.

Variety Inspires

One day, Gresham will focus on creating character dolls; on another, she paints rocks; on still another, she paints elephants on a Masonite board: “I bounce back and forth depending upon my mood and the commissions I receive.”

It’s all inspired by using up that “stash,” whether Gresham is painting on rocks, barn boards, saw blades, canvas, or anything else she can get her hands on.

“I’ve been fascinated with creating ‘stuff’ since the beginning of mud pies,” Gresham says.

“My creations begin with an object that strikes my fancy, and it grows from there. It may be a piece of driftwood, or an odd shaped rock.

“But once I get started, it just develops as I go.”

Wenaha GalleryNancy Gresham is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from June 21 through July 18, 2022.

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.

 

 

 

beginnings flowers impressionist romantic karen powers

Flowers, Birds, and Beauty — The Photography of Karen Powers

beginnings flowers impressionist romantic karen powers

Beginnings, by Powers, flowers photography, represents God making a way through the darkness and helping her find her way to the light and having hope again.

Parents make a huge impact on their children’s lives. That’s one of those things we say and deep-down believe. But there are those days — we’ve all had them —  when we think, “I’m talking to the air here. I don’t think what I say or do is making any appreciable difference.”

If you’re having one of those days, think about Karen Powers, a nature photographer from Richland, WA. She is walking proof that mom’s words matter:

“When I was younger, my mom gave me an Instamatic camera as a gift,” Powers remembers.

“At summer camp I took a picture of a waterfall. Later, after the film was developed, there was a similar photo in our local newspaper.

“I still remember my mom saying that my picture was a lot better than this one in the newspaper. Well, I don’t know if she was biased or not. But I believed what she said, and that gave me confidence.”

burgundy hollyhock flowers photography romantic karen powers

Hand rendered brush strokes applied to original photograph add a sense of impressionism and romance. Burgundy Hollyhock, photography by Karen Powers.

Powers went through high school with that Instamatic. Years later, she “wore out” her first digital (dslr) camera, a gift from her husband. She launched a business doing senior portraits, wedding photography, and images for stock photography before concentrating her energy on fine art photography, with an emphasis on flowers and birds. Unsatisfied with the camera alone, she began experimenting with “developing” her images into artistic representations by incorporating digital enhancement using graphic and illustrative software.

Endless Possibilities

“By using brushes and editing techniques in the software, I fell in love with the process and endless possibilities,” Powers says.

“There is a huge learning curve, but the possibilities are absolutely limitless. After processing, each piece is a truly and completely unique piece of art.”

Powers’ studio is both outside and inside, and it all starts outside, either in her garden, where she is constantly growing new varieties of flowers to photograph, or in the mountains, through which she bikes to find wildflowers, or public and private gardens in the region. In the winter and early spring, she photographs birds. A bird feeding station outside her kitchen window attracts smaller birds, while river walks open up the world of waterfowl and birds of prey.

dram queen purple pansy abstract colorful photography karen powers

Deep purple pansy blended with rich colorful tones creates a painterly effect. Drama Queen, photography by Karen Powers.

“I’m frequently thinking about how light is falling, and what a good composition would be for a certain plant.

“Typically, I look out the window, see what’s blooming, grab my camera, and go. I follow the bloom schedule of the flowers around my garden. Iris, tulips and rhododendrons in early spring; roses, calendula, daisies, dahlia, and on and on in the summer.

“I think it’s safe to say that if it’s blooming, I would love to capture it.”

Flowers in the Studio, Too

And then it’s time to move to her indoor studio, a large room in her home with two floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on an atrium filled with flowerpots and plants. An oak corner desk houses computer and digital tablet. Another desk is space for matting prints, practicing calligraphy, and dabbling with watercolors, her latest foray for enhancing photos. Her artwork covers the walls. A bookshelf groans with volume after volume on flowers, flower arranging, wildflowers, flower identification, gardening, birds, art history, and photography.

gladiolas garden flowers romantic colorful karen powers photography

Joyous and colorful, garden gladiolas are a Voice of Gladness, photography by Karen Powers.

“Finally, there are comfortable chairs that provide a space to just sit and ponder.”

An emerging element to Powers’ work is reprography, the process of reproducing, reprinting, or copying graphic material by mechanical, photographic, or electronic means. Working part time as the reprographics specialist at a local church, Powers has access to five separate copier machines, a Riso (mimeograph printer) machine, and an Epson large format printer.

“This has been a tremendous opportunity to apply my knowledge of digital art and to learn the geeky side and the technicalities related to the printing side of creating artwork.”

Honoring the Creator

All the observation, learning curves, research, floral and bird identification, and, ultimately, the capture of images on film and subsequent enhancement, have a central goal: that of creating a work that honors the work of the original Creator. Powers believes that God has created much beauty for us to behold as a reflection of who He is, and as an artist, she celebrates that beauty.

“He is so gracious and loving that He gives us beautiful sunsets, majestic mountains, and the most intricate, delicate flowers to top it all off.

“I try to capture some small bit of that stunning beauty to bring honor to God, the original creator.

“My desire is to share the beauty I see all around as well as a sense of peacefulness.

“I want to show viewers a place where they can step out of the traffic and rest.”

Wenaha GalleryKaren Powers is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from February 15 through March 14, 2022.

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.

 

 

lavender light sun flowers heidi presse art

Stay in the Light: Lavender by Heidi Presse

lavender light sun flowers heidi presse art

It is a clear, sunny day outside, and the flowers reach up toward the light. Lavender, limited edition print by Heidi Presse.

In a dark place, where shadows reign, it is hard to see. Cockroaches and rats delight in such an environment, and those who don’t want to share their home with these pests do their best to bring light and air and space into confined, closed places.

Light, especially sunlight, is a golden treasure that no money can buy. And without light — especially sunlight — no money has worth. Light has a value that is priceless.

The artwork, Lavender by Heidi Presse, invites the viewer into a place of beauty and light, aromatic with the scent of blooming, purple flowers. The air is fresh. A mother and child, perhaps an older sister and younger one, stroll through the hedge rows, gathering blossoms in their baskets. There is a feeling of goodness, of rightness, of calm and peace, as the two women walk under the sun and feel the breeze on their faces.

There are no cockroaches and rats here, because this is not where they thrive. Under the light, which exposes all to its scrutiny, people are free to live and laugh, converse and sing, communicate and be together, enjoy the goodness and beauty that life — under light — offers.

Stay in the Light Where You Can See

Wenaha GalleryThe featured image to this article is Lavender by Heidi Presse. You may purchase the print online at this link. We would be absolutely delighted to frame the work for you, working online and by phone — something we have been doing successfully for many years with out out-of-town clients. Email us at Wenaha.com to start the conversation.

More works by Heidi Presse are available at this link.

If this post has encouraged you, please pass it on.

 

 

alstroemeria flower petal flower mo devlin

Stay Inspired: Alstromeria on Petal Confetti by Mo Devlin

alstroemeria flower petal flower mo devlin inspired

Flowers are a constant source of inspiration and beauty — such creativity it took to make them! Alstromeria on Petal Confetti, art print by Mo Devlin

One of the most terrific things about human beings is that we’re creative.

Oh, and resilient. The two together make a fabulous combination.

Faced with challenges, setbacks, walls, blockages, and barriers, our initial reaction is to become angry and bitter, frustrated and exasperated. Some people stay there. Others descend into depression and despair.

And then there are those who assess the situation, look at their options, and explore them, inspired by the challenge. Regardless of what materials we are given, there is much that can be done with them, if only we put our minds — our fabulous creative, inspired minds — to work.

The artwork, Alstromeria on Petal Confetti by Mo Devlin, shows how much a creative, inspired hand can do with pink, white, a spot of red and purple. The creative hand in this artwork is twofold: there is the First Creative Hand who made the flower, and then there is the artist’s creative hand that captured it in its space of light and shadow, its delicacy of form, its soft breath of elegance. One could say that both creators did a lot with pink, white, a spot of red and purple.

But the most important thing they did with that creativity is that they made something good. Regardless of the materials at hand, they fashioned them into something beautiful, elegant, colorful and . . . good.

Stay Inspired to Create Goodness

Wenaha GalleryThe featured image to this article is Alstromeria on Petal Confetti by Mo Devlin.  You may purchase the print online at this link. We would be absolutely delighted to frame the work for you, working online and by phone — something we have been doing successfully for many years with out out-of-town clients. Email us at Wenaha.com to start the conversation.

More works by Mo Devlin are at this link.

If this post has encouraged you, please pass it on.

scarlet tanager bird blossoms wildlife rod frederick

Stay Outside the Fray: Scarlet Tanager by Rod Frederick

scarlet tanager bird blossoms wildlife rod frederick

What a beautiful place to stop and be for awhile, enjoying the silence and a time for thought? Scarlet Tanager by Rod Frederick.

Have you ever been at a big sale, when people are pushing and shoving at one another, intent upon buying some loss leader item at a box store, as if it were something worth getting so intent about? You find yourself right in the middle of the fray, pushing back, when you suddenly think,

“What on earth am I doing? Did I just push that person aside????”

Maybe you’ve never done this. That’s good to hear. But, all of us, in some way, are tempted to jump into the fray sometimes, to enter the room swinging, to determinedly push another person aside. One of the frays of our day is social media. This is a place, we’re told, that’s like a party, a social gathering where people are free to say what they want and the others in the room, like polite people, nod if they agree. And if they don’t, they may pass by and get another drink, or politely — like polite people — engage in a meaningful dialogue of dissent.

Hmm. I wonder where that particular platform could be . . .

The artwork, Scarlet Tanager by Rod Frederick, shows a most beautiful little bird, set within a riotous environment of spring blossoms. The scene is serene, the bird quiet.  He (she?) isn’t squawking, scolding, screeching, but rather, stands poised in an attitude of thought, of contemplation. Out of the fray of the flock, the Tanager is in place of peace and beauty. Should another Tanager show up, perhaps they will chat — face to face, because that is the best form of communication — but for now, the Tanager is able to just . . . think.

Out of the fray.

Stay Outside the Fray in a Quiet Place of Thought

Wenaha GalleryThe featured image to this article is Scarlet Tanager by Rod Frederick.  You may purchase the print online at this link. We would be absolutely delighted to frame the work for you, working online and by phone — something we have been doing successfully for many years with out out-of-town clients. Email us at Wenaha.com to start the conversation.

More works by Rod Frederick  are at this link.

If this post has encouraged you, please pass it on.

Morning joy bird bible promises Psalms Shawna Wright

Bible Promises and Song Birds — Watercolor by Shawna Wright

Isaiah never forgotten bird bible promises shawna wright

Never Forgotten, inspirational watercolor painting featuring Bible promises from Isaiah 49:15, by Shawna Wright

The Comfort of Bible Promises

When someone we know is hurt and needing, we so often want to help, but just as often do not know how. What gesture can we make, what action can we take, to bring comfort?

Morning joy bird bible promises Psalms Shawna Wright

Joy Comes in the Morning, inspirational watercolor painting by Milton-Freewater, OR, artist Shawna Wright

The answer that watercolor painter Shawna Wright found for this question not only made a difference for the person she was trying to help, but launched her on an unexpected life journey. After earnest prayers to God that He would show her a ministry, something to do for Him, she found herself creating paintings of birds incorporating hand-written promises from the Bible.

And those paintings are resonating with people.

But first, let’s go back to the beginning:

It Started with Stick Men

“In January 2015, my father was in excruciating pain from a severe injury,” the Milton-Freewater, OR, artist remembers.

“Dad was over 2,500 miles away, and my heart ached, wanting to help him. I was inspired to make him a journal of Bible promises and hymns. It wasn’t beautiful — in fact, it was rather rough as my art ability at that time stopped at stick men — but it was from my heart.”

Every morning for two years Wright emailed her father a scanned copy from her journal. Every day, the pages became more detailed and colorful as, bit by bit, Wright began experimenting with her images. On her father’s birthday, inspired by the desire to do something distinctive, she created her first bird painting.

Possible with God bird watercolor Luke Shawna Wright

It’s Possible with God, original inspirational watercolor painting by Shawna Wright

“Both Dad and I knew that something special had happened,” Wright says.

Within two months, she was sharing her work on Facebook, had launched a website, and published her first set of inspirational calendars.

Birds and Bible Promises

Crediting God for her artistic advancements (“Little did I know that He had enrolled me in His own art class”), Wright has published her sixth yearly calendar, as well as numerous prints, cards, and recently, two prayer journals for mothers featuring 100 of her works. She writes a weekly blog of short stories and thoughts on the topic of Bible promises, pairing each article with one of her paintings. She has created numerous commissioned paintings for people who want a customized work in memory of a loved one. And she finds herself invited to share her story at local events, on podcasts, and in televised interviews.

“Bible promises have been a key part of my life, one that has given me comfort, hope, and happiness.

“My goal is to encourage the discouraged, bring hope to the helpless, and comfort to the grieving.”

A Memorable Commission

One of her most memorable commissions involved a woman who sewed blankets for children who have cancer. The client wanted Wright to design a tag to accompany the blankets.

strong courageous joshua bible promises bird hand shawna wright

Be Strong and Courageous, art tags commissioned for pediatric brain cancer awareness by Shawna Wright

“I felt a tender spot in my heart for the families of these children, and agreed to do it free of charge,” Wright says.

“Not long before I took on this project, an eight-year-old girl, Julianna Sayler from Walla Walla, lost her fight with brain cancer. Julianna’s favorite Bible verse had been Joshua 1:9.” (Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.)

Wright drew a golden bird and hand, symbolizing both pediatric cancer awareness and the concept of Jesus holding people in the palm of his hand.

“It is titled, ‘Jesus has me,’ quoting Julianna’s words right until the end.”

Wright gave the original painting to Julianna’s parents. All proceeds from the hundreds of mini-cards, tags and prints that have been sold of this image are donated to the Julianna Sayler Foundation, which helps families of children with cancer.

Each Calendar Has a Feeling of Its Own

With the exception of some commissions, all of Wright’s work features birds with Bible promises. Designed around a theme — courage, faithfulness, assurance, etc. — the calendars are the driver of each year’s art. One year the images were rustic and country, another focused on bold colors and bright flowers.

“I like to mix it up so that each calendar has a feel of its own.

“A theme and harmony is important to me; it’s the glue that holds what I do together.”

She’s come a long way from stick men and scanned journal pages. And she knows, as with any journey, there are many paths ahead, many twists and bends and switchbacks. But she takes seriously the Bible promises she incorporates into her artwork, and she knows that her Art Teacher is serious about working with her.

“I have never taken classes, watched YouTube, or read books. I’ve kept my story true — ‘God Taught.’ It’s what gives my work a unique style.”

Wenaha GalleryShawna Wright is the featured  Art Event from Monday, March 9 through Saturday, April 4 at Wenaha Gallery.

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 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

Florist and Painter — Watercolor Art by Deborah Bruce

still life watercolor floral flowers deborah bruce retired florist

Joy in a Bowl, floral and flower still life watercolor painting by Deborah Bruce, Walla Walla artist and 30-year career florist.

The major rule about crossing the Grand Canyon on a tightrope — assuming that there is a list of rules somewhere — is that you don’t stop in the middle. Not an option.

forest reflections country landscape deborah bruce retired florist

Forest Reflections, watercolor country landscape by Walla Walla painter, and retired florist, Deborah Bruce

And while creating a watercolor painting is not fraught with as many perils, the same requisites apply: you don’t stop in the middle, throw up your hands in consternation, and give up, whether the painting is going stunningly well, or teetering on the edge of collapse.

“My biggest challenge when I’m working on a piece is when I am about halfway through it,” says Deborah Bruce, a Walla Walla painter and retired florist who has focused on watercolor for the last 20 years.

“If I have gotten to where I really like it, I become terrified that I am going to do something to ruin it.

“If I am not liking it, I struggle to keep going.

“I have one rule when I paint, and that is to finish regardless of how I feel about it in the middle. At times I am successful, and sometimes not, but I have found that what I think is a real mess can actually be fine if I just finish and don’t give up in the middle.”

The Florist Philosopher

Wise words, ones that get you over the scary part and to the other side. The medium of watercolor, Bruce explains, is neither forgiving nor easy, but its very difficulties are what make it fun to work with and wonderful to experience. Without the option of painting over mistakes, watercolor artists must plan out carefully where they want to start and end.

Gus Wonder Dog Terrier Pet portrait Deborah Bruce florist

Gus the Wonder Dog, watercolor portrait by Walla Walla painter and retired florist, Deborah Bruce

“It’s more about letting the light come through, knowing what to leave, and allowing the transparency and light and dark values to bring out drama and color,” she adds.

Retired from a career as professional florist for more than 30 years, Bruce is especially drawn to painting flowers, citing their variety, color, shape, and form. And while she loves the bright colors of many blooms, Bruce is intrigued by white flowers, which, when they’re painted, frequently involve no white paint at all. They’re really filled with subtle, but definite, color.

The Florist Painter

Bruce began painting seriously in high school, encouraged by a teacher who saw potential, but like many artists, set the pursuit aside as family and career demanded her limited time. When her sons entered high school she decided to take a watercolor class at Walla Walla Community College, taught by longtime teacher and painter Joyce Anderson, and from that point never looked back.

“I felt like a very important part of me came alive again in that first class.”

downtown walla walla deborah bruce watercolor painter florist

Downtown Walla Walla by watercolor painter and 30-year florist Deborah Bruce

Since then, Bruce has taken several more classes with Anderson, as well as attended workshops by Eric Wiegardt, Birgit O’Conner, Lian Quan Zhen, Tom Lynch, and Soon Warren. Bruce actively participates in Walla Walla Art Walk and the annual Art Squared event, and has shown her art locally at Saviah Cellars, Blue Mountain Cider Company, Plumb Cellars, and a number of area restaurants. She created a wine label for Tricycle Cellars Viognier, and most recently is focusing on commissioned dog portraits.

“I am a dog lover myself and find their faces intriguing. They are all so different and so delightful.”

Gimignano watercolor flower floral landscape arch deborah bruce florist watercolor painter

Gimignano, a cascading floral array and archway by Walla Walla watercolor painter and former florist, Deborah Bruce

The Realist Florist

Working out of a studio fashioned from a spare bedroom in her home, Bruce is highly aware of the season of the year, explaining that she can’t create a snow scene in the middle of summer. Detail minded, she stops short of putting in every point and line, allowing the viewer’s imagination to play. She has never forgotten a conversation in her youth she had with an art instructor, in which Bruce expressed her amazement at the realism of a particular painting:

When Bruce observed that the image looked like a photograph, the instructor replied that it was much better than a photograph, because it was created through a human heart.

“I hope in my paintings the viewer will see a piece of my heart,” Bruce says.

“I hope I can take the viewer someplace they want to be — I love it when a painting brings a smile, and it is my ultimate win when a commissioned piece or a painting I have done for someone brings tears of joy.”

That’s definitely a good end goal to pursue, and an excellent reason for not stopping in the middle.

Wenaha Gallery

Deborah Bruce is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, May 7, 2018, through Saturday, Saturday, June 2, 2018.  

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 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

two kittens cats snuggling family pet ellen heath dixie watercolor painting

Simple Living and Joy — The Watercolor Art of Ellen Heath

two kittens cats snuggling family pet simple living ellen heath dixie watercolor painting

Two Kittens Snuggling, watercolor painting by Dixie artist Ellen Heath, capturing the simple living of life with our pets.

Much of life’s most profound philosophy shows up on dish towels.

crab apple blossoms spring flowers simple living ellen heath dixie watercolor

Crab Apples, watercolor painting by Dixie artist Ellen Heath, celebrating the simple living of springtime blossoms

Most of us have seen a sunny little potted flower image on fabric, with “Bloom Where You Are Planted,” written in script underneath. But with wisdom reduced to one-liners, it’s easy to overlook perspicacity.

There are people, however, like Dixie watercolor painter Ellen Heath, who get it. With or without reassurance from the kitchen aisle at the local box store, Heath understands, and lives, the simple life that adds depth to our existence.

“It would be great to travel to exotic places, but I don’t need to,” Heath, who focuses on floral paintings, wildlife, and domestic animals, says. “I look around me, right now, where I am.”

The Profundity of Living Simple

From her home and studio in the foothills of the Blue Mountains outside of Dixie, Heath finds an abundance of inspiration and ideas by doing nothing more than looking through her window, where mother deer show up with their fawns to eat and play under two ancient apple trees. A country walk with her husband Cliff results in more deer sightings, along with owls, squirrels, and the occasional bear or cougar.

doe fawn wildlife animal spring simple living ellen heath dixie watercolor

A doe and fawn, by Dixie watercolor artist Ellen Heath, capturing the simple living of wildlife in the country

On another outing — with the purpose of viewing newborn twin baby cows — a kitten stole the show when it bounced in their path and arched its back.

“He looked so brave and tiny that I took lots of pictures, which I used as reference for ‘Kitten Attack.'”

Heath sells her original paintings, as well as prints and boxes of note cards, to clients who love color and the allure of country life, and she is especially pleased when she hears that a work has been hung in a spot where it can be readily seen and often enjoyed: one couple hung the commissioned painting of their kittens right above the box where the cats sleep. Another purchaser showcases in his hallway a painting of his father’s favorite fishing spot.

Simple Living, Beauty, and Joy

“I want people to catch a glimpse of the beauty and joy that I see in the world around us,” Heath says. “I know all is not this way, but I hope people get a warm, good feeling inside when they look at my paintings.”

leafy bridge country rural forest woods simple living ellen heath watercolor

Leafy Bridge by Dixie watercolor artist Ellen Heath, capturing the simple country life of the rural woods and forest.

It may not sound deep and artsy, she adds, but her primary subject matter revolves around happiness.

“I don’t want to spend my days probing the dark and deep depths of the world.”

Heath, who retired from teaching elementary school a year and half ago, transformed an extra bedroom in her house into a studio. She credits her mother, still active and dynamic at 95, for inspiring her from childhood to do art — “She was always painting, creating things, sewing, cooking, and more. There were art supplies, beads, ribbons, yarn, pressed flowers, cards to make.”

Through the years, Heath has studied art at workshops and college classes, and acknowledges Walla Walla painter Joyce Anderson as the major influence toward her decision to focus on watercolor, which is anything but an easy medium in which to work. But the difficulties, Heath adds, are also the advantages.

Watercolor: Anything BUT Simple

“The challenges and benefits of watercolor for me are the same, as in the rest of life,” she says. “It seems that those things that are the most difficult also bring the most joy.”

cat family pet animal simple living ellen heath watercolor painting dixie

Cat, watercolor painting by Ellen Heath of Dixie. Simple living is normal living for our house cat friends.

Watercolor paint doesn’t necessarily stay where you put it, she explains. It can sink into the paper, creating  darker or lighter spots, or it can flow with the water. Sometimes, this results in colorful, swirling images, but other times — not planned and certainly not desired — the hues turn into mud.

To take full advantage of the translucent, exquisite color of the medium, Heath builds a painting in layers, starting with the lightest colors, and often leans the incomplete picture against the wall to dry while she reviews the areas of light and shadow.

“I’ll put it up again and again, sometimes waiting a couple of days in between. It may be a couple of weeks or even more before I’m finished.” And even then, she admits, it’s tempting to go back and “fix” it up after it’s matted and framed.

Simplicity, Tranquility, Clarity

But there’s no reason to overwork things, to add complications where they are not needed, to fret and fuss and brood — ultimately, the image itself announces that it is done, and ready to be launched into the world. What matters is the joy, the beauty, the invitation to the viewer to step into a world of simplicity, tranquility, and clarity.

“I paint things that make me happy and relaxed, either because of the bright colors of the subject matter.

“I hope others will also find a smile or a bit of joy in them.”

Wenaha Gallery

Ellen Heath is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, March 26, 2018, through Saturday, Saturday, April 21, 2018.  

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 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

exit to pataha landscape clouds barb thrall fine art photography

Painterly Photography — Fine Art Photographs by Barb Thrall

exit to pataha landscape clouds barb thrall fine art photography

Exit to Pataha, fine art photography landscape by Kennewick photographer Barb Thrall

Whoever coined the axiom, “The camera cannot lie,” probably didn’t believe it himself, because photo editing and manipulation have been around almost as long as photography. One of  U.S. history’s most iconic photographs, that of a full-length Abraham Lincoln standing with one hand resting against his vest, is actually an 1860s composite of the president’s head set atop another man’s body.1

lilacs artichokes still life floral fine art photography thrall

Lilacs and Artichokes, fine art still life photography by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Barb Thrall

“There is an idea that all photography must be realism — that if anything is manipulated in Photoshop then the photographer is cheating,” says Barb Thrall, a Kennewick artist who creates photographic fine art images incorporating her intellect and skill, digital camera, judicious use of Photoshop and Lightroom, and a wise selection of paper.

“In the same breath,” Thrall continues, “people will mention Ansel Adams or any other famous landscape photographer — but taking the photo is only half of the creative process for these photographers. The other half occurs in the darkroom or in Photoshop or whatever process they are using to get their photos to the printer.”

Painterly Photography

In other words, not all photography is the same, just as not all painting styles are the same. It’s one thing when the photo is on the front page of the newspaper, purporting to accurately represent an actual event, and a totally different element when the photo is an art piece, with keen attention to color, subject matter, perspective, layout, and, as Thrall describes it, connecting the viewer with a visceral or “gut” feeling in the soul.

evening sun forest landscape photography barb thrall

Evening Sun at Schrag, fine art photography landscape by Barb Thrall

“The editing I do, while certainly giving the photos a painterly feel, is more about experience,” Thrall explains. “How can I translate the feeling of a moment into a photo?” For Thrall, this involves not only the initial capture of the image, but the processing of it afterwards, which in earlier years took place in a traditional darkroom, but now involves photo software allowing the artist to work with light, texture, shadow, shading, and more. Also involved is compositing, the merging of one or more separate images into one.

Photography Mimicking the Old Masters

“There is a certain subtlety to processing photos this way,” Thrall says. “I love the photography that mimics the Old Masters — there is an elegance and romance to this.” And while there are diehards who insist that “a photo should be a photo” and “a painting should be a painting,” the play between painting and photography has been around as long as there have been cameras, Thrall explains.

three pears fine art photography still life barb thrall

Three Pears, fine art photography still life by Barb Thrall

“Anyone who takes their photos straight out of a camera and doesn’t process them is doing themselves a disservice. Ansel Adams was a great photographer, but he was a master in the darkroom.”

Thrall has had a camera in her hand from childhood, starting with a Kodak 110 cartridge and working her way through various models as she has shot images of landscapes, floral still lifes, portraiture, and black and white flora macro images with a graphic abstract feel. Vindication of her artistic passion came from, of all places, the State of Washington and its pre-college personality test that Thrall took in high school. The top jobs recommended for Thrall were photography and wildlife biology.

Interior Design, Paralegalism, and Fine Art Photography

And in what did Thrall receive her degrees? Interior design and paralegal studies, neither of which were in the top ten career choices on her test results. But because passion frequently trumps practicality, Thrall incorporates both interior design and paralegal principles into her photography.

after crush vineyard landscape grapes barb thrall larson gallery

After the Crush, vineyard landscape at the permanent collection of Larson Gallery, by Barb Thrall

“Color theory and the theory of thirds are certainly part of an interior design education, and a paralegal ought to be good with details.” A recent interest in architectural photography is “nothing but details.” The combination of those details with the love of the Old Painting Masters results in a lot of breaking of the rules, and advancement in technique.

“One of the biggest influences in my work is Vermeer. I love that light — truly, truly love that light.”

Capturing Attention

Thrall has shown her work in juried shows throughout the Pacific Northwest, with one of her pieces in the permanent collection at Larson Gallery in Yakima. She takes a workshop every year in a different aspect of photography, and has studied under Ray Pfortner — who worked under wildlife photographer Art Wolfe — and received a photography certificate from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, whose founder  studied under Ansel Adams.

A finished work, for Thrall, starts in the field and ends with an image that captures the attention, the eye, and the soul.

“I want people to just slow down a bit, to breathe in and out.

“One of the series that I did focused on just shooting at rest stops or in places very close to the I-90 Freeway. I wanted to show the beauty in places not that far off the road.

“We don’t have to go very far to see beautiful places.”

Wenaha Gallery

Barb Thrall is the featured Pacific Northwest artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, October 23 through Saturday, November 18, 2017.   

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 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

1McKay, Katie. “Photo Manipulation Throughout History: A Timeline.” Ethics in Photo Editing: WordPress, April 1, 2009.