cat leopart spotted wildlife drawing photorealistic aimee croteau

Colored Pencil Photorealism — Wildlife Drawings by Aimee Croteau

cat leopard colored pencil wildlife drawing photorealistic aimee croteau

Big cats are fascinating, but they don’t often let us get close enough to them for us to see the detail. Aimee Croteau’s photorealistic colored pencil drawings give us that closeup. Rarity, original colored pencil drawing by Aimee Croteau.

The last time you saw an Amur leopard on the street, did you stop to truly look, or did you keep walking?

Okay, so maybe an Amur leopard on the street isn’t a common sight. And if it were, we probably wouldn’t sidle close, stop and stare. But thanks to artists like Aimee Croteau, who creates photorealistic wildlife paintings in colored pencil and airbrush, we can take the time to look, to observe, to absorb the detail of a world we otherwise are unable to get close to.

“With my photorealistic animal drawing, I am above all else demanding that more respect be paid to non-human life,” the Post Falls, ID, artist says.

wolf wings fantasy wildlife colored pencil photorealism aimee croteau

Within the detail of photo realism, fantasy has its place. Reborn, original colored pencil and airbrush drawing by Aimee Croteau.

She works in colored pencil because the medium allows her to render her subject matter with extreme — it’s no exaggeration to say exquisite — detail and precision. The addition of an airbrush background softens the effect, highlighting the finer points of the animal’s form and visage.

Taking Time with Colored Pencil

“Taking the time and physical labor to capture each tiny detail in my subjects indicates the importance I place on them,” Croteau explains. This is also an invitation to the viewer as well. They can take all the time they need to absorb the impact of the image, without the disadvantage of the animal not staying around to be looked at.

“Animals are skittish and hide easily, making them difficult to see and connect with. Drawing them gives the viewer an opportunity to look at an animal they would otherwise not be able to see due to the animal’s elusive nature or their geographic location.

“By drawing animals in a photorealistic style, I imply that they demand more than just a quick glance.”

Nothing about the process is quick, she adds, and that’s intentional. From choosing the subject, to composing the image, to rendering it, Croteau’s artwork reflects a sense of respect that encourages the viewer to join her on the journey. Using photos that she has taken herself or accessed through appropriate licensing or royalty-free channels, Croteau looks for a reference that reflects some aspect of herself: a sense of stillness, an expression, or a specific emotion. She then seeks to capture that element in the drawing, while simultaneously preserving and celebrating the animal’s unique personality.

bird plumage feathers wildlife drawing aimee croteau

Every feather, every detail of plumage shines forth in Aimee Croteau’s airbrush and colored pencil drawing, Cynosure

“I encourage the viewer to more carefully consider the individuality and impact of the wildlife that I represent through my work.”

Details Matter

Attention to detail is a part of life to Croteau, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. Citing art as a lifelong passion, Croteau decided to be an artist in high school, and says,

“If I go too long without drawing, or painting, or simply making something, I legitimately get depressed. It’s like a piece of my soul is being neglected if I am not making art.” This is the fundamental reason she started doing art in the first place, she adds.

fox magic moment colored pencil photorealistic drawing aimee croteau

Caught in the moment — This Magic Moment, photorealistic colored pencil airbrush drawing by Aimee Croteau

Croteau has exhibited in various group shows in the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, and Cheney areas, and is most proud of her acceptance into the Terrain Show in Spokane.

“It was a juried show, and there were a little over 1,000 entries. They had to severely narrow that number down to fit inside the actual exhibition space, and the jury chose my work to be included in the show.” Nearly 10,000 people attended the one-night-only show.

The Challenge of Colored Pencils

Croteau’s medium of choice — colored pencils — has many advantages, and some challenges, she says. On the plus side, they are a dry medium, requiring little clean up, and they emit no harsh chemicals or odors. They’re portable, and are perfect for achieving the detail she demands. On the challenging side, they require numerous hours of focused concentration since she is covering a large, flat area using a fine point, with mistakes not easily fixed. And,

“It’s not a fun day when the pencil lead keeps breaking!”

Time, intensity, detail, concentration, patience, respect — all of these elements coalesce in each drawing. It’s worth every minute, every stroke of the pencil, every ounce of concentration.

Thanks to Croteau, we can see, really see that Amur leopard. With the advantage that it can’t see us.

Wenaha GalleryAmy Croteau is the featured Art Event artists from July 27 through August 23.

Contact Wenaha 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.

 

Japanese Wrapped Stones rocks cane calm denise wagner

Japanese Wrapped Stones — Calm and Design by Denise Wagner

Japanese Wrapped Stones rocks cane calm denise wagner

Using cane in both natural and dyed colors, Denise Wagner creates both traditional and self-designed wraps on rocks.

If you have ever skipped rocks across the river, you know that not just any stone will do. It needs to be flat, smooth, of a particular heft and weight.

Denise Wagner, a Kennewick, WA, artist who specializes in Japanese Wrapped Stones, is well aware of what the perfect rock looks like. The major difference between her and the rock skipper, however, is that the LAST thing she’ll do upon finding that perfect stone is hurl it into the water.

“I like to find stones that are oval and somewhat flat so they will lay well in a display,” Wagner explains.

“The stones I find come from all over. I take walks, bike rides, and strolls around the Columbia and Umatilla Rivers, and that’s where I find my rocks.”

Japanese wrapped stones design form denise wagner

A trio of Japanese wrapped stones by Denise Wagner showcases different colors of cane and finished designs.

So what, exactly are Japanese Wrapped Stones?

They are rocks, wrapped in natural cane, using Japanese basketry and knotting techniques. These wraps can be extraordinarily complicated or deceptively simple, but the resulting fusion of rock and cane exudes a sense of peace, calm, and tranquility within intricacy of design. Wagner, a licensed home health care provider, first encountered the art form through a “wonderful gentleman” she met while working at an independent living facility.

Wrapped Stones Caught Her Eye

“He noticed my looking at his wrapped rock and was eager to teach me. So we made an appointment for a lesson in the activities room.

“I brought the Starbucks coffee, and he brought his friend and his box of tools and tricks. It was there that I wrapped my first rock.”

Japanese wrapped stones wood platter design denise wagner

Rocks, cane, and wood — Denise Wagner takes natural elements and crafts them into an art form.

And she was hooked. After that first lesson, Wagner went home and practiced on all kinds of wraps, both traditional designs and ones that she thought up on her own. Using natural cane that she either leaves its organic color or dyes to a desired hue, Wagner creates groupings of stones on wooden or ceramic platters. The compendium of shapes, forms, and design synthesize into a coalescent medley of mood.

Again, calm is the word, and it’s an appropriate one. Because in order to wrap rocks in the first place, you have to be calm.

“You need plenty of patience,” Wagner says.

“Setting up, preparing, wrapping, re-wrapping when it comes undone, drying, spraying — it’s a process. In order to fully focus, I need to be free of distractions and in a creative mood.”

red cane japanese wrapped stones rocks denise wagner

Soft red balances with varying shades of gray in this collection of Japanese wrapped stones by Kennewick artist Denise Wagner

Rocks, and People

In many ways, working with the rocks is like working with people, she adds. You simply can’t rush through the process, and if you even try, you’ll lose out on something beautiful.

“As a licensed home care provider, I work with all kinds of seniors.

“Like working with my clients, wrapping stones takes patience. Each stone is unique. Some are smooth and easy to work with, and some are a bit rough around the edges.

“These stones have been around a long time, and I just imagine the stories they could tell. The stones’ stories would be just as interesting as those of my clients, except with my human clients, I DO get to hear the stories!”

Rocks around the Region

Wagner has shown her Japanese Wrapped Stones at the Indigo and Blue Shows at Drewboy Creative and Gallery Aglow at Gallery at the Park, both in Richland; the Serene Abundance Studio in Florence, OR; and the East Benton County Historical Museum in Pasco, WA. Working from her dining room table, she uses the cane itself for tension, tightly grasping the end as she makes the first wrap. The last wrap she tucks into the back, holding down with a bit of glue. The resulting design is sprayed with sealant and left to dry.

It’s very important to keep the finished wrapped stones out of wet or damp places such as outdoors or bathrooms, she says, as the moisture can cause the cane to relax, loosen, and unravel.

For Wagner, rocks, like people, aren’t simply things you pick up and throw away. They’re individual, unique, and capable of becoming works of art. You just have to take the time to look at them, work with them, and see their potential.

Wenaha GalleryDenise Wagner is the featured Art Event artists from July 13 through August 9.

Contact Wenaha 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.

gaggle geese honking communicating water bucket jordan henderson art

From Geese to Covid-19 — Jordan Henderson Communicates in Oil

gaggle geese honking communicating water bucket jordan henderson art

Communication takes many forms, some louder, some quieter than others. Gaggle of Geese by the Water Bucket, original oil painting by Jordan Henderson.

“That speaks to me.”

Those four words are invaluable praise to a two-dimensional visual artist. To one who applies paint to a substrate, communication involves not just creating an image, but an image that asks a question, tells a story, invites the viewer to step in and listen. For fine art painter Jordan Henderson, painting creates conversation.

“I view painting as a means of communication,” the Dayton, WA, artist says.

“The painter projects their vision onto the canvas by physically applying pigment in such a way as to convey that vision, refines it as long as the painter wishes to, and then the audience can see what the painter envisioned by looking at the canvas.”

longhorn cow cattle livestock communicating painting country jordan henderson

The tilt of its head communicates a sense of inquisitiveness and curiosity. Longhorn Cow, original oil painting by Jordan Henderson.

But it’s not a quick process, he adds — neither the act of painting itself, nor interpretation on the part of the viewer. Appreciating a painting, similar to getting to know and genuinely communicate with another human being, takes time, intensity, and effort.

Communicating Takes Time and Intention

“I am going to draw from popular culture here to make a point. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books this very slow speaking character (Treebeard) says of his slow language (Old Entish), ‘It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time saying anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.’

“Well, that statement is a good analogy for an important aspect of painting. Painting is a lovely language, but it takes a long time to say anything in it compared to other forms of communication.”

studio landscape country view trees hills rural jordan henderson art

The country landscape communicates its message of contemplation and peace. Studio View, original oil painting by Jordan Henderson.

When you look at a painting, Henderson continues, you are looking at subject matter through an artist’s eyes. It is for this reason that Henderson, who grew up on a farm and developed a keen appreciation for barnyard fowl, cattle, goats, and horses, so enjoys painting them. The animals are so ordinary to most people, he explains, that few take time to stop and appreciate their charm and beauty. Or, as Treebeard might expound,

“By painting say, geese, I first make the value judgment that they are worthy of taking a long time to say something about, and then I can communicate with the viewer, ‘Look at this bird’s attitude,’ or ‘Look at how the light falls on these feathers.'”

If successful, he won’t so much have breathed new life into the subject matter as have conveyed worthy elements that were there all along. The geese are worth painting, because they’re worth talking about.

Geese, and Covid-19

This conveyance, he adds, goes beyond the barnyard into the political paddock, where Henderson explores the repercussions and reverberations of  deeply controversial topics, most recently, Covid-19. It is a subject matter he began focusing upon in Spring 2020 and continues into the present.

“My allegorical Covid-19 paintings might seem like a 180-degree turn from painting geese, but actually it is rather similar: Orwellian doublespeak, contempt for the rights of individual human beings, and total nonsense put forth as unquestionable truth, have become so commonplace that people fail to see their brutal significance, just as easily as they overlook the beauty of a domestic animal.

aititlan guatemala market people shopping communicating colorful art jordan henderson

What better way to communicate than face to face, person to person, up close and personal, than in a colorful market setting? Aititlan Market, original oil painting by Jordan Henderson.

“Painting is every bit as useful for shedding light on these things, communicating their existence, as it is for highlighting beauty.”

Henderson’s Covid-19 paintings have attracted the notice and attention of independent media, including GlobalResearch.ca, Off-Guardian.org, WinterOak.org.uk/, Nevermore.Media, MuchAdoAboutCorona.ca, and LockDownSceptics.org. These and others have published Henderson’s images online or in print. The description and story of the paintings have been translated into other news platforms in French, Spanish, German Chinese, and Slovenian. He has been interviewed and appeared on podcasts by John Manley of Much Ado about Corona and Richard Jacobs of FindingGeniusPodcast.com. A number of indie book authors have approached him about doing the cover art for their books.

Communicating around the Globe

Henderson has sold prints and originals of both barnyard and political paintings throughout the world. One buyer in the UK purchased the originals of White and Grey Geese, featuring, well, geese, and Safe and Sanitized, an allegorical Covid-19 image of handcuffed skeletal hands holding aloft a skull gagged with a medical face mask, to hang together in his home. He wrote Henderson that visitors expressed approbation of each.

And whether he’s painting gaggles of geese or skulls in masks, Henderson appreciates the marriage of high tech digital communication with the timeless tech of oil painting. Combined they communicate, literally, across the globe.

“Oil painting is old tech, but it is also high tech in the literal sense that it is a highly developed technology, with hundreds of years’ worth of trial and error, and contributions by artist and art suppliers.

“I want a medium that I can use to say exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it. I can do that with oil paint. The medium doesn’t get in my way, and does basically whatever I want it to.”

Wenaha GalleryJordan Henderson is the featured Art Event artists from June 29 to July 26.

Contact Wenaha 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.

 

gun boxes magnet handles ron jackson

Wood Master — Artisan Woodworking by Ron Jackson

wood maple rocking chair furniture ron jackson

On the porch or in the living room, the handcrafted maple wood rocking chair by Ron Jackson invites the visitor to sit a spell.

Here’s your riddle for the day:

What is natural, renewable, sustainable, and recyclable that comes in an array of hues and densities? You can do everything from build a ship out of it to crafting a box. It rhymes with good, hood, should and could. And . . . it begins with w.

“My wife Dianne and I craft furniture and wood accessories that allow wood’s natural beauty to speak for itself,” says Ron Jackson of Walla Walla.

“The diversity of grains, color, figure and light reflectance make appealing visuals. Wood items are tactile. The warmth of wood feels good to the hand.”

small jewel box wood with feet ron jackson

Ron Jackson’s small jewel box with feet incorporates various woods in its tops, sides, feet, and handle.

Jackson, who began working with the answer to the riddle 67 years ago while in junior high school, has been involved with trees, somehow and in some way, all his life. Primarily self-taught, he credits his working at the Walla Walla Whitehouse Crawford sash, door, and cabinet shop in the early 1960s as the foundation for his knowledge of his medium. And while he hasn’t built a schooner (yet), he has designed and constructed three homes — including the couple’s “forever” home that they have lived in for 30 years — as well as filled that home with furniture and cabinetry of his own making.

Learning Woodworking by Salvaging Trees

“My woodworking education took a significant leap when, with a partner, we started a business salvaging hardwood trees,” Jackson explains.

“We milled the trees into lumber and sold the resulting lumber. We shipped the wood to users as far away as New York and Hawaii.

“The learning curve associated with the process of falling, hauling, milling and drying hardwood to successfully obtain an end product that did justice to this region’s beautiful hardwoods was substantial.

“The knowledge obtained from this process has helped me become a better woodworker.”

bloodroot jarra wood tall box jewelry drawers ron jackson

The Tall Box by Ron Jackson is made from Bubinga Wood. Slices from the bloodroot plant rest on top and as a cover to the drawers.

Now theoretically retired, Jackson spends his days in his 450 square foot shop, where he creates commissioned work for clients throughout the country. He also crafts small things — boxes, charcuterie boards, jewelry and hobby boxes — that he sells at gift stores, craft shows, and Wenaha Gallery in Dayton. Working from a stock of hardwoods primarily salvaged from trees in eastern Washington and Oregon, Jackson mixes and matches walnut, mahogany, maple, yew, Bubinga, and even something called Bloodroot and Jarra into his one of a kind, always evolving creations. He incorporates inlay, mortise and tenon, tongue and groove and other methods of blending and design, taking advantage of the different colors and textures of the wood.

Boxes and Boards for Guns and Cheese

Especially popular are his gun boxes, which stay locked until opened with a magnet, decoratively hidden within a separate wooden handle.

“Wives whose husbands own guns and keep them beside their beds especially like these,” he says. “In the middle of the night if you think you hear something, the last thing you want to do is turn on the light and fumble with a combination lock. The magnet is quiet and quick.”

Boxes of any sort fascinate Jackson. They are perfect for experimenting with new techniques and finishes on a small scale before incorporating them into larger pieces.

gun boxes magnet handles ron jackson

An assortment of gun boxes with decorative, magnet handle openers, by Ron Jackson

“I enjoy making boxes for a variety of reasons:

“They have a purpose. They take a reasonable time to make and are a great way to use special pieces of wood. The opportunity they offer to experiment with artistic ideas is great.”

And they make great gifts. Who doesn’t have small treasures that fit perfectly into a decorative box?

A Living Tree, and Then Its Wood

For Jackson, wood is a treasure of the earth that has a long and productive life: first as the tree that draws nourishment from the ground and gives back to its landscape, then, when that life is over, as a raw material transformed into items of beauty, usefulness, and artisan skill. It’s neither joke nor riddle that wood is natural, renewable, sustainable, and recyclable in a way that few materials are, and its versatility in its afterlife is limited only by the imagination and skill of the person working with it.

“In collaboration with my wife, Dianne, our work seeks to express the order and diversity of nature fused with people’s need for functional furniture and accessories,” Jackson says.

“The fascinating thing about working with wood is there’s always something else to learn.”

Wenaha GalleryRon Jackson is the featured Art Event artists from June 15 to July 12.

Contact Wenaha 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.

 

balsam root flowers watercolor sketch woods trees helen boland

Sketch, Draw, Paint, Create — The Art of Helen Boland

mountain palouse landscape view watercolor painting wilderness helen boland

Whether painting or sketching, Helen Boland connects with nature on both an artistic and scientific level. Palouse Farmland View, original watercolor painting by Helen Boland.

Too many people, when stuck in a waiting room, spend the time head down, eyes glazed, fingers swiping as they scroll through their phone.

Not so Helen Boland. The Walla Walla, WA, artist carries sketch pad, pen, pencils, even brush and portable paints with her everywhere she goes. Everything she sees, every place she visits, provides an inspiration to capture, on paper, the world around her.

“Waiting in airports or for appointments are opportunities to sketch, capture characters and scenes, and practice technique,” Boland says.

wild garden sketch landscape mountains wilderness watercolor helen boland

Nature’s hand does the planting and cultivation at Wild Garden at the Top. Original watercolor painting by Helen Boland.

“Sketching helps me focus and occupies me while waiting. There is no boredom or impatience. Sketching helps me to be present in the moment.”

This form of daily art practice, she adds, increases her awareness of color, light, and shadow, in addition to fluidity and attention to form. By the time she gets officially behind the easel — which may be at her studio/house, or in the forest as she paints plein air — she embarks upon a more detailed and concentrated form of artistic expression.

Sketching and Painting in Many Media

“I work in watercolor, ink, acrylics, pastel, and also collage,” Boland says.

“As a retired science teacher, homestead farmer, and lifelong naturalist, I focus on art that reflects my love of animals, nature, and landscape. I move between detail, realism, and impression.”

balsam root flowers watercolor sketch woods trees helen boland

Flowers attract the eye and attention of both the scientist and artist within. Balsam Root, original watercolor painting by Helen Boland.

Her habit of sketching and drawing and painting anytime, anywhere, stems from when she was “an often ill but oddly energetic child.

“My mother frequently handed me crayons, pencils and a pad to pacify me during wait time in doctors’ offices or during long visits with relatives when all that was spoken was Portuguese.”

She describes drawing as a permissible activity when she was hospitalized or ill with fever. When convalescing outside, she took note of minute details of light, shadow, and color. She even took advantage of fevers, which brought her view slightly out of focus and allowed her to observe the surrounding world as if it were a Monet painting.

“This is my foundation as an artist as well as a biologist,” Boland says, explaining that while science took the lead in her professional career, she often used art expression as a means of processing, understanding, and teaching scientific concepts. Now retired, she focuses on painting full time, in fulfillment of a promise she made to herself years ago while pursuing her professional teaching career, raising a family, and running a small homestead farm.

Focusing Strongly on Each Painting

“My paintings are like my offspring that I set free. I have a true experience with each one, and they all reflect a piece of me and a moment in my life.

ponderosa pine woods tree forest wilderness helen boland watercolor

The forest is a silent and peaceful place, one worth painting and sketching. Ponderosa Hillside by Helen Boland.

“When I paint a person or an animal, I speak to it, and in a way it speaks back. I develop a love and a relationship through the painting process.

“And then I let them go.”

Some of the places where Boland has let her paintings go to are collectors’ homes in Walla Walla and Eastern Washington, Massachusetts, Colorado, California, Canada, and a goat farm in New Jersey, among others. She has regularly participated in the Artwalla Art Squared event, as well as been a featured artist in the organization’s First Friday Pop Up. She has shown her work at art walks and events throughout the Walla Walla, Dayton, and Tri-Cities regions. And for the last year and a half, she has participated in Sunday Self Portrait, an international Facebook group in which people from all over the world post their portrait, created from their image in a mirror, on Sundays.

Sunday Portraits

“I have posted one every Sunday for the past year and a half. That’s a lot of pictures of me!

“I have learned so much about the lives, experience, and art techniques from all over the world. This helps me keep perspective.

“It also has improved my skill at drawing the face, the same captive face, week after week. They all don’t show an accurate physical likeness of me, but they all show some aspect of me. I can look at the portraits and assess how I am doing emotionally and perhaps spiritually.”

Originally from rural Massachusetts and Vermont, Boland focuses her latest paintings on landscapes from Columbia and Walla Walla counties, reflecting her residence in each: her town home (and studio) is in Walla Walla, and she owns forest management property near Dayton. She is happiest both in the studio and out in the woods, because wherever she is, she is somehow drawing, painting, or sketching.

“Getting out on the land creates opportunities to observe, photograph, and find inspiration for art,” she says.

“The biologist and the artist within are both satisfied with my time spent in nature, both in my garden in town and the forest land in the Blue Mountains.

“My art reflects my world view and my deep love of the natural world.

“It is a truth in a moment.”

Wenaha GalleryHelen Boland is the featured Art Event artists from June 1 to June 28.

Contact Wenaha 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.

 

 

 

dollhouse porch house playhouse toy detail intricate erica watts

Dollhouse Detail — Magic in Miniature by Erica Watts

dollhouse porch house playhouse toy detail intricate erica watts

It’s all in the details. A tiny dollhouse sports all the trimmings of the real things, on a 1:12 scale. By Erica Watts of Spokane, WA.

It’s hard to resist the heartfelt request of a five-year-old.

And when that child is your daughter, and you’re an artist, and her request piques your creative interest, well, then, you’re on what Erica Watts calls a mini-adventure into unknown, but delightful, territory.

“My youngest daughter was the inspiration that started me on the path I’m on,” the Spokane, WA, artist, who creates miniature dollhouses and furniture, says.

closet miniature scaled dollhouse erica watts

No closet ever feels big enough, does it? But even in miniature, this closet manages to hold many fascinating items. Dollhouse art by Erica Watts.

“We were at a birthday party, and her friend got a custom dollhouse for a gift. My daughter asked if I could make her one and with that request, my love of minis began. I converted a shelving unit into a custom dollhouse for Mia, using found objects and making custom furniture and textiles along the way.”

Well, she couldn’t stop there. A lifelong artist who has completed art courses at Michigan Tech University and the Art Institute of Chicago, Watts found miniature work to be the perfect way to create across a broad spectrum of mediums. She works with textiles, wood, plastic, metal, paint, paper, and more, and beyond that, she integrates sustainability into the mix.

Sustainability

“I noticed that this happened organically,” Watts says. “From the beginning, I started out trying to use everyday things in a different way, then realized I can upcycle and recycle so much more.

“I try to live my everyday life that way, too, so it was only natural it would flow into my creative spaces.”

bathroom miniature sink mirror home decor erica watts

A double sink vanity is a luxury item for the bathroom, in a regular-sized home or dollhouse.

Caught capturing a cap or two from the garbage can, she has discovered ways to repurpose old toys, parts of plastic packaging, a hair curler, doll parts, egg cartons, and miscellaneous nuts and bolts.

“You really start to look at everyday items differently when you realize a little glass jar can be a plant pot, or an oversized bead can be a lamp base.”

Of course, you also have a tendency to keep just about everything, because you never know when you’ll need it. That’s not a problem when your studio is inside a warehouse, but when it is tucked into an 8 x 9 foot room in the basement of the house, you have to get creative with your organizational skills as well. Watts fits everything into three walls of pegboard and a fourth of shelving.

“When I build, I am messy.

“I don’t like to put anything away until I’m completely done with what I am building. For some reason, it just throws my creative groove when I have to pull things out every time I’m ready to work. Instead, I like it all to be out and visible. With having such a small space, that means I have to do regular deep cleans and organization days.”

One Inch Equals One Foot

dresser furniture drawers miniature dollhouse art erica watts

No matter the size of house, you just can’t have too many dressers. Dollhouse art by Erica Watts of Spokane, WA.

Working on a 1:12 scale (one inch equals one foot), Watts creates entire furnished dollhouses, as well as individual mini-pieces — pillows, tables, beds, lamps with those confiscated caps, even surfboards — on a custom and retail basis. It’s become a family affair, with her youngest daughter — the one who inspired her to start on the mini-adventure — suggesting new items and “test playing” with each piece before shipment. Watts’ teenage son, who “kind of laughs” at his mom for playing with doll stuff, nevertheless is drawn to the mechanics and technical skill required to recreate items in miniature. And her oldest daughter offers suggestions on coordinating paint colors and fabrics.

“She loves looking at the end result because EVERYTHING is cuter in miniature form.”

Not only cuter, but also detailed, intricate, and challenging. Watts has learned, and continues to learn, that miniature creation is a craft demanding copious amounts of patience, a virtue she progresses upon finessing.

“There is so much planning and waiting in miniature work. The glue has to dry; the paint has to dry; there’s multiple sandings, painting, sewing, ironing, gluing, sanding again, painting again, only to wait again.”

Reminders of Childhood

But oh, how it’s worth it, especially when she gets feedback from happy clients. Her most poignant sale involved a complete dollhouse shipped clear across the country to a woman who purchased it for her daughter’s birthday. Both girls are named Mia; they share eerily similar middle names, are the same age and have birthdays around the same time.

It was meant to be.

“My goal is to bring joy and wonder in each piece that I make,” Watts says.

“I want people to be reminded of their childhood or think of their grandchildren.

“And I want people to be amazed at how real something looks.”

That’s big. That’s big indeed.

Wenaha GalleryErica Watts is the featured Art Event artists from May 18 to June 14.

Contact Wenaha 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.

 

 

 

 

high jumper fosbury flop kessie lewis

Fosbury Flop — Sweet Success in Bronze

high jumper fosbury flop kessie lewis

In the foreground, The High Jumper, by Larry Kessie; in the background, You Can Fly by Clay Lewis. The athlete is jumping with technique called Fosbury Flop.

Nobody embraces or welcomes bad experiences.

But here’s an odd thing about bad experiences: sometimes they produce sweet fruit.

high jumper bronze statue fosbury flop larry kessie

The High Jumper, bronze statue by Larry Kessie, captures the competitor just as he begins to leave the ground.

That’s what Clay Lewis and Larry Kessie, both of Richland, WA, discovered, years after they were in fifth grade together, and one of them was wrongfully accused of misappropriating a pencil. Through efforts to punish the alleged miscreant, their teacher unfortunately exacerbated a deplorable situation into a traumatic one, the results of which stayed with both men well into their adulthood.

Seeking Closure and Finding Friendship

“Even though Clay and I attended Kennewick High School together, we had not linked up until a few years ago, through the common denominator of my wife who had worked with him and urged me to have a discussion on how that event had affected me,” Kessie remembers.  “When we did link up, I found that it had negative impacts on Clay’s life as well.”

The result of this meeting was unexpected and . . . sweet. Not only did both men move toward closure of a negative experience, they opened up a novel, exciting chapter in their lives. As their newly revived friendship grew, they embarked, together, on an unforeseen direction: bronze sculpture and something called The Fosbury Flop.

The Fosbury Flop

Neither man had sculpted before. Kessie worked 35 years as an architect. Lewis’s career took him into coaching track and field, where he achieved a reputation as a guru of high jumping, most notably in the technique known as the Fosbury Flop.

you can fly fosbury flop clay lewis bronze statue

You Can Fly, bronze statue by Clay Lewis. It captures the high jumper just as he is clearing the bar. The backwards leap is the Fosbury Flop.

This backwards leaping technique, named after Dick Fosbury, who jumped 7’4.25″ to win the Gold Medal at the 1968 Olympics, captured the attention of then 16-year-old Clay Lewis. He taught himself this new unique style of high jumping, and was soon recognized as one of the first Fosbury floppers in Washington State. As years went by, Lewis —  inducted in 2009 into the Washington State Hall of Fame for coaches — found himself speaking at a number of Northwest track clinics, giving specifics on how to do the Fosbury flop. As a visual aid, he was limited to using Barbie dolls to demonstrate the technique, and for varying reasons, was frustrated with the limitations Barbie invoked. He was looking for a better visual aid that wasn’t quite so . . . distracting.

A Life-Changing Idea

That’s when Kessie had an idea, and the two men started on their journey into the world of bronze sculpture.

“I bought two human armatures, some clay, and a lot of anatomy books, and we got started on creating the coaching aid Clay needed,” Kessie remembers.

larry kessie sculptor high jumper fosbury flop bronze

Larry Kessie, architect and sculptor of The High Jumper

“We both had no idea where this was going, or how they were going to turn out. We each selected independent positions of the jumper so that Clay would have two independent aids.”

Kessie’s sculpture, The High Jumper, focuses on the jumper just before he leaps; Lewis’s work, You Can Fly, catches him mid-air, clearing the bar. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, because that’s when the sculptures were done. Getting there took a lot of time, effort, researching, and determination.

“Our learning curve was very steep,” Kessie says.

“Correct form and musculature were very important to both of us. We continually reviewed the anatomy through pictures and anatomy books for artists and sculptures. We also used YouTube extensively.”

But . . .

“We found that the clay sculptures were developing in a manner not anticipated.”

Unsure of the direction things were going, Lewis invited a local international artist friend to give the two friends feedback on the project.

“The artist’s summary blew us away in that he compared our statues to some of the best he has seen professionally,” Kessie recalls. “He was amazed that it was our first sculptures, and there were two of them at that level.”

From Visual Aid to Bronze Sculpture

That was the encouragement they needed, and Kessie and Lewis advanced from clay prototypes to deciding to have their work cast into bronze at Valley Bronze in Joseph, OR. That move opened up a whole new dimension to their project, and the resulting art pieces encouraged them to broaden their horizons beyond a visual teaching aid —  because one thing they discovered upon receiving the finished sculptures is that large bronze works, with stands and tables upon which to place them, are cumbersome to transport from coaching clinic to clinic. It’s not impossible, just difficult, and there are better alternatives:

clay lewis coach hall fame sculptor fosbury flop

Clay Lewis, 2009 inductee into the Washington State Hall of Fame for coaches. He is the sculptor of the bronze, You Can Fly.

“I photographed both sculptures and have shown them to my track athletes,” Lewis says. “What I have found is, coaches and athletes are getting inspired by just seeing a photo as well as the fact that we created something that represents what they love.

“To quote one coach, ‘They are jaw dropping.’

“They do take apart and transport okay, but we don’t want them to flop, drop and break. So for the most part I will use the photos of the works.”

And the works themselves? They are now limited edition art pieces, with a 25 run for each. Each man is planning a second sculpture, as they continue walking on the new adventure path of marketing the first ones. They hope to inspire not only athletes, but anyone with a dream and desire.

The Sweet Fruit of Fine Art

“This experience, this sculpting journey has been what ‘art’ is supposed to be, at least in my mind,” Kessie says. “Art is integral with the culture of life.”

Lewis agrees.

“The sculptures represent a life changing time in one’s life who has had the experience of jumping. It is an emotional but gratifying time in our lives.

“To jump over a person’s own head is not a normal thing to do.

“We’re hoping that the sculptures will spark not only an interest in track and field, but in art and sculpture.

“It’s fun, rewarding, and therapeutic.”

Not to mention, sweet.

Wenaha GalleryLarry Kessie and Clay Lewis are the featured Art Event artists from May 11 to June 7, with both of their sculptures on display, and for sale, at the gallery.

Contact Wenaha 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.

 

 

 

bee zinnia qr code artwork blocks lorna barth

QR Code Art — Lorna Barth’s Paintings Tell a Story

deer yorick skull qr code watercolor lorna barth

Dayton watercolor painter Lorna Barth embedded the QR Code for the framed print, At Last, Deer Yorick, in the lower left-hand corner of the print. Viewers scanning the code with their phone or tablet access the story behind the artwork.

We’re all hearing a lot about QR codes these days.

For the uninitiated, QR codes are matrix barcodes that smart phone or tablet cameras “read” when we point and scan. The square blocks of contrasting dark and white shapes contain long strings of information data — such as an Internet link leading to a web page — and eliminate the need to accurately type in all the letters, numbers, and symbols of the actual link.

“QR codes have been used for decades,” says Dayton, WA, watercolor artist Lorna Barth, who has developed a unique way to integrate them into her paintings.

quilt show tent boldman house original watercolor lorna barth

After the Quilt Show, original watercolor painting by Lorna Barth. On her original watercolor paintings, Barth affixes the QR code to the painting’s video to the artwork’s back.

“These little codes have become instant transport for almost everything from your grocery receipt to the information on any product.

“But they are SO BORING!

“And they take you to BORING PLACES. Or to places that sell you things, or boring information that nobody ever wants to read.”

So one day, while she was painting, she had an epiphany:

“What if they went to Art? or Poetry? or Both? It would give people just a little minute or two of respite to look at art, listen to gentle music, and chill without a sales pitch or ‘Subscribe,’ or anything. Random phone art.”

Innovating with Old and New

And from that moment, her lifelong art journey took a new direction. She combined old with new: paper and watercolor paint — items that have existed unobtrusively for centuries and millennia — with contemporary tech. Now, in many of her works she incorporates a QR code. With original paintings, she places the QR code on the back. With prints, she integrates it onto the substrate and into the image. Other times, she paints it as a separate painting to accompany the artwork.

Where it leads varies as well, but the destination, Barth is happy to say, isn’t boring.

“For many of my works, I make YouTube videos of the painting being done, or lead into the work to give the viewer an extended view of this piece of art,” Barth explains.

“These are not instructional videos, but time with the artist and the artwork in the creation of it.”

bee zinnia qr code artwork blocks lorna barth

Sometimes, Barth paints the QR code as a separate painting of its own. It then accompanies the work it describes. This is the code for the Bee and Zinnia nested art blocks series.

The codes themselves, she says, are independent artwork of their own, leading to other worlds and stories.

“The QR codes that accompany my paintings attest to the originality and authenticity of my work.

“They are short performance videos to go along with and tell the story behind the art the viewer is engaging with visually. They add a new level of engagement to the experience.”

Enjoying Art at the Bus Stop

This means, she adds, that her paintings impact in a multitude of places, not just the wall where they are hanging. Digitally, viewers access her art on the bus, at soccer practice, in a waiting room, over lunch with friends.

rock mountain blues landscape watercolor painting lorna barth

Rock Mountain Blues, original watercolor painting by Dayton artist Lorna Barth.

“The technology as part of the art has taken the art and put it in the hands (quite literally) of multiple viewers at the same time.”

As with all technology, there are glitches. Barth recalls the time she painted in plein air, on a golf cart at the Touchet Valley Golf Course in Dayton. After finishing the painting on site, she discovered that her tablet video camera had mysteriously stopped right after she started, and the only digital record she had was of her getting the paper wet prior to the first brush stroke. Other times, though the camera is rolling, Barth gets so involved in the creation of the piece that she forgets she is being recorded.

“My memory will be full, and the painting will be completed without any documentation.”

But the glitches are part of the journey. Every technical hiccup is an opportunity to learn, adjust, and finesse. And the ultimate result is worth it, because the fusion with technology adds dimension to the artwork, thereby enhancing the experience of both artist and viewer.

Multi-media and Multi-layer

“One of the most fulfilling aspects of multimedia artwork is the ability to experience the art on many levels.

“Yes, they are paintings, but there was so much more that went along with the creation of them. There was the place, the method, the action of painting, music, and then the travel of the artwork to multiple venues.”

This blend of old and new — watercolor and QR codes leading to video — is the perfect combination, Barth says.

“It makes artistic expression take on multiple layers of experience and transportability that has never before been available until the digital age.”

Wenaha GalleryLorna Barth is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from May 4 through May 31, 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.

 

 

white basket trio birch bark woven lisa kostelak

Basket Making — Lisa Kostelak Perfects an Ancient Art

baskets rattan organic cedar rushes woven lisa kostelak

Surrounded by grasses and trees, a series of hand-woven baskets by Colville, WA, artist Lisa Kostelak, celebrates the natural world.

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, there was no plastic. For thousands of years of human history, if people wanted to carry something around, from babies to drinking water, they wove a basket. It took, and takes, skill, patience, and an eye for artistry to create a useful basket.

“I have been making baskets for 35 years,” says Lisa Kostelak of Colville, WA.

“I made my first basket in a craft store in a mall in Florida, when I was in just the right place at the right time.

“Though I had been interested in learning for a long time, it was hard to know where to start in the old, pre-Internet days.”

dandelion birch bark rattan woven basket artisan lisa kostelak

It’s about two-inches high. This little basket is woven from dandelion stems, birch bark, and rattan. By Colville, WA, artisan Lisa Kostelak

Today’s technology worship aside, one of the best ways to learn a craft that employs our hands, hearts, and brain is from an actual person who learned how to do it from another actual person. And it is for this reason that Kostelak, who taught herself painstakingly through books and a tremendous amount of trial and error, passes on what she knows through teaching small, personal classes. Basket Making 101, contrary to what we’ve been told all these years, is not an easy A.

Basket Making 101 Is Not an Easy Class

“I learned to weave using rattan, which is a readily available material from Southeast Asia. It is lovely to work with, and I still use it to make many baskets.

“Over the years I have expanded, using material that I forage locally, including cedar bark, tules or rushes, birch bark, bear grass, red osier, even dandelion stems. I am always on the lookout for stuff to weave with.”

white basket trio birch bark woven lisa kostelak

They’re graceful, elegant, yet connected to the earth. The bark-based handles of this trio of baskets adds the perfect finishing touch. By Colville basket weaver Lisa Kostelak.

So it’s not just a matter of unpacking a cardboard box of materials and following a sheet of directions. For Kostelak, basket making involves a solid knowledge of plants and their environment, as well what to harvest, when and how, and what to do with it afterwards to prepare it for weaving. (Show of hands here: who in the room has even heard of “red osier” or “tules,” much less knows how to identify and gather them?)

“I forage anywhere — my backyard, where I’ve planted willow, juncus, red osier, to weave with. I also use my fruit tree pruning, among other garden plants.

“My tules, or rushes, I get from a friend’s pond. We have a nice visit, then cut rushes and load them into my van.”

Sustainable Thinking

For cedar, she gets permission from a private landowner to select a tree that is damaged and will need to be taken down. Once it is cut, she strips off the outer bark, then peels the inner bark or cambium layer, which she coils up and cures for a year before soaking and cutting it into strips for weaving. On hikes through the Colville National Forest, she looks for bear grass, birch bark from dead trees, scouring rush, and whatever else catches her eye.

white basket woven handle lisa kostelak artisan

The basket itself has something to say about its final shape and form. By Lisa Kostelak, artisan weaver from Colville, WA.

“I always ask before harvesting live material,” Kostelak says, because an essential part of making baskets — by real, regular people throughout history — has been working with the environment, not against it. In today’s arena of industrial, profit-driven, multi-billion, even -trillion, dollar corporations, this respect for, and awareness of, sustainability is becoming as lost as the knowledge of making baskets.

“I love working in 3D, with shapes, textures, and colors, making something that is functional and beautiful,” Kostelak says. Her studio, she adds, was formerly known as the family room. With the kids grown and flown, she has commandeered the entire space, with foraged materials stashed everywhere.

“I love spending time there, with the music turned up as loud as it goes, just getting into the rhythm of the weave.”

Baskets Are Timeless Technology

Kostelak sells her work through area shops and regional craft shows, and her wares have found homes from Seattle to San Francisco, from New York to Florida, from Nova Scotia to New Zealand. There is no end to creative inspiration, she says, because the materials themselves are dynamic, redolent of life, tactile, and almost demanding to be touched, handled, interlinked and intertwined.

“I get new ideas while I work. Sometimes I get an idea from the colors or textures of material stored together. Sometimes I dream a basket, and write it down when I wake up.”

The skill, and the baskets, transcend time, and there is a rush (no pun intended) to creating something that artisans have been making for far, far longer than industry has churned out plastic bags and petro-chemical products. There’s a human touch that endures from one age to the next.

This is good to remember the next time we overhear someone scoffing that a class is as easy as Basket Making 101. We can be free to retort,

“Have you ever actually woven a basket? It’s not as easy as you think.”

Wenaha GalleryLisa Kostelak is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from April 20 through May 17, 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.

 

Opuntia Fruit colorful Southwest watercolor Lisa Hill

Maverick Thinker and Doer — Watercolors by Lisa Hill

morning glory floral flower maverick watercolor painting lisa hill

It takes a maverick to paint what she wants, how she wants to, without listening to voices seeking to control her thoughts and actions. Morning Glories, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill.

Movies, ads, pop music– they theoretically encourage people to be mavericks, to do things their way. As My Way, the song popularized by Frank Sinatra, croons,

“What is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught.”

But in real life — not the make-believe one of movies, ads, pop music — doing it your way isn’t cool or easy, and those who persist fight against a relentless wave of mass media impelled social conformity that seeks to keep them down, submissive, obedient, boring.

“Do it our way,” is the message. “And call it your way.”

rocks colorful maverick watercolor painting texture lisa hill

Rocks aren’t just gray. But it takes a wise, creative, maverick eye to see this. Rock Solid, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill.

Watercolor painter Lisa Hill isn’t interested in this message. As a representational painter of flowers and foliage, she is fully aware of the industrial and urban art world’s decree that representational work is passe, demoded, archaic. What she hears from the “modern” art movement — which, ironically, began in the late 19th century — is that “true artists” focus on abstract.

She dissents.

Representational and Realistic

“I have always been attracted to realistic representational art,” the Richland, WA, artist says.

“While I respect and can appreciate the skill and knowledge involved in creating purely abstract or vaguely realistic art, it does not move me.

“And I take exception to negative attitudes and comments about the realistic style I love. It is often described with discouraging and depressing adjectives: belabored, overworked, too technical, muddy, fussy, tight, tedious, photographic, controlled, imitative, copied, conservative, unimaginative, stifled, calculated, rigid, stiff, not ‘fresh.'” Why not words like meticulous, detail-minded, skillful, precise, accurate, competent, imaginative, energizing, dexterous, proficient, adept, observant, and beautiful?

Several years ago, she adds, she found this statement by French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919):

“Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.”

Delicate flower floral garden watercolor painting Lisa Hill

Renoir is right: what could possibly be wrong with painting beautiful things? Delicate, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill of Richland, WA.

This way of looking at things, she feels, is a timeless one — neither contemporary nor nostalgic, trendy nor outmoded — an attitude that allows freedom of expression for artists to use their creativity in conjunction with their skills and interests, not to mention their maverick personalities.

“I have a lot of plant knowledge and thoroughly enjoy gardening,” Hill says, explaining that, before she turned to art, she spent years working in ornamental horticulture and landscape design.

“It’s natural for me that the subject I most love to paint are flowers and foliage. I don’t think that I am making a statement by painting these things — I just love them.”

Science & Art: A Maverick Combo

Another thing she loves — really, really loves — is the watercolor technique. It is a blend of maverick magic and science, skill with the willingness to play with chance. The medium requires the artist to observe, question, experiment, analyze, examine, speculate, study — in short, do everything you would expect both a scientist and an artist to do.

Opuntia Fruit colorful Southwest watercolor Lisa Hill

Definitely not ordinary but unusual — which is pretty much the definition of maverick. Opuntia Fruit, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill.

“Understanding how water behaves puts the artist in charge (mostly) of what happens to the paint on the paper.

“Why do backruns develop? How do I get the paint to spread out and dissipate? Why does this passage look streaked and blotchy when I wanted a smooth wash?

“The answers are almost always related to the water: how much is on the brush, the paper, and in the puddle of paint.”

Getting those answers, and thereby achieving success with watercolor techniques, requires a high level of scientific knowledge of the behavior of water.

Sing It, Frank; Paint It, Lisa

If she sounds like a teacher, that’s because she is. Ten years ago, Hill and her husband tore the roof off their garage and built a second-level, spacious studio complete with bathroom, kitchenette, storage, windows, and enough room for four students. She holds regular classes for beginning, intermediate, and advanced (“I very specifically do NOT mix beginners with experienced painters if I can help it”) — once a week per class, three hours at a time, over four weeks. Many students return, progressing from beginner to experienced, and this keeps her on her toes.

“I have to come up with new, interesting, challenging projects all the time.”

Not that she’s complaining, because, you see, painting itself is new, interesting, and challenging. In the world of representational art, there is no limit to the creativity, exploration, inspiration, and driving force to learn and see and capture light and color, emotion and movement.

It takes a maverick to understand and do this.

Or, back to Frank and his crooning,

“I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way.”

Or better yet, in Hill’s own words,

“I paint what I want when I’m ready.”

Wenaha GalleryLisa Hill is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from April 6 through May 3, 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.