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 Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at



dragonfly insect watercolor bright color painting suzi vitulli richland

Bright Color and Happy Dreams — Watercolors by Suzi Vitulli

dragonfly insect watercolor bright color painting suzi vitulli richland

Dragonfly, original watercolor painting by Suzi Vitulli of Richland, WA, celebrating bright colors and happy images.

Artists are their own worst critics.

Intense, determined, passionate, sometimes frustrated but obstinately tenacious, professional artists know full well what they are doing — most of the time.

“One of the favorite awards I ever received is the WSU Chancellor award for a painting that I threw in the garbage,” says watercolor painter and private art teacher Suzi Vitulli of Richland.

dewdrop morning abstract expressionist watercolor painting suzi vitulli

Dewdrop Morning, original expressionistic watercolor, celebrating bright colors and shapes, by Richland painter Suzi Vitulli

“My husband pulled it out and said he liked the painting. So I tried to see what he saw in the painting, and it spoke to me in a way that allowed me to add a few tweaks to complete it in a way that I felt improved it. I then submitted it to the Chancellor exhibit and won.”

From Blank Paper to Bright Color

It was an amazing experience, she adds. And a humbling one. For that matter, the very act of starting with a blank piece of paper and palette full of paint, and winding up with a finished, successful image, is a continuously amazing, humbling experience.

“People say that watercolor is the most challenging medium to learn and master, and maybe that’s why I like it,” Vitulli — who doesn’t remember when she first decided to be an artist because she can’t recall not wanting to be one — adds.

“It’s like a puzzle — you get to put together something colorful and create new sections of it, until this fabulous piece of artwork forms right before your eyes. At least, hopefully that’s what happens: sometimes a big muddy mess is formed, and that’s okay too, because I always learn from each experience when I paint.”

Layers of Color

Due to its transparent nature, watercolor does not take kindly to mistakes, Vitulli explains, because once an area is painted, it’s challenging to lift out the color, especially transforming a darker color into a lighter one. Because the viewer can see through the layers, it is difficult, if not impossible, to cover up errors. But that’s if the artist persists in calling them errors.

Fingers God country forest landscape suzi vitulli watercolor

Fingers of God, capturing sunlight and color in the forest, watercolor painting by Richland artist Suzi Vitulli

“So you ask yourself, ‘How can I incorporate this into my painting?’ and it becomes even more of an opportunity to be creative in the process.

“We call these, ‘flopportunities.'”

For Vitulli, flopportunities and opportunities abound, in both her own work and in teaching her skills to others, and the act of painting requires the entire brain, mind, and soul of the artist. To teach, which she does in regional workshops as well as at Richland Parks and Recreation and Kennewick Community Education, she depends upon analytical thinking, math, timing, and planning, while in the studio, alone behind the easel, she dampens relentless logic so that the creative side has its say. Maintaining balance is crucial.

nature abstract lichen watercolor painting suzi vitulli richland

Nature’s Abstracts, focusing on color and shape of the natural world, original watercolor by Richland artist Suzi Vitullli

“Finding inspiration is the most difficult part,” Vitulli adds. “Sometimes I feel like the paper is staring at me, waiting for me to do something, my mind feeling as blank as the paper.

“But then other times I have so many ideas I feel like I might explode, and I clamor to get them noted somewhere so I don’t forget them.”

64 Colors and More

Vitulli is an unabashed fan of color, describing how she entered heaven itself when, as a child, she received the iconic 64-pack of Crayola crayons. Initially in her adult art career, she created handcrafted jewelry, her designs selling at Nordstrom’s and other boutiques throughout five western states. Later, her designs were published in the Hot off the Press book, Fast and Friendly Plastic by Susan Alexandra.

After her kids were in school and she went to work as a secretary (“Not very artsy, I know, but there was a regular paycheck”), Vitulli dabbled in watercolor and quickly discovered that she had found her niche. Weaving between impressionism and expressionism, Vitulli explores texture along with strong color, with the ultimate intent of creating something beautiful and inviting, enticing the viewer to step in and take a closer  look.

Serene pond enhanced lilies water painting suzi vitulli

Serene Pond Enhanced, an abstract impressionist look at lilies and color on the water, by Richland painter Suzi Vitulli

She has sold her work throughout the U.S. and across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom, and her accolades include creating posters for regional art, music, and wildlife festivals as well as a number of wins from the Eastern Washington Watercolor Society. An especial honor was a painting featured in the Splash Watercolor Series books, a juried display of work selected from entries by thousands of artists.

Living the Dream — In Full Color

With a personal motto of, “I’m in my ‘right’ mind and living my dream!” Vitulli’s goal with her art is not to make a political statement, but a rather more meaningful one:

“My art is about another very important issue — happy people and a happy society.

“My goal is to create beautiful, colorful, interesting and sometimes funny pieces of art, giving people a place to find a few moments to relax into the right side of our brains for awhile.

“It’s a mini getaway, so to speak, to give us balance in this crazy busy left-brained world we live in.”


Wenaha Gallery

Suzi Vitulli is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, March 12, 2018, through Saturday, Saturday, April 7, 2018.  

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at


bottom blue fusion coral glass bowl art gregory jones pasco

Glass Fusion — Vintage Wave and Coral Bowls by Gregory Jones

bottom blue fusion coral glass bowl art gregory jones pasco

Bottom Blue, a coral glass fusion bowl by Gregory Jones, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery from Pasco, WA

While the question, “What is art?” isn’t about to be satisfactorily resolved anytime soon, what it takes to make and be an artist is less ambiguous:



And the willingness to make a lot of mistakes.

“I am self-taught, and stubborn,” says glassmaker Gregory Jones of Pasco, who works with new and recycled glass to create bowls, plates, and platters using a technique called glass fusion.

orange glass wavy bowls gregory jones costalota glass

An orange glass wavy bowl, with vintage form fused to modern color choices, by Gregory Jones of Pasco, WA

“The technical aspects of working with glass have been a long and interesting process,” Jones adds, explaining that he began working with glass in the 1970s as physical therapy for his fingers after a hand injury. He started with stained glass, but eventually settled on fusion, which involves joining two or more glass pieces together under high (think 1100 to 1700 degrees Fahrenheit) heat, and often shaping it over a mold.

Calling the three kilns in his studio the heart of his creations, Jones spends a lot of time in the shop attached to his house, with the result that, “I don’t have to far to go to lose myself in my craft.

“I have no day job — I’m retired, and am loving the freedom to create my art.

“Art is so much better than a real job.”

Vintage Wavy and Coral Glass Bowls

Using both new and recycled glass, Jones creates artistic, yet functional wavy glass bowls with a vintage yet modern feel, as well as coral bowls, which look like what they sound like: coral reefs from the sea.

“Nothing inspires me more than the beautiful ocean — with all of that life under the seas, on the beaches.

periwinkle coral blue glass fusion bowls gregory jones pasco

Three Periwinkle blue glass fusion coral bowls by Gregory Jones, glass artist from Pasco, WA

“Coral bowls are proving to be a great challenge and very labor intensive, taking a number of days to make a single piece. I have been inspired to make these by my diving and exploring the Pacific Ocean from Southern California to beautiful Hawaii.”

It’s a process indeed, requiring the laying of glass strips one over another, firing the shape at a temperature far higher than what’s needed to bake a cake, and then annealing — or allowing the hot glass to cool slowly to strengthen the final piece. Then the artist can add more strips and fire again, followed by another annealing. In the final firing, the artist sets the shape over the bowl-shaped mold, often made of stainless steel to withstand the heat, and fires it all up again.

Of course, writing it out in one paragraph grossly simplifies the matter, and a series of sentences does not begin to describe the potential for the unexpected, which happens so much with creative glass making, experimentation, and the continual learning curve that it’s . . . almost expected.

Experimenting with Glass

“It has taken a lot of trial and error to get the pieces I like, and a lot of errors have ended up in the landfills,” Jones says.

yellow fusion glass coral lace bowl gregory jones costalota Pasco

A yellow glass fusion coral bowl, filled with the treasures of the sea, by Gregory Jones from Pasco, WA

“I’ve never been to a workshop — I’ve always been self taught. Maybe that’s why there have been so many errors, but there are also many beautiful and unique pieces which make a lot of people smile.”

For Jones, making people smile is as important as creating the artwork itself, and whether he sells his work or gives it away, success lies in the reaction of the person seeing, and holding, his art. For years, Jones has been creating and gifting the Jewish Star of David to synagogues throughout the Pacific Northwest, out of deep respect for what the symbol means in his family heritage.

“A lot of times I make things just for the love of making a piece and seeing the smile and joy on a person’s face.”

The Challenges of Recycled Glass

When it comes to using recycled, vintage glass — which is increasingly difficult to find — Jones looks for old windows in old buildings, explaining that the bubbles, waves, and imperfections inherent to vintage windows translates into fun and exciting patterns in the final piece. Several contractors in the region keep him in mind when they are dismantling structures, and Jones is constantly up to the challenge of working with a material that is eminently unpredictable.

blue wavy fusion glass bowl gregory jones costalota pasco wa

Blue fusion wavy glass bowl, a touch of vintage, a touch of modern, by Pasco glass artist Gregory Jones

“After several years and lots of effort, I have developed a workable process that has been very rewarding.”

It goes back to that determination, curiosity, and willingness to make a lot of mistakes.  The result — beautiful artwork and the beautiful people who are drawn to it, is a winning combination indeed.

Meeting People

“My art is a unique way to meet so many people,” Jones says. “There is no boundary as to the type of people you can visit with, and hear the great stories of their lives.

“I think that might be the best part: the people you meet and interact with, and who knows? You may have a new friend.”

Whatever the definition of art, that sounds like an important component.

Wenaha Gallery

Gregory Jones is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, February 26, 2018, through Saturday, Saturday, March 24, 2018.  He will be at the the gallery Saturday, March 3, showing his glasswork and chatting with visitors from 1 to 4 p.m.  Joining him that day will be artist, writer, and historian Nona Hengen of Spangle, WA, who will be speaking on the Native American/U.S. Government wars at 1:30 and 3, and watercolor artist and musician Roy Anderson of Walla Walla, who will play live music in between Hengen’s talks.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

horse equine painting chocolate chip zippo debbie hughbanks

Animal Lover — Horse & Wildlife Paintings by Debbie Hughbanks

horse equine painting chocolate chip zippo debbie hughbanks

Chocolate Chip and Zippo, equine horse art by Debbie Hughbanks

She was the little girl who was certain, every year, that she would get a horse for Christmas.

That she lived in town was no obstacle to Debbie Hughbanks, who now, as a grown-up, specializes in creating wildlife, equine, and domestic animal paintings.  Now also — as a grown up living in the country — she does own a horse (two, actually), and the dreams she had as a child result in artwork celebrating country living, western art, and the “cowboy lifestyle.”

coyote wildlife animal painting art debbie hughbanks

Coyote Winter, wildlife animal painting by Debbie Hughbanks

“I am extremely passionate about animals,” the Loon Lake pastel, scratchboard, and acrylic painter says. “I feel that animals are an extremely important part of our existence and should be treasured and celebrated by human beings, and that is what I attempt to do through my art.”

Frequently exploring a particular theme — ranging from cowboy boots to birds and glass bottles — Hughbanks enjoys creating a series of pieces, seeking to elicit a strong emotion in connection to each image. Connecting with viewers on universal or shared emotions, Hughbanks feels, is one of two-dimensional visual art’s major strengths: nostalgia, poignancy, pathos, joy, wonder — art is capable of evoking a full range of human feelings.

A Forgotten Animal Toy, Always Remembered

“One painting I did, Long Forgotten, is part of a series based upon forgotten toys/things — it shows a toy once well loved, played with often, then left behind and forgotten as the child becomes older and moves on to more grown up toys,” Hughbanks says.

long forgotten childhood baby pull toy blue elephant debbie hughbanks

Long Forgotten, a childhood animal toy that tugs on the emotions, by Debbie Hughbanks

Belonging to one of her grandsons when he was a baby, the blue elephant pull toy in the painting had a smile on its face when it was brand new, “but I imagined his toy heart was breaking as he sat abandoned in the corner, so I turned his smile upside down.”

Another work, Kindred Spirits, featured a happier ending for the subject matter. Selected for the Trail of Painted Ponies three-dimensional painted horse sculpture contest, the work was eventually licensed and sold through Dillard’s Department Store and turned into a collectible figurine.

“That little pony went all over the world!” Hughbanks marvels.

Animals Traveling the World

Not only the little pony, but Hughbanks’ art portfolio travels the planet, some of the more far flung venues embracing collectors in Australia, as well as a piece selected for show at Qingdau City, China, as part of the Artists for Conservation International Exhibit. A member of numerous professional organizations, including American Women Artists, Women Artists of the West, and the International Society of Scratchboard Artists, Hughbanks is accepted into many prestigious shows each year, and in addition to painting the works, she has become an expert at packaging and mailing them.

sleeping on job cat feline painting debbie hughbanks

Sleeping on the Job, feline cat animal painting by Debbie Hughbanks

“I am kept fairly busy shipping work to shows and collectors,” Hughbanks says. “A good box is ‘key’ to shipping successfully . . . I wrote an article, Shipping Pastel Paintings for the Faint Hearted, that addressed shipping if you don’t purchase one of the professional art shipping boxes.”

Hughbanks’ resume of awards and publications in which she has appeared is long, with Best of Show, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Honorable Mention, Juror’s, and People’s Choice Awards ranging from the Kittitas Fair Poster Award of the National Western Art Auction in Ellensburg to making the Top 40 in the Wyoming Conservation Stamp Competition in Cheyenne, WY. Her work has appeared in Wildlife Art, Western Horseman, Cowboys and Indians, Western Art Collector and Art Chowder Magazines, and was cover art on The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

serengeti african wildlife elephant debbie hughbanks painting

Out of Serengeti, wildlife elephant animal painting by Debbie Hughbanks

Crayons for Grown-ups

It’s a lot of activity generated from a former children’s bedroom turned into studio, and Hughbanks retains the enthusiasm of a child when it comes to her full-time vocation as an artist. She loves using acrylics, because they dry quickly, which is the same reason why she finds them such a challenge. And when it comes to pastels, well, they’re like crayons for grown-ups:

“I LOVE the immediacy of the medium, as well as its tactile nature. Since I do most of my pastel work with my fingers, I do become quite literally involved with every piece — very connected.

“At the end of the day, I am usually covered from top to bottom with color. But what fun!”

Horse, Wildlife, Elephant and Fun

It is fun, the dream day job that incorporates the things that mean most to her, and fulfill the yearnings of that long ago little girl who faced every Christmas morning . . . without a horse. It  took awhile, but now she lives that dream come true.

“I just want to paint the subjects that I am passionate about, and in doing so, I hope my work will bring a little joy or happiness to those who view it.

“I hope my paintings make people smile or possibly remember fond memories.

“Good times — things like that.”

Wenaha Gallery

Debbie Hughbanks is the featured Art Event  at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, January 2, 2018, through Saturday, February 10, 2018.  

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

artisan natural soap azure botanicals dayton wa

New Year’s Resolution: Enjoy Artisan Soap from Azure Mountain

artisan natural soap azure botanicals dayton wa

A selection of artisan soaps, handcrafted in small batches at Azure Mountain Botanicals in Dayton, WA

The New Year’s Resolution has been around for a long time. Purportedly, ancient Babylonians started the process 6,000 years ago with promises to their gods to return borrowed items and pay off their debts.

bubble bath salts truffle azure botanicals dayton wa

Bubble Bath Truffles, the perfect soak after a New Year’s Resolution workout, made by Azure Mountain Botanicals in Dayton, WA

Julius Caesar finessed the New Year’s Resolution when he renovated the calendar and created a January 1. And now we’re full fledged into it — for the first two weeks at any rate — with promises to eat better and exercise more. And while there’s no guarantee we’ll finish our year’s gym membership with the gusto with which we begin, Art and Brenda Hall of Azure Mountain Botanicals can ensure that we emerge clean and happy when the workout is over.

“Our main focus is cold process soap making,” Brenda, co-owner of the Dayton-based, artisan personal products store, says, “but we also make balms, butters, soaking salts, and bath bombs.” Soaking salts have been known through time to relieve pain, inflammation, and sore muscles, Brenda adds, and a little indulgence after hard work is never amiss.

Artisan Soap, New All Year Round

“We focus on small, local, and handmade,” Brenda says, explaining that smaller batches of soap, butters, balms, and salts ensures greater control over the quality. “We also locally source ingredients as much as possible. For instance, our Dumas soap is made with Dumas Station wine, and has grape pomace that is collected, dried, and ground.

artisan handcrafted natural bath truffle azure botanicals dayton wa

A handcrafted, artisan bath truffle — the perfect solution after a New Year’s Resolution workout, by Azure Mountain Botanicals of Dayton, WA

“Apple Ale is made with Chief Springs Apple Ale that includes cider from Warren Orchards.  Peachy Keen and Strawberry Cream Ale is made from Laht Neppur Ales.”

Making soap from beer, wine and spirits requires simmering the liquid until no alcohol remains, closely monitoring the mixture because high sugars intensify potential reactions. Other liquids the Halls have incorporated into their creations include tea, tisanes, honey and goat milk along with essential oils that add fragrance as well as skin nourishing properties.

Inspiration from Artists and Clients

With a soapmaking canvas that is “limitless,” the couple seeks inspiration — and gives credit to — customers and clients whose observations and requests spur a design: “Deer Slayer was inspired by a local young hunter,” Brenda says. “Anne’s Mystery Mountain Mint, Hippy Up, Sarah’s Earl Grey, Honey Hemp, and Winter Cocoa are all people-inspired soaps.”

handcrafted soy candle azure botanicals dayton wa

Handcrafted, artisan soy candles by Brenda and Art Hall, owners of Azure Mountain Botanicals

Artisan bath products are not the only items that are locally inspired: the Hall’s shop, located in the historic Dantzscher building on Dayton’s Main Street, reflects the skill and work of regional artists, with the outside sign and inside shelving created from reclaimed wood by Dayton craftsman Yancy Yost, who also fashioned the bubble-emitting clawfoot bathtub set before the store’s entrance. The worktables, deliberately open to public view, were built by Leroy Cunningham of Waitsburg’s L Design Reclaimed, which specializes in repurposing vintage woods. The logo, as well as the color palette of the studio, are the brainchild of the couple’s daughter, artist Liz Whaley of Liz W Fine Art.

“We are quite proud of using local artists and resources at our studio,” Brenda says.

The Couple That Makes Soap Together

The couple has been making soap together for more than ten years, beginning in college when Art took an organic chemistry class from a professor who believed strongly in hands-on, practical experience.

artisan handcrafted wooly soap bars azure botanicals dayton wa

A selection of felted wooly soap bars, handcrafted artisan personal care items from Azure Mountain Botanicals

“They made things like biobricks, biofuel, and soap,” Brenda remembers. “Art brought his soap class project home and wanted to make it again — I thought it was too plain and insisted that we add something to it, like lavender essential oil and ground rosemary.” Friends who enthused over the results encouraged the couple to show the soap at an event at Dayton’s historic train depot, and the response to that encouraged the couple to further explore fragrances, essential oils, natural additives like clay and oatmeal, and color.

Despite holding down “day jobs” — Art is a property Manager for General Services Administration in Richland and Brenda is a registered nurse — the couple opened the doors to their store in 2015, and in that short time their artisan products have found homes as far away as New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, and California. They are constantly experimenting with new blends (“Soaps that misbehave often still turn out nice”) and the major challenge the couple encounters has nothing to do with running out of ideas, but more with keeping up with them.

Year-round New Year’s Resolution

“Sometimes, there are so many soaps and other products I want to make that it is difficult for clients to choose from the selection — or, they buy something and tell us it is too pretty to use!”

But that’s a good problem, Brenda reflects, one that blends well with their business and life goals:

“We both have a strong work ethic, believe in customer service, and do our best to provide the finest product possible.”

That’s not a bad New Year’s Resolution, one to keep day in, day out, all year round.

Wenaha Gallery

Brenda and Art Hall of Azure Mountain Botanicals are the featured Art Event  at Wenaha Gallery from Tuesday, January 2, 2018, through Saturday, January 27, 2018.  

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

tea towel aprons by sewist kathy snow

Sew Happy — Fiber Artist Kathy Snow Creates the Perfect Gifts

tea towel aprons by sewist kathy snow

A series of decorative apron towels, to be used in the kitchen or worn by a doll, by sew happy sewist Kathy Snow

Santa Claus could use a person like Kathy Snow on his staff, and not just because her last name fits well into his company theme.

Nor is it because the Dayton sewist  (a recently coined term that combines the words “sew” and “artist”) creates doll clothes to fill the dream wardrobe of every child who owns and loves an 18-inch American Girl style doll.

holiday themed nostalgic hand sewn aprons by kathy snow

Holiday themed, hand sewn aprons with a nostalgic flair, by sewist Kathy Snow

Snow’s prowess with the sewing machine, and her ability to transform fabric, notions, lace, and buttons into intricately sewn items of art, approaches a proficiency that borders on wizardry, a level of achievement in line with what St. Nicholas demands at his North Pole shop.

Appropriate for the correlation, Snow discovered the magic of hand sewing as a 9-year-old child, fully launching into the craft in 7th grade, when she took a sewing class and decided to never stop.

The Sewist in the Studio

“I have made LOTS of things in my lifetime,” Snow says. “Dresses for myself, dresses for my daughter when she was growing up, costumes for her and my grandchildren. I have made many many things through the years that I have given away to family and friends.”

Snow’s present passion focuses on dresses, coats, nightgowns, jackets, slacks, skirts, and blouses for those 18-inch dolls, which she purchases on sale at box stores and decks out in fashion for every season. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have time to create a multiplicity of items from fabric, ranging from kitchen tea-towels that look like old fashioned aprons (and fit, incidentally, an 18-inch doll, should you happen to have one on hand) to quilts, from full-sized 1930s style aprons for full-sized humans to Christmas stockings.

quilted christmas stockings by sewist kathy snow

Quilted Christmas stockings by sewist Kathy Snow, sewing holiday happiness of which Santa would approve

“I  get involved in making other things that steer me away from the doll clothes,” Snow says. “I tend to start too many things at the same time, but I do  manage to get things done, just not as quickly as I once did.”

Business Is Sew Good

After all, she does this for fun, although like many endeavors we start, fall in love with, and get really proficient at doing, Snow has turned a lifetime love into a business, and operates a regular booth at the Village Shoppes in Dayton. After retiring four years ago from her position as a pharmacy technician, she finds time to spend in her basement sewing studio, complete with the ironing board that is supposed to easily fold away, but never does; a wall peg board loaded with thread and other notions; and a prominent sign that announces, MY HAPPY PLACE.

“And of course, I have cupboards of fabric and lots of totes full of fabric — Imagine that! Sometimes I wonder if I will get all of this sewed up into something.”

matching doll and girl frilly dresses by sewist kathy snow

Frilly, matching dresses to fit a doll and her girl, by sewist Kathy Snow, sewing good cheer throughout the year

And while Snow has been sewing pretty much all of her life, she’s managed to tuck in a few unexpected experiences between the seams, so to speak, offhandedly mentioning that she used to sing professionally, notably in California with the Doodletown Pipers, an easy listening group of the 1960s and early 1970s, as well as The Kids Next Door group at Walt Disney World in Florida, in 1972. After her daughter was born, she left the music business, but that’s when she discovered the County Fair:

“I entered several items I had made and won several First Place, Second Place, and Third Place ribbons.” If she wasn’t hooked on sewing before, she was now.

Sewing Happiness

But actually, it’s all about the sewing, whether the work sells (it does) or whether it wins ribbons (how can it not?). The items Snow creates in her Happy Place spread a message of joy to whoever buys or receives the final work, and in these glad tidings, Santa would be pleased as well, because Snow’s mission statement closely parallels his own.

“This is something that I choose to do for fun, and hopefully if I sell some things that make others happy, that makes me happy.

“That’s what I want to do: make others happy with the things I create.”

Wenaha Gallery

Kathy Snow is the featured Pacific Northwest artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, December 4 through Saturday, December 30, 2017.   

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at


Teanaway River oil painting landscape laura gable

Plein Air Magic — The Oil Paintings of Laura Gable

Teanaway River plein air magical oil painting landscape laura gable

Teanaway River, original plein air oil painting with a magical air, by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

It’s easy to forget that, when we put something in the back seat of the car, it doesn’t go away.  Artist Laura Gable, however, never forgot what she set in the back seat, and when the time came to retrieve it, she readily and happily did so.

plein air landscape magical oil painting eastern washington laura gable

Furrowed Fields plein air landscape oil painting, with a sense of magic, by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

“In college, I loved all my art classes,” the Kennewick oil painter says, “but they started to take a back seat when my family advised I follow more practical pursuits rather than art (which ‘didn’t make any money’).” So she switched her double major from Art and Accounting to Accounting and Data Processing, and entered a career as an accountant and auditor.

“The funny thing about it,” Gable adds, “is that when these business roles needed anything artistic done (posters, invitations), they came to me and I’d create them by hand.”

So, even though art was sort of in the back seat, it functioned in the capacity of back seat driver, ensuring that Gable always heard — and heeded — its voice. When a job layoff prompted Gable to retrain as a graphic designer, the art in the back seat settled into the passenger seat, and not many years later, took over the driver’s position as Gable turned to painting full time.

Plein Air Painting out of the Studio: It’s Magic, and Magical

Gable now works out of a studio in historic downtown Kennewick, maintaining hours “by appointment” because, on any given day, she is more likely in the field somewhere, painting en plein air, a French term which describes painting outside, as opposed to in the studio.

forest tree plein air magical landscape oil painting laura gable

Lone Pine plein air landscape oil painting, featuring a prominent tree and a magical atmosphere, by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

“I started doing it before all the Plein Air conventions and hub-bub started, and before everyone was doing it and it became the new buzzword, the new ‘golf,'” Gable says. “I thought I knew how to paint until I went outside, and it was like I had to start all over again.

“Painting outside is a constant learning experience, and nature is a consummate teacher.”

There is the weather — which isn’t always, and frequently isn’t — balmy; there are insects and crawling things and larger creatures and other living and unpredictable elements of nature; and there’s the light, which doesn’t stay conveniently in one place for hours on end. Plein air painting, Gable explains, requires that the artist stop and truly see, processing the colors before her eyes, and letting the brush speak with a few expressive strokes as opposed to many smaller, painstakingly detailed ones.

Expressive and Impressionistic, Magical Plein Air

“I want the work to be expressive and thus impressionistic without defining every blade of grass or every ripple. The eye does a remarkable job of filling in what I leave out if I just give the viewer enough information — in fact, I find it more intriguing when an artist leaves out details and can define something with a few strokes of the brush.

tranquil waters river plein air magical landscape oil painting Laura Gable

Tranquil Waters, original plein air oil painting with a magical feeling by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

“It’s magic!”

As a longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Gable is intimately acquainted with unmagical grey winter days, which she finds aren’t as difficult to handle when she gets outside to paint. Once there, her increasingly trained eye sees beyond the grey to the subtle colors that are everywhere: lavenders within the clouds; bronzes and golds tucked among the sage of desert grasses; teals and aquas hanging around the steely blues of river water.

Also quite colorful is Gable’s painting clothing, most notably a parka she found on the clearance rack that, with every winter season, increasingly shows the colors of her craft.

Painting Nationally

A member of several prestigious, national artist organizations — including the Oil Painters of America, American Impressionist Society, and Outdoor Painters Society — Gable shows and sells her work nationwide. Her awards roster includes Gold, Second, Director’s, Merit, Memorial, and Honorable Mentions, and her most recent accolade was garnered at a month-long plein air show at the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale.

plein air magical landscape tree field meadow oil painting laura gable

Meadows and Cottonwoods plein air landscape, magical painting of trees in the field, by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

Her honorable-mention winning piece, Forest Whispers, was painted near Cascade Locks in the midst of smoke drifting down from the British Columbia fires, blanketing the atmosphere with haze. Coupled with the intense heat of a 100-plus summer day, it made for challenging, but ethereal, conditions as constantly shifting light revealed subtle nuances of alluring, dappled patterns.

“It was another magical moment spent painting,” Gable recalls.

Magical Beauty

That’s what painting is, Gable believes — both magic and magical — dependent upon the skill and soul of the artist to create work that is beautiful and has truth in it. She strives for a delicate balance of technical proficiency with informal spontaneity, the resulting work aiming to draw an emotional response from the viewer.

“I don’t have a political platform — I just want to represent the beauty that surrounds us.

“God is the ultimate creator: I show my impression of what has already been created.”

Wenaha Gallery

Laura Gable is the featured Pacific Northwest artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, November 20 through Saturday, December 16, 2017.   Gable will be at the gallery in person Saturday, November 24 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., for a special show also featuring The Talented Trio, a family of artists from Kennewick.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at


talented trio artists rastovich ostergaard

Talented Trio — Three Different Artists Keep it All in the Family

talented trio artists rastovich ostergaard

The Talented Trio of Michael Rastovich, LuAnn Ostergaard, and Joseph Rastovich inspire one another to heightened creativity

We’ve all heard that two heads are better than one.

But then again, too many cooks spoil the broth. And because it’s wise to take all maxims with a grain of salt, we recognize that the truth lies somewhere in between.

Numachi abstract photograph print LuAnn Ostergaard talented trio

Numachi, abstract photograph print by LuAnn Ostergaard, one of the Talented Trio family of artists

Such is the experience of the Talented Trio — a husband/wife, parent/son amalgamation consisting of Michael Rastovich, illustrator and animator; his wife LuAnn Ostergaard, digital abstract photographer; and their son Joseph Rastovich, metal sculpture artist of both home decor and public art.

The Kennewick family works, lives, collaborates, encourages, critiques, and innovates together as professional artists, or as LuAnn puts it,

“We are closely connected in our personal lives, and it shows in our collaborative, creative professions as artists. There’s a lot of cooperation. We work together to help the others with inspiration, new ideas, and methods of creating.”

Joseph agrees, wryly observing:

“Art by committee is fraught with difficulties.

“However, when the right minds come together, the synergy can create outstanding results.”

Joseph: “Powerful Brainstorming” by the Talented Trio

Crediting his parents as critical mentors in his creative career, Joseph describes “powerful brainstorming” sessions featuring (three) different perspectives, sometimes vastly contrasting, with an outcome that is often superior to the original single perspective.

metal sculpture home decor furniture lamp joseph rastovich talented trio

A metal sculpture home decor lamp by Joseph Rastovich, the youngest member of the Talented Trio

For Joseph, art has been a part of his life since childhood, growing up with full-time artist parents, and being “unschooled” in a creative environment that allowed him to have the time, freedom, and tools to create whenever he wanted. By the age of 25, he had installed 11 public art projects throughout the Pacific Northwest, in addition to creating an array of home decor wall art and furniture that he sells through various art galleries, festivals, and retail stores.

“He literally grew up with a paintbrush in his hand, and flourished as a young artist,” LuAnn says.

LuAnn: Leaving the Corporate World

She, however, experienced a different world before she entered that of a full-time independent artist. Though LuAnn comes from a long line of artists dating back to her great grandfather, she started out in a corporate work environment. The memory of a different way of doing things enhances her gratitude for the way things are now.

“After spending five years working in a windowless office with a powerful, good -paying job in the corporate world, I made the decision to take the journey as an artist,” LuAnn says.

“Some evenings, when I came out of the building to go home after work, I would see a glorious sunset and realize I was missing it. I would just stand there, reveling in it as it quickly faded away.”

chalice drawing colorful michael rastovich illustration talented trio

Chalice, original drawing by Michael Rastovich, the patriarch of the Talented Trio

She wanted to do work that she believed in, experiencing a flow of creativity in which she expressed her own ideas. Seeing the world with an intensity that caused her to notice thing other people didn’t, she wanted to bring her creative visions to tangible reality. So when she walked away from her corporate job, she never looked back: every day since then reaffirms that decision.

“I take pride and have a sense of accomplishment when completing my creative work for the day.”

Michael: A Passion for Drawing

Michael knew from a very young age that he was an artist, incorporating both commercial and independent work into his professional dossier: he does design, animation, illustration, etching, digital, and graphics, with his true passion being drawing.

“I have spent my life trying to understand our world, by drawing it,” he says. “The challenge of seeing the world, and suggesting its forms with accuracy, economy and simple tools is joyful for me.”

Michael studied under master artists Siegfried Hahn and Howard Wexler, living in an adobe hut in the New Mexico desert while honing and perfecting his skills. He has worked for a museum design company in Portland, OR, creating conceptual drawings for the creation of new museums through the U.S., and presently develops animation projects for businesses of all sizes and scope. He also custom builds the framing boxes upon which LuAnn mounts her digitally enhanced, abstract photographs.

A Trio of Talent and Collaboration

It’s all part of working together.

“As a family of working artists, we spend nearly every waking moment creating and helping each other with our creations,” Michael says. “Over the years, we have each developed specific skills, and we depend on each other for support in this sometimes challenging, but always rewarding, life as artists.”

“Holidays, weekends, and down-time are meaningless,” LuAnn adds. “You are an artist, and your life’s work is all that matters.

“You were born to be an artist, and it is your purpose in life and your life’s work — you can do nothing else.”

Wenaha Gallery

LuAnn Ostergaard, Michael Rastovich, and Joseph Rastovich are the featured Pacific Northwest artists at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, November 6 through Saturday, December 2, 2017.   The Talented Trio will be at the gallery in person Saturday, November 24 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., for a special show also featuring Kennewick watercolor artist Laura Gable.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at




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

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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.

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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 Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

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



Lauralee Northcott

Lauralee Northcott

“I gather my needles for baskets from Ponderosa Pine trees mostly here in the Methow Valley,” explains basket artist Lauralee Northcott of Winthrop. “After removing the connective end and washing the needles, I put them in a bath of water and glycerin and boil them for about three hours.

“They’re cooled, rinsed, and left to dry for a month. Now they are ready to weave.”

With weaving comes the eye for detail, an incorporation of color and beadwork, and the swift, deft hand movements that, after a while, leave one’s fingers feeling stiff.

“All basket making requires patience and perfection,” Northcott says. “While weaving is relaxing, it is also physically demanding, and requires a lot of time.  But the payoff of making a beautiful item to go out into the world is very satisfying.”

Northcott’s fascination with and ability to create baskets joins with a plethora of other life skills, including a career (now retired) as a public school teacher, 30 years as a wilderness horseback trail guide and pack cook, motivational speaker, and professional singer/musician whose group, Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band, was the 2015 Western Music Association’s Group of the Year. That same year, their album, “All I Need,” soared to the #2 spot of the U.S. Western Music Category.

“Our shows feature great music, cowboy poetry, and lots of humor,” Northcott says, adding that they often travel with poet/comedian Dave McClure.

“Weaving gives the same gift to me as it did to Dat So La Lee and all weavers: your breathing slows down and your mind relaxes as the work takes you along.

“Really, I think peace is a gift from all craftsmanship. The force of creativity works through us in many ways, and it is our task to get out of the way.”