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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

artisan soap scent bars biker b bathworks

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

artisan soap scent bars biker b bathworks

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

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

But what does a soap named Naked Man smell like?

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

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

bath salts truffles scent biker b bathworks artisan soap

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

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

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

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

Just for Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experimenting with Scent

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

soy candles scent color biker b bathworks gifts

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

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

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

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

Custom Scent, and Names

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

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

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

Like, say, Naked Man.

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

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

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

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

 

water dance swan bird painting impressionist relaxed not uptight

Not Uptight but Relaxed — Impressionist Paintings by Carol Betker

water dance swan bird painting impressionist relaxed not uptight

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

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

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

blue springs horse equine water wading impressionist painting carol betker

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

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

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

On Her Feet and Behind the Easel

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

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

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

landscape not uptight relaxed breathe peaceful impressionist painting carol betker

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

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

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

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

Remember the Camera

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

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

garden flowers color path happy plants carol betker impressionist painting

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

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

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

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

Relaxed, Not Uptight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

maple burl clock wood pendulum time leonard mcreary

Time to Create: Clocks by Leonard McCreary

maple burl clock wood pendulum time leonard mcreary

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

Time.

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

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

He makes clocks out of them.

clocks wood maple walnut time leonard mccreary

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

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

Clocking Time in the Workshop

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

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

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

maple burl wooden clock time leonard mccreary

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

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

Each Tree Is Unique

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

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

How we spend it, makes a difference.

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

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

 

Painting, Thinking, Meditating — Frankie Laufer Abstracts

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

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

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

silent way abstract painting oil art frankie laufer

In a Silent Way, original abstract oil by Frankie Laufer

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

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

One Day He Decided to Paint

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

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

lost highway colorful abstract painting oil frankie laufer

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Place for Creation and Creativity

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

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

Untitled abstract original oil painting Frankie Laufer

Untitled, original abstract oil by Frankie Laufer

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

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

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

Success Requires Time

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

“Success in painting is having the time to paint.

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

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

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

“A painter paints. That is their role.”

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

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