The Wild Life of Wildflowers — Watercolor Art by Jean Ann Mitchell

 

Northwest Trumpet Honeysuckle by Jean Ann Mitchell

Northwest Trumpet Honeysuckle (detail) by Jean Ann Mitchell

Wildflowers are rarely associated with danger.

“Rarely” and “Never” are two different terms, however, and for watercolor painter Jean Ann Mitchell, capturing the area’s native flora has not been without adventure.

Upland Larkspur, wildflower watercolor painting by Jean Ann Mitchell

Upland Larkspur, wildflower watercolor painting by Jean Ann Mitchell

“I’ve been stalked by elk in the fall, (inadvertently) clocked a bear running 35 miles an hour, glimpsed a cougar from inside a rig, experienced snakes under foot, and once a bird landed — briefly — on my clipboard,” the Milton-Freewater resident says. Over 13 summers in which Mitchell worked with the U.S. Forest Service, on projects largely involving plant identification and use of native plants in restoration, she has traveled, generally by foot, to isolated places.

“There was a LOT of hiking involved,” she remembers.”This was seldom on roads, and almost never on paths, but almost always cross country, reading maps and relying on compass orientation, aerial photos, and relocation directions — across dry open scab, through forested areas, mountain meadows, riparian areas, and sometimes through yew, alder or ceanothus thickets.”

Mitchell, who holds a university degree in art history and served three years with a mission in Nigeria, did not start out adult life with an expertise in Pacific Northwest flora and forbs (herbaceous flowering plants other than grass). But after “marrying into the Forest Service” and moving to the area, she became fascinated by the rich diversity of native plants. When her husband presented her with the Peterson Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers, she voraciously devoured every page, then embarked upon a self-directed study that included plant and botany courses at both Blue Mountain and Walla Walla Community Colleges. Concurrently, she worked for the Forest Service Native Plant Seed Program, identifying grasses; leading crews; teaching identification skills and gathering techniques; and learning to carefully catalog.

Queen's Cup Bead Lily, wildflower watercolor painting by Jean Ann Mitchell

Queen’s Cup Bead Lily, wildflower watercolor painting by Jean Ann Mitchell

While she considers herself retired now from the Forest Service aspect of her work career, Mitchell continues to hike, research, study,  gather wildflowers (“I never take a plant out of the ground unless there are more than 20 others in the immediate area”) or get down on the ground to draw, in situ, an endangered plant, resulting in a collection of wildflower paintings that encompass more than 100 different species, and counting.

“Keen observation of the living plant is not something you can fake,” Mitchell says, adding that Ziploc bags, and refrigeration, are two friends that allow her to collect specimens (NOT endangered ones) and save them for later, although not too much later, for drawing.

“To draw a plant looking fresh — and you do want to have the buds, petals, and leaves oriented as though growing — it has to be done immediately, within a day or so,” Mitchell explains. Because the family refrigerator is the best place for temporary storage, it’s important to clarify what is, and isn’t, suitable for meal preparation.

“While my family has grown used to being cautious with any Ziplocs in the refrigerator, I always live in fear with guests,” Mitchell says.

Yellow Fawn Lily, wildflower watercolor painting by Jean Ann Mitchell

Yellow Fawn Lily, wildflower watercolor painting by Jean Ann Mitchell

As Mitchell grew in knowledge of native plants, as well as the artistic ability to render them, the student segued into instructor, and she has taught native plant botanicals for public school science classes, Walla Walla Community College, the Blue Mountain Land trust, specialty camps, and the Daniel Smith art supply center in Seattle. Working with the Native Plant Society of Oregon, she produced a number of drawings which were published in the Trailside Guide of Wildflowers in the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla.

Note card sets of her work “have been a great hostess gift while traveling,” with the result that Mitchell’s art finds itself in Germany, Finland, Poland, Jordan, Brazil, South Korea, and more. Closer to home, Mitchell’s  cards are available at the Fort Walla Walla gift shop, the Arts Portal Gallery in Milton-Freewater, and Wenaha Gallery in Dayton.

There’s something about botanical art that draws people closer, “like a bee to honey, or a . . . flower,” Mitchell observes.

“Native plants are breathtaking, the way they are truly, divinely put together, pigmented, orchestrated to carry out their life cycle and play their part in the ecosystem.

“‘Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.'”

Wenaha GalleryJean Ann Mitchell is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, September 26 through Saturday, October 22.

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

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

Great Horned Owl painting on feather, by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Deborah Otterstein

Featherlight Touch — The Wildlife Art of Debra Otterstein

Great Horned Owl painting on feather, by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Debra Otterstein

Great Horned Owl painting on feather, by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Debra Otterstein

Frequently, our biggest life decisions are the result of little things.

For wildlife artist Debra Otterstein, her determination to paint intricate animal portraits on domestic turkey feathers came about because of

  1. her lack of success in home economics and
  2. guilt.
Calliope Hummer by wildlife artist Debra Otterstein

Calliope Hummer by wildlife artist Debra Otterstein

“I did not find art when I was young, nor did I know that I would be a wildlife artist; I had to discover art,” the Cove, Oregon painter says. In high school, when presented with the elective choice between home economics and art, she chose the latter, because her earlier foray into the former “didn’t go so well.” Quite fortunately, she was not doomed to repeat the experience.

“The first day I picked up a piece of charcoal and started to draw, my life changed, and art has been with me ever since.”

A subsequent associate of science degree from Boise State University led Otterstein to eventually adopt a dual identity — medical coder by day and wildlife artist by night — and although these two pursuits seem at variance with one another, they are surprisingly compatible:

“Both are very detailed endeavors, both take into account anatomy, and both require that you spend many hours  working alone after doing much research,” Otterstein explains.

If you’re wondering by now where the guilt factors in, it has to do with Otterstein’s brother-in-law, who regularly found photos he wanted to see developed into paintings.

“One day he brought me the strangest eagle photo and he wanted me to create, using this reference, a very large painting,” Otterstein recounts. “This photo did not inspire me, and I could not bring myself to do as he asked, so I painted a tiny painting.

Cougar Cub, by Debra Otterstein

Cougar Cub, by Debra Otterstein

“Then I felt guilty.”

A second attempt resulted in further dissatisfaction, and more guilt. Daunted by the prospect of permanent mental turmoil, Otterstein decided that the third time would definitely be the charm.

“I knew I needed something really fun and interesting, so I painted an eagle on a feather.

“My guilt went away, and I found feather painting.”

It is an unusual substrate, one that requires intense concentration, unlimited patience, a steady hand, and a light, yet firm approach. Viewers and purchasers of Otterstein’s work observe that she paints with a feather-light touch, capturing special wildlife moments on a canvas of feathers. One of the first questions many people ask is where she gets the feathers upon which she creates her art.

“I am an upcycler, as I use domestic turkey feathers,” Otterstein explains.

“Many people do not realize that there is a law that protects bird feathers and nests: it is called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This act makes it illegal to possess feathers and nests.” Designed to prevent decimation by commercial trade in both birds and their feathers, the act lists some 800 species on its protected list, which pretty much means that, unless the feather is from a domestic bird (turkey, chicken, or duck), or from a non-native invasive species (sparrow or starling), it’s not something one picks up, or paints on.

The Otterstein painting which wildlife artist Terry Isaac calls "a Masterpiece."

The Otterstein painting which wildlife artist Terry Isaac calls “a Masterpiece.”

With collectors throughout the United States, as well as in international locales as far flung as Australia and Qatar, Otterstein works closely with some of the top wildlife artists in the world: John Seerey-Lester, Terry Isaac, Daniel Smith, and John Banovich. Isaac labeled one of Otterstein’s works — depicting, on traditional canvas substrate, a cougar crossing a river — “a masterpiece.”

“From these top artists, I have learned the importance of always conducting research before I start to paint, by doing field work and studying the physical appearance of each creature and its environment,” Otterstein says.

“I have learned that this is truly the best part of being a wildlife artist.”

In the 14 years that Otterstein has participated in the Wallowa Valley Festival of Arts at Joseph, OR — one of the premiere art exhibitions of the Pacific Northwest region — she has garnered numerous awards, including multiple First and Second Places, and People’s Choice. Other accolades include being named gallery featured artist in Baker City, OR, and receiving the Artist of the Year Award by the Eskridge Family Trust.

But what matters most to Otterstein, she emphasizes, is the subject matter — the wildlife with whom we share this planet, and which depends upon us to maintain a harmonious, peaceful, coexistence. If she can capture the viewer’s attention and evoke a sense of awe, then she has truly succeeded.

“By using a feather as my canvas, it symbolizes the balance of how delicate nature is, but also how strong it must be to survive.”

Wenaha GalleryDebra Otterstein is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, September 12 through Saturday, October 8.

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

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

 

Glass Window Art by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Alice Beckstrom of Richland, WA

Beauty from Broken Pieces — The Glass Art of Alice Beckstrom

Glass Window Art by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Alice Beckstrom of Richland, WA

Glass Window Art by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Alice Beckstrom of Richland, WA

Recycling is not a new, chic concept.

Eighteen centuries ago, Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria urged others to not throw away items that could benefit one’s neighbor.

Prisms of Hope, glass art by Alice Beckstrom

Prisms of Hope, glass art by Alice Beckstrom

“Goods are called goods because they can be used for good, in the hands of those who use them properly,” Clement said.

Back in the present, one person who uses goods properly and with a sense of their value is glass artist Alice Beckstrom. The Richland artist, whose business motto is, “Recycled, Repurposed, Recaptured into Functional Art,” collaborates with local glass replacement businesses by picking up their unwanted materials — miscuts and wrong orders that are too expensive to ship back.

“It’s a win/win for all,” Beckstrom says. “Most recently, with more people becoming aware of my art and the desire to keep as much as possible out of the landfills, I often get emails and notes letting me know when and where old doors or windows are available.”

And what does she do with buckets of broken glass, at her disposal within a 500-square-foot home studio?

Krustallos Candle Holder, repurposing unwanted, cast-out tempered windows and doors into beautiful, usable art, by Alice Beckstrom.

Krustallos Candle Holder, repurposing unwanted, cast-out tempered windows and doors into beautiful, usable art, by Alice Beckstrom.

“I have always tried to look for new and interesting ways to work and create with glass,” Beckstrom says of her 40-year career as an artist using this varied, variegated, versatile, yet challenging medium.  A chance encounter with the creations of California artist Ellen Blakely, whose tempered glass murals span city blocks, inspired Beckstrom to add experimenting with recycled materials to the traditional outlet of stained glass work.

“(Blakely’s art) was unbelievably beautiful, and I recognized then the unending possibilities of tempered glass as a base for a myriad of art forms,” Beckstrom says.

Hours of “practice, practice, practice” in conjunction with “experimenting with no particular expectations” have led to a collection of pieces unique in their style, form, and function, ranging from Krustallos (Greek for crystal) candle bases to full-sized skis. These latter, embellished  with broken tempered glass pieces glued across the surface to create a design or message, are especially popular with visitors at the Art Works Gallery in Sandpoint, ID, where tourists fly in from all over the world to the nearby Schweitzer Ski Resort.

Tempered glass embellished skis by Alice Beckstrom

Tempered glass embellished skis by Alice Beckstrom

This last winter, a couple from Scotland fell in love with one of Beckstrom’s skis, but shipping it back was the problem: how does one package a long, glass-encrusted ski so that it safely arrives at its destination, but doesn’t cost as much as a plane ticket to do so?

“The worker at the UPS store was a skier himself, and he suggested that, since they had all had their skis brought with them, why not just bubble wrap this ski and slide it into their ski bag that they were already going to check at the airlines.

“So, off my ski went to Scotland!”

With gallery and gift shop locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, Beckstrom finds herself scheduling a regular loop around Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, restocking unique work that is easier to drive in than ship. As an added bonus, she enjoys mini-vacations in some of the region’s most beautiful places.

“This is one of the biggest benefits of my art,” Beckstrom says. “I love the travel opportunities.”

Sometimes those travel opportunities take Beckstrom to exceptionally unusual venues, like the local home of a U.S. Congressman, the wife of whom fell in love with a piece displayed at the Prosser Art Walk and Wine Gala.

Santa in Glass by Alice Beckstrom

Santa in Glass by Alice Beckstrom

“To guarantee its safe arrival at their home, I offered to deliver it myself the following morning. Carol (the Congressman’s wife) was very gracious and gave me a tour of their home.”

Other pieces in prominent places include an Oakland Raider’s stained glass window installed in the owner’s box at the Oakland Raiders Coliseum, as well as numerous stained glass “trophy windows” custom designed for golf tournaments and country clubs, a welcome variation to “the same old engraved crystal bowls for tournament awards.

“Everyone was thrilled to have something new and original.”

Given Beckstrom’s commitment to, and creativity with, working with recycled materials, one can’t help but think that Clement of Alexandria would heartily approve. With each piece made from more than 80 percent recycled materials, Beckstrom’s art is earth conscious and eco-friendly, which in itself is its own inspiration:

There is a quote Beckstrom uses on her website, and while the most frustrating aspect about it is that she has not been able, in ten years of searching, to find its author, the words fit perfectly with her process of thinking and creating:

“When you are left with nothing but broken pieces . . . take them . . . rearrange them . . . and make a masterpiece!”

Wenaha GalleryAlice Beckstrom is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artists from Monday, August 15 through Saturday, September 10.

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

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

 

Men Die, But History Lives — The Books of Kevin Carson

The Pacific Northwest 91st Division during World War I, photo courtesy of Kevin Carson

The Pacific Northwest 91st Division during World War I, photo courtesy of Kevin Carson

It’s been called The Great War and The War to End All Wars.

Those accustomed to learning history from Hollywood movies might guess the event to be World War II, but that one is known as The Good War. Our war in question is World War I, which could understandably be called The Forgotten War if the appellation weren’t already taken by the Korean War (brought out of obscurity by the T.V. show, M*A*S*H).

The Dayton Congregational Church's World War I Service Banner honors men of the area who fought in the war. Carson's great uncle, Fred Bauer, is represented in the gold star

The Dayton Congregational Church’s World War I Service Banner honors men of the area who fought in the war.

But all wars are memorable to the people who fought in them, as well as to the survivors of those who died, military or civilians. For Kevin Carson, a former Dayton resident who researches Pacific Northwest history, World War I hits close to home.

“I have always been interested in World War I,” Carson says. “As a young person, I saw it through the eyes of my grandfather, Art Carson, who had lost his brother (Fred Carson) in the Meuse Argonne campaign.

“It was still as painful for him as it was on the day that Fred died.”

Fred’s name and memory are memorialized on a World War I Service Banner, found stuffed in the attic of the Dayton Congregational Church, and later framed for display and presentation. In all, 42 names are listed, representing those associated with just that church who were sent overseas. Many others from Dayton served as well, members of the 91st, or Wild West Division, encompassing soldiers from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Wyoming.

It is this group men upon which Carson focuses in his upcoming book, The Wild West Boys, from which he will be reading excerpts during an appearance at Wenaha Gallery over Dayton’s Alumni Weekend, July 16. At the forefront of hard fighting in France and Belgium, the 91st Division was part of the Meuse Argonne Offensive, one of the largest campaigns in military history and instrumental to bringing the war to its end. The Offensive involved 1.2 million U.S. soldiers, of which more than 26,000 died and 95,000 were wounded.

Marching to the front, World War I.

Marching to the front, World War I.

Thirteen Dayton men, Carson reports, received French memorial decorations for their part of the Offensive. All 13 men, including Carson’s great uncle, died in combat.

“I think this group of men needs to be recognized for what they did during their big push in the Meuse Argonne and then their brave dash through Flanders to liberate Belgium and flank the German Army,” Carson says.

“The mystique of these men spoke to me. I thought that perhaps I could write a historical fiction piece that has a western feel at its core, and highlights what these tough and brave soldier did.

“It seems their history is little known. I mean to change that.”

Two Scrapers from the Palouse Indians, a people who lived in the area long, long before The Great War, The Good War, or the Forgotten War. From the private collection of Kevin Carson

Two Scrapers from the Palouse Indians, a people who lived in the area long, long before The Great War, The Good War, or the Forgotten War. From the private collection of Kevin Carson

Highlighting history, and rescuing from obscurity information that remains pertinent today, is a passion with Carson, whose earlier book, History Book Club selection The Long Journey of the Nez Perce, features hand-drawn maps by the author to illustrate battles that many in the area have no idea of happening. With scrupulous attention to research and a painstaking sense of fairness, Carson looks at the “last of the Indian wars” from both sides, telling the story, according to Washington State Magazine, “with immediacy and fascinating analysis.”

The Wild West Boys, Carson explains, is also the result of extensive research and analysis, set in a fictional, yet realistic setting. Composites of actual soldiers that Carson has researched, the characters are drawn from real men with very real lives — such as the George Young cattle rustling gang that menaced Southeast Washington in the late 19th century, and the understaffed lawmen who doggedly pursued them. It was a genuine Western tale, long before John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.

In addition to reading from his book, Carson brings historical and area-based artifacts from his private collection, including World War I photographs, letters and flag, as well as Palouse Indian arrowheads, hide scrapers, a handwoven basket dating from the 1880s, and a frog effigy and paint pot from Celilo. They are all part of the history that makes up our lives today, and which he seeks to keep alive through his books.

“The themes that are interwoven through my stories have a lot to do with the importance of family, and the role of older men in helping shape young men,” Carson says. His work records the timeless story of sacrifice, love, and the limits of courage, because these are subjects that should never be forgotten.

Or, as one of his principal characters  of The Wild West Boys writes,

“I do not believe that the stories of our  lives should die with us.”

Wenaha GalleryKevin Carson is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Tuesday, July 5 through Saturday, August 6. Carson, a 1976 Dayton High School grad, will be signing books at the gallery Saturday, July 16, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Dayton’s Alumni Weekend. He will be reading from his new book, The Wild West Boys, at 1 p.m. Photos from World War I will be on display, the sale of which will benefit the Blue Mountain Historical Society of Dayton.

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

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

Morel Mushrooms in bronze by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

Mushroom Love — Bronze, Stone, and Metal Sculpture by Andy de la Maza

Morel Mushrooms in bronze by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

Morel Mushrooms in bronze by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

In the world of dangerous work, “professional artist” doesn’t rank up there with “loggers,” “deep-sea fishermen,” or “commercial airline pilots,” but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its moments.

“I’ve been stalked by cougars, I’ve had bears come up to me and the people around me freak out,” says Andy de la Maza, a Walla Walla sculptor who works in bronze, metal, and stone. Lest one wonder just what kind of studio de la Maza inhabits, he was in the field at the time. Wilderness hiking plays a major part in his collecting specimens to be used in his art, which incorporates petrified wood, geodes, stone, bone, and one of de la Maza’s favorites, mushrooms.

Bronze Chanterelle by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

Bronze Chanterelle by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

“I love mushroom hunting,” de la Maza says, adding that he — like many people the world over — relishes the quest, one he has been avidly pursuing for more than ten years. So enamored is he of the shape, form, variety, and beauty of the humble fungus that he “immortalizes them” by casting them, at Walla Walla’s T. Hunter Bronze, into life-size metal sculpture, exquisite for detail and accuracy of replication.

“It’s hard to get a casting of mushrooms; they are so delicate,” de la Maza explains. “It’s taken a lot of knowledge of the mushroom’s unique characteristics, as well as practice in casting it, with a good dose of luck on my side.”

Some of that luck has to do with more than figuring out how to capture the essence of a fragile organic item without mutilating it in the process. Like most mushroom hunters, de la Maza enjoys eating what he finds, and is acutely aware that there are risk factors to the activity. Indeed, an old Czech adage observes:

All mushrooms are edible. Some of them only once.

In his personal experience, de la Maza concurs.

Trove of Valhalla metal mask by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

Trove of Valhalla metal mask by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

“I poisoned myself several years ago eating a false morel, but instead of running the other way and quitting, I went out and started buying books.” Bit by bit he educated himself in what was false and what was real, what was edible and what was . . . not. His repertoire of bronze mushroom sculptures includes fittingly titled pieces such as “King Bolete,” “Chanterelle,” “Morel,” and, more ominously, “Death.” It’s nothing to be afraid of: you just don’t eat it.

In regards to fear, de la Maza maintains a poised attitude toward danger, preferring to see it as an essential, and expected, part of adventure. In addition to regular encounters with wild creatures (“You know, every time somebody sees a bear, they freak out, but you just kind of look at them and they turn around”), de la Maza often finds himself, literally, between a rock and a hard place:

“There is nothing quite like pounding into a glass cliff face, trying to extract a piece of petrified wood.

King Bolete bronze mushroom by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

King Bolete bronze mushroom by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

“It’s quite laborious, and satisfying at the same time. I bring a piece home to my cutting room, make a slice, and see the natural beauty inside.”

Much of this natural beauty, which remains hidden until the artist’s eye and hand bring it forth, is remarkably nearby, with de la Maza scouring the Washington, Oregon, and Idaho mountains for their treasures; the Mattawa Saddle Mountains, a day trip away, are a rich source of petrified wood. Nearby Idaho is easily accessible by auto, but the real finds require some, or actually a lot of, walking.

“Some of the places in Idaho are brutal. The sign says it’s two miles up, so it must be two miles up and two miles back, but hiking it feels like four miles up and two miles back.

“The harder it is to get to, the better the material you find generally is.”

Even home has its hazards, with de la Maza’s studio and living space frequently blending one into the other.

“My work is on my kitchen table. Throughout the entire house. In the yard, in buckets, in the cutting room . . . on window sills, in piles I trip over on the floor.

“It’s my lifestyle.”

He hikes. He sculpts. He researches. He scrabbles over rocks. The fusion of thinking with action results in artwork that celebrates the shape and dimensionality of life itself.

“I strive to capture the beauty of these found objects. I’m looking for a window into nature, that can be added to the chaos of civilized living.”

Wenaha GalleryAndy de la Maza is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, April 25 through Saturday, May 21.

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

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

 

Summer Fields, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Baby, Even When It’s Cold Outside, Plein Air Painters Paint — The Landscapes of Bonnie Griffith

Summer Fields, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Summer Fields, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Some people spend a chunk of their day outside — mountain climbers, builders, hotel doormen, and definitely not least on the list — plein-air painters.

Grand Staircase II, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Grand Staircase II, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

A central facet of 19th century French impressionism, plein-air painting is so called because it is done outdoors, in the plain, fresh air, and those artists committed to the method rival U.S. Postal carriers in their approach to rain, snow, sleet, wind and the occasional, much appreciated, sunny day.

“There really is nothing like painting outdoors; it makes you a stronger artist, I think,” says Bonnie Griffith, a painter who trilaterally focuses on oil, pastel and encaustic (hot wax) as her mediums of choice.

“You are in natural light and not utilizing the eye of a camera to dictate to you what you see to paint.”

Admittedly, she adds, some days are exceptionally inclement, and she has been known to paint from the interior of her heated car. Given the amount that Griffith travels — participating in shows, teaching and attending workshops, and rotating gallery stock throughout the west and Northwest — perhaps the car isn’t such an odd option.

Symphony in Green, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Symphony in Green, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

“I am a landscape artist, so I am always on the lookout for a place that catches my eye,” Griffith explains. “I love to paint water, so often I am seeking out spots with streams to paint.”

Griffith, who has lived in Walla Walla, WA; Montana; and now Meridian, ID, confesses a special passion for the landscapes of the west, from Canada to Mexico, and is happiest when ensconced in the canyons of the Colorado River, or by the waterways of Montana and Washington, and all that is in between.

“My goal is to create paintings that draw the viewer into the painting, to experience the time of day, the temperature, the sound, the smells.”

River Bend, original pastel by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

River Bend, original pastel by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Much of her outdoor, onsite work is done in pastel, a highly portable medium that has the added benefit of capturing and translating brilliant color.

“It is so pure pigment that you can create this wonderful sparkle with ease,” Griffith says. “Oils can be mixed to create wonderful color and a visual story. And when you combine either with encaustic medium, you get wonderful, often surprise results.”

Good surprises are, well, good, but given that working with molten material presents the potential for perturbation, Griffith does find herself — when working with wax — indoors, in the studio, and well prepared for any contingency.

“I do have a spare room that I work with my encaustics, complete with fire extinguisher since I utilize hot wax and a torch to create these pieces!”

Creekside, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Creekside, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Born into a family of watercolorists, illustrators, and musicians, Griffith has been drawing and painting since childhood, seriously pursuing gallery representation and public recognition from the early 1990s. Her work is in the homes of collectors throughout the United States and Canada, as well as Australia, Sweden, Germany, and England.

She has participated in numerous prestigious, competitive shows, including the Pastel 100 National Competition, the Northwest Pastel Society Member Show, the International Pastel Show, Plein Aire Moscow, and Plein Air Moab, garnering professional accolades such as People’s Choice, Juror’s Award, and Director’s Award. Most recently, Griffith has completed a one-month Artist in Residence for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, during which time she avidly painted, gave public demonstrations, organized a community paint along, and provided art projects to the local school system.

Traveling, learning, teaching, experimenting, and transporting medium, substrate and easel from the car to the painting site — it is all part of Griffith’s interpreting what she sees onto canvas or paper so others can see it, too. And when they do, then this is sweet success.

“It is about color and painting a work that invites the viewer to step in and make it their own story,” Griffith summarizes. “I say that, if that happens, than I have done my job.”

Wenaha GalleryBonnie Griffith will be at Wenaha Gallery Friday, November 27 for a special art reception during Dayton, WA’s Christmas Kickoff celebration. Join us at the gallery from 3 to 6 p.m. to meet the artist, view incredible art, and enjoy free refreshments. Griffith’s work will be on featured display through December 12.

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

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

Belle, by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

Life Is a Journey — The Primitive Rock Art Paintings and Sculpture of Monica Stobie

Belle, by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

Belle, by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

Some humans live for many many decades, while others measure their lifespan in moments. But all humans, whether or not they ever physically walk on the earth, leave a footprint. It is part of their journey.

A Little Attitude by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

A Little Attitude by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

For fine artist Monica Stobie, the concept of a journey is simultaneously highly personal and sweepingly universal, embodying the distinctive experience of the individual in concomitance with the lives, stories, and existence of people throughout history. Stobie, whose subject matter — and passion — is rock art, creates pastel, oil, mixed media, collage, and sculpture that draw inspiration from the petroglyphs (pictures carved into rock or stone) and petrographs (pictures drawn or painted on a rock surface) of ancient people. Raised on an apple ranch in the Yakima Valley, Stobie was attracted from a young age to the symbolism and animal imagery of Native American culture, and when, years later, she stumbled upon rock art at a site near the Snake River, she was, as she phrases is, “hooked.”

Cowbird by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

Cowbird by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

“I have traveled extensively, exploring rock art sites, which has given me an unlimited source of inspiration,” Stobie says. “I worked for several weeks one summer documenting rock art sites on private land. Having a Navajo guide provided a unique perspective on these ancient sites. “Hiking through harsh desert conditions gave me an understanding of a much more difficult time of survival for ancient peoples.”

Fly Away by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

Fly Away by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

Stobie translates this understanding, empathy, and fascination into two- and three-dimensional format, and over a professional art career spanning 30 years, she has evolved her technique and style through exploration of various mediums. “Originally, I worked with paper collage — kind of a paper marquetry –fitting different pieces of paper into a design, much like a puzzle.”

Constant experimentation with papers led to her discovery of Mexican bark cloth, a heavily textured paper made from indigenous tree bark that holds layers of rich pastel colors and texture. The next step was sculpture, in response to requests by various galleries carrying her work, and the most recent path is that of oil and mixed media. Throughout all the variance and experimentation, the research and exploration, however, the crux of the matter, which forms the basis of her pilgrimage through both life and art, remains constant:

“When I look at the journey, the prevailing theme of textures, primitive imagery, and animals are prominent,” Stobie observes. She loves the mystery of it all. Life is, after all, a mystery to and for all of us, with none of us knowing where the next step will lead.

Red Hills by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

Red Hills by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

In Stobie’s case, art has been a part of her life since early childhood, when she learned under the aegis of her grandmother, a watercolorist.  Early school experiences reinforced a fledgling artistry, when a second-grade teacher praised Stobie’s interpretation of a bird as a sign of outstanding creativity. Adulthood found her graduating from Eastern Washington University with a degree in Art Education, which she put to use for 15 years teaching junior and senior high art in Walla Walla, WA, and Milton-Freewater, OR. Moving to Dayton, WA, coincided with the decision to turn her steps to a new path, one that plumbed the adventures of independent, full time, professional fine art.

Whispers by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

Whispers by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

“Working in a converted bedroom turned into a studio, I began my trek to carve a place in the art world,” Stobie says.

Given her chosen subject matter, it is ironically appropriate that Stobie chooses the word “carve.” The impact she has made extends far from her Dayton venue, as she shows and sells her work to a diverse and widespread clientele.

“During the span of my career I have shown in galleries, mostly throughout the Northwest but also Wyoming, Colorado, and California. In recent years, fellow artist Jill Ingram and I managed our own gallery in Dayton.”

And now, it’s a new adventure, a new direction on the path as Stobie and her husband prepare to move to the Southwest, using this new home as a base from which to travel.

As with all of life’s experiences, some things change, while others stay the same: in a new home, a new venue, a new adventure, the studio, for now, will start out in the familiar fashion of a converted bedroom. But it’s all part of the adventure. “And so,” Stobie proclaims, “a new journey begins.” Wenaha Gallery

Monica Stobie is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA from Saturday, August 22 through Saturday, September 19. An Artist’s Reception is scheduled Saturday, August 22, from 1 – 5 p.m. at the gallery, during which time Stobie will be present to meet viewers and talk about her art. Free refreshments are provided.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.

Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Colorful Spheres original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.

Rock, Paper, Scissors — Cheri McGee’s One-of-a-Kind Cut Paper Paintings

Colorful Spheres original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.

Colorful Spheres, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

Most people, even if they flee at the mention of a fabric store, have met a quilter. Those unfamiliar with the craft marvel at the concept of taking yards of intact fabric, cutting it into smaller and disparate pieces, and reassembling those pieces into one planned, designed, and cohesive unit.

Blue Cat, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

Blue Cat, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

But a quilt seems like a simple thing when placed side by side with the cut paper art of Cheri McGee, an Enterprise, OR, artist whose palette consists of thousands of snipped, scissored, and punched out pieces of paper — some of them smaller than a tick. Practiced throughout the world, paper art can be as basic as a silhouette, those portraits in profile that we associate with the Victorian era, or insanely complicated — as  is the more intricate traditional work from China, Indonesia, Germany (Scherenschnitte), and the Philippines.

McGee does a little of everything, embracing a style that ranges from a timelessly nostalgic folk art village scene to a sinuously flowing, almost curvaceous abstract mixed with realism. And then there are the mosaic works, consisting of itsy bitsy (think back to that tick, in company with sunflower seeds and some orange pips ) squares and circles and triangles and diamonds meticulously arranged to create a paper version of something you’d expect to find in a Turkish marketplace.

African Dancers, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.

African Dancers, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

“Painting with oils may be easier,” the artist comments, explaining how, in the process of cutting and layering card stock into a cohesive image, weeks fly by. But it is this very detail and intricacy, in addition to the uniqueness of the medium itself, that is the attraction.

“I have been working in paper for 30 years,” McGee says. “It began as both an experiment and a need for wall art when the phrase, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ kept echoing through my head.” Faced with a new home of blank, white walls, McGee’s eyes turned to her young daughter’s supply of construction paper, her hands picked up a pair of scissors, and a passion was born.

City Scene, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

City Scene, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

In short order, one pair of scissors grew into more than 25, and the cache of paper multiplied to, well, the equivalent of a quilter’s stash, as McGee kept an eye out, everywhere she traveled, for unique, unusual, textured, exotic, patterned, and colored stock. A spare room in her home functions as her studio, where creativity reigns and portable desk fans, even on hot days, do not.

Every finished artwork is unique, and while McGee may work on multiple projects simultaneously, there are no (no pun intended) short cuts. While in the early days she pre-cut and stored in drawers images and shapes as a means of speeding up future artworks, McGee found that she never used them, preferring, instead, to custom cut exactly what was needed precisely when the moment called for it.

It’s a build-as-you-go process, and the artwork itself makes its own demands. But when it comes to subject matter, anything goes, depending up McGee’s mood and inspiration, both of which are influenced by her interests, a childhood background in traveling as the daughter of a military family , and marriage to another artist, sculptor and flute carver Roger McGee.

“Being a self-taught artist, I find inspiration in that freedom, to create what strikes my fancy,” Cheri says. “I have recently begun a series of images and designs from the ’60s. I am also inspired by Moroccan designs, having lived there as a child when my father was serving in the Air Force.”

Lucky Charmz, original cut paper art by Cheri McGee

Lucky Charmz, original cut paper art by Cheri McGee

McGee’s works are in the homes of collectors from California to New York, as well as in Japan. She has shown and sold her work at the Kalispell Art Show and Auction in Montana, Spokane’s MONAC Western Show and Auction, and the Western Art Association Show and Auction in Ellensburg.

But the best place to find the artist herself is in that studio, scissors in one hand, paper in the other, as eyes, soul, and psyche focus on creating a work of art that has no twin of itself, anywhere, in the world.

Wenaha GalleryCheri McGee’s cut paper art is on display at Wenaha Gallery through Saturday, June 27, 2015.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Handcarved Eagle Flute by Wenaha Guest Artist Roger McGee.

The Sensual Flutist — Roger McGee Hand-Carves an Ancient Instrument

Handcarved Eagle Flute by Wenaha Guest Artist Roger McGee.

Handcarved Eagle Flute by Wenaha Guest Artist Roger McGee.

The hauntingly beautiful music of Native American musicians Carlos Nakai and Mary Youngblood is nothing short of sublime. And while neither Grammy Award winner is a resident of Oregon or Washington state, some of the flutes that they have played originated in the studio of Roger McGee, a master flute maker from Joseph, OR.

Egret bronze sculpture by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

Egret bronze sculpture by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

“What a fine and gentle artist this man is,” Youngblood described McGee. “(The flute is) almost Georgia O’Keefish . . . very sensual and so carefully carved.”

McGee, who has created more than 1,000 custom, hand-made flutes, is a professional sculptor of 35 years standing, making his initial mark as an artist of western and wildlife bronzework. As a Vietnam War veteran, he considers it a high honor to have created four monuments placed in the Pacific Northwest, including the Jonathan Wainwright statue at the Veterans Medical Center in Walla Walla, Peo Peo Mox Mox near the Marc Hotel in the same town, and the VFW Globe in Salem, OR.

The path to creating Native American-style flutes, he explains, was a winding one. Like most artists, McGee listens to a variety of music for inspiration while working in his studio.

Detail from hand carved Horsehead Flute by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

Detail from hand carved Horsehead Flute by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

“I was particularly captivated by the haunting sounds of the Native American flute and wanted to learn as much as possible about this small instrument with the powerful voice.

“I was inspired to make a Native flute, and the awesome sound of the flute that I made captured my soul. It has changed my life and given me a new way to express myself with my art.”

Now, in addition to his bronzework, McGee has added the intricate detail of hand making, one at a time, highly individualized Native American flutes, an instrument with a history dating back reportedly 60,000 years (they are said to be the third oldest known musical instrument in the world). McGee creates all artwork, painting, woodwork and sculpture on his flutes free hand, burning the holes in with a hot metal rod.

Not Forgotten Bison bronze sculpture by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

Not Forgotten Bison bronze sculpture by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

“I guess you could say that I follow where the artistic spirits guide me,” McGee says, adding that he not only makes the flutes, but plays them — with two CDs to his credit — as well as teaches others how to do so.

“Over the phone, I taught a Navaho Indian (Fred ‘Yellowknife’ Keams) how to make and play flutes . . . I also taught a Buddhist Monk (Park Jin Hong) from South Korea how to play the flute using Skype and the Internet!” McGee sells his flutes throughout the world, with other noted names who play McGee’s instruments including Grammy Award nominee Peter Phippen and recording artists Robert Mirabal and John Two-Hawks.

Inlaid shells, buffalo teeth, carved totems, feathers, beads, and paint are all part of the customized creations, with themes ranging from rattlesnakes and scorpions to horses and bears. In 2013, McGee won the Best Cultural Heritage Award at the Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts for his Stone Crushed Inlayed American Flute, and in past years, his work has captured Directors Choice awards.

Detail from White Canoe hand carved flute by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

Detail from White Canoe hand carved flute by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

As beautiful as the flutes are to look upon, however, their ultimate test takes place in the playing, and McGee’s numerous clients have much to say about the creator, and what he creates.

“The beauty and soulful sincerity of this amazing instrument is only surpassed by the incredible artist who created it,” one musician writes on McGee’s website.

“The tone is amazing,” another fan said, describing how her husband, not knowing that she was playing her newly-purchased instrument, marveled at how much she had improved. “The flute made the sound jump a quantum leap — I sure wasn’t doing anything else much differently. The flute’s voice is just awesome.”

In his spare time, which he somehow finds despite a fulltime art schedule side-by-side with that of his wife, cut paper artist Cheri McGee, Roger has lately taken on refurbishing a totem pole, which when repaired, will return to the Creating Memories Camp for Disabled Children in Joseph. At the moment, the pole is in pieces as McGee fixes broken parts, fills cracks, sands, paints, and reassembles.

It’s all part of following that artistic muse, one that entered his life when he was the youngest of nine children growing up in the deep South, always using his hands to make things.

“It was easier to make myself a toy than it was to wait to get a store-bought one,” McGee remembers. “I have been very blessed!”

Wenaha GalleryRoger and Cheri McGee are the featured artists at Wenaha Gallery’s Art Event from Monday, May 18 through Saturday, June 27, at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA. There is a reception for both artists on Saturday, May 23 from 10:30 a.m. (immediately after the town Memorial Day parade) until 2:30 p.m. Roger will play the flute during the reception. Free refreshments are provided.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.