Time to Paint, Timelessly — Impressionism by Lori Pittenger

flowers floral bush fruition season time pittenger impressionism painting landscape

Fruit, flowers, and paintings bloom at their right time. Fruition, original oil painting by Lori Pittenger of Ellensburg, WA

 

Do you remember when you last thoroughly, completely, and absolutely lost track of time?

When was it that you were so absorbed in the task at hand, so utterly involved in what you were doing, so deeply immersed in the moment, that you looked up and were surprised to find that hours flew by in what you thought were minutes?

flowers floral landscape lilace purple season time pittenger impressionism

Every Good and Perfect Gift, original oil painting by Lori Pittenger

For Lori Pittenger, that would be . . . yesterday. Or even this afternoon. The Ellensburg, WA, painter is so untrammeled by time that when she sits at her easel, paintbrush or palette knife in hand, she enters a state of such intensity that she is physically tired, and yet energized, when she is done.

“I love pouring myself into something to express myself and ‘feel,’ always listening to music and painting for hours at a time,” Pittenger says. “I lose myself in it.”

Taking Time to See

Inspired by landscapes, by concentratedly looking and seeing the colors and light in nature, Pittenger works two to three days straight to take a painting from first brush stroke to last. The process of being present in the painting process, she explains, begins with the first few strokes of paint on the canvas.

“After I have loaded my palette, I take a deep breath and know that I am beginning a journey in which I will lose all sense of time and what is going on around me.

“I have committed in my mind to devote an uninterrupted time to focus on what I am creating, really seeing the scene evolving as if I am in the scene: mixing the paint, feeling the brush in my hand, the sound it makes as it strokes the canvas, even the smell of the paint.”

golden beets vegetables produce pittenger impressionism painting

Golden Beets, impressionism original oil painting by Lori Pittenger

The View Stays the Same, and Changes, with Time

She works in a spacious room in her family’s ranch house where large windows overlook the pastures of Kittitas Valley and its surrounding mountains. There is a sense of peace and well being, integrated with an inherent excitement derived from a view that stays the same, yet changes with weather and seasons. She looks up to look out. When she tires at the easel, she steps away from the painting and returns with fresh eyes. Throughout the process, she photographs the work in progress, especially as it nears completion.

“I view the photo, and it almost always every time reveals something that I hadn’t seen before.

“Sometimes it’s a little something to blend out or fix, but often it’s something surprising or magical that happened unintentionally — like a little glow glimmer or shape that makes me smile with wonder.

“Being fully present while painting opens not only my eyes, but also my mind, to really seeing.”

sunrise landscape water morning dawn time peaceful impressionsim pittenger

Lavish Sunrise, original oil painting landscape with water by Lori Pittenger of Ellensburg, WA.

When Pittenger isn’t intently reviewing her own work, she curates the paintings of others. An artist member of Fine Art America, the world’s largest online art marketplace, Pittenger manages the Impressionism group, which receives hundreds of submissions every week submitted by its more than 500 members. It is her job to winnow those numbers down while giving all members an opportunity to be featured, and arrange the varied artwork into a pleasing gallery wall for visitors and potential buyers to peruse. She also advises members on everything from how to crop images to watching out for copyright infringement. In her “spare” time, she hosts contests on the site.

A Time of Concentration

It makes for a long, concentrated day. But every hour of it, every minute, packs intensity and movement, as does the art that Pittenger creates.

“My paintings always have a deeper meaning that flows out as I am composing and painting,” she says.

“The title and thoughts about life that I get from each artwork fall into place as I finish each piece, and I love writing about them.”

Her day begins and ends with art, she observes. It makes for an excellent sunrise, and sunset.

“Art touches the soul, creates a mood and expresses often what words cannot.”

Wenaha GalleryLori Pittenger is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from November 3 through December 31, 2020.

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 Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

pottery mugs production glazes pat fleming kennewick

Pottery Thoughts — Pat Fleming Creates as He Meditates

pottery mugs production glazes pat fleming kennewick

An array of pottery mugs, featuring a variety of shapes, sizes, and glazes, by Kennewick potter Pat Fleming

He teaches, paints, digs clay in out of the way places. And, over an art career that spans 54 years and counting, Pat Fleming has thrown a lot — LOTS — of pots.

“Back in the day,” the Kennewick potter remembers, “the local art community held several annual art exhibits and demonstrations at the local mall.

“While demonstrating at the mall during one of those regional art exhibits, we were approached by a buyer from The Bon about producing pottery for their store. I accepted.”

pottery wheel bowl production pat fleming

Each pottery piece, whether made as production pottery or a one-time-only piece, requires the time, attention, and skill of the potter

And therein Fleming, who at the same time was teaching art in the Kennewick school system, entered into the world of pottery production work. His pottery at The Bon attracted notice from Cole’s Plant Soils, Inc., which distributed his wares throughout the Western U.S. He also collaborated with local restaurants to provide coffee mugs, candle holders, serving items, planters, and ash trays. (“Remember them?” Fleming asks).

Along with that, he adds, his work has been distributed in Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, France, and Spain.

Nowadays, Fleming has scaled down on production work, but maintains two commercial customers for whom he makes stoneware. He also takes commissions from individuals. Intriguingly, he finds the process of production pottery to be not frenetic, but calming.

Meditative and Calming

“Doing production work is meditative,” Fleming explains.

“One cannot concentrate on the process of throwing a pot with a thoughtful shape without concentrating.

“Doing that makes all the worries and concerns of the day disappear. It would appear to the uninitiated as drudgery, but is actually the opposite.

“It is the nature of craftsmanship to require concentration to the point of excluding everything else.”

From soup bowls to serving bowls, from mugs for hot drinks to vessels for wine, potter Pat Fleming is constantly experimenting with techniques and form.

For years, Fleming has been digging clay for his pottery from local areas, starting at the Ringold area at the Columbia River. He later moved to spots around Othello, Prosser, and the Walla Walla River Basin.

Fleming uses the dug clay it by itself as earthenware, or incorporates with fire clays purchased from local building suppliers. He also blends it, along with local soil and wood ash, into signature glazes. These range in color from ochre to brown, black to iron red.

Wood Ash Makes Innovative Pottery Glazes

“The coloring of most of my glazes comes from the iron in the soil, clay, or wood ash,” Fleming says. “I rarely use chemical colorants, and have limited their use to cobalt for blue and copper for green.” One of his more innovative resources for ash, aside from that collected from the Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption, is from Fleming’s barbecue pit.

“When firing a wood kiln, the wood ash flows through the ware chamber and settles on the pots to form its own natural although spotty glaze.”

Like many artists who become experts at what they do, Fleming loves to teach what he knows, and what he knows about a 12,000-year-old craft is significant. In 1971, he began his teaching career at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick, and though after 33 years he theoretically retired from teaching, he never really did, and has been called back numerous times. He also instructs through numerous community venues.

Teaching Is His Passion

“Even though I really enjoy making functional and non-functional ceramic objects, teaching is my real passion,” Fleming says.

“One of the most rewarding positions was at Coyote Ridge Correction Center for Walla Walla Community College. The convicted felons were the most willing and motivated students ever.

“After Covid19 goes away, I will return to Kennewick Community School where I teach drawing and painting.”

Because a teacher, like an artist, never stops. Why should they? They’re creating, learning, innovating, giving, with the result that their job isn’t really a job at all.

“As I look back on my 54 years of art in one way or the other being my livelihood, I wonder how I could have been so lucky,” Fleming muses.

“I wish I could do it all over again.”

Wenaha GalleryPat Fleming is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from September 8 through October 2, 2020.

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.

 

pastel landscape canyon mountains edna bjorge art

Pastel Mystique — The Landscapes of Edna Bjorge

pastel landscape canyon mountains edna bjorge art

Canyon Light II, original pastel painting by Ellensburg, WA, artist Edna Bjorge

From Oil Paint Murals to Pastel Drawings

She was five. She loved to draw. Her father was an artist.

And there, in her parents’ bedroom next to her father’s palette of oil paints, was a gloriously blank wall.

aspenglow trees orange woods forest edna bjorge art

Aspenglow, original pastel painting by Edna Bjorge.

“I knew better than to paint on the portrait he had on an easel in the corner,” Ellensburg, WA, artist Edna Bjorge remembers. But . . . there was that wall. What a canvas for small hands and big ideas!

“My mom was horrified, but my Dad went straight out and bought me some art supplies of my own.”

It was an unforgettable beginning to an art career, one that now focuses on pastel and watercolor, with paper as the substrate. As she did from childhood, Bjorge draws every day, working out of a custom-built shed tucked onto her country property. This studio, which she describes as “small but mighty,” also holds her framing supplies and letterpress, because in addition to drawing, she has owned and operated her business, Edna Bjorge Calligraphy, Design and Illustration, for more than 40 years.

Outside and Outdoors

Where she really likes to be, however, is outdoors, in the variety of landscapes of the central Washington region. There, she paints plein air pastel or watercolor — outside, using the natural and changing light of the day. This preference, also, stems from her childhood, when after World War II her mother ran a daycare from the family home while her father finished his college degree. At the “tender age of four,” Bjorge became mom’s helper, responsible for entertaining six younger charges by helping them with games, toys and amusements.

yakima canyon river pastel painting landscape bjorge art

Gold at River Bend, a view of the Yakima River Canyon in central Washington, original pastel painting by Edna Bjorge.

“Needless to say, I cherished the time when I was outside by myself while everyone else was napping, and times in the evening when I could draw and paint without interruption.

“This probably explains my love of the outdoors, and of plein air painting.”

Bjorge finds the landscapes of Kittitas County multifariously diverse, replete with mountains and forests, from shrub steppe and desert to the lush banks of the Columbia and Yakima Rivers. She not only pastel paints these vistas but writes about them in a regular blog. One of her most passionate “messages,” both written and visual, concerns the fragility of natural landscapes.

Disappearing Landscapes

“I paint the landscape because we are losing it at an alarming rate, due to sprawl and overpopulation,” Bjorge says.

“Once land is ‘developed,’ it’s gone or changed forever.

Cooper ridge mountain lake landscape pastel painting Edna Bjorge art

Cooper Ridge, mountain and lake pastel painting by Edna Bjorge.

“Many places where I used to roam free are no longer accessible. I have many paintings of places that are gone forever.

“The art is the only thing left to show they ever existed.”

Bjorge’s pastel and watercolor work has sold throughout the U.S., as well as internationally in Norway, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand, among others. Over a long career of painting she has entered many shows and garnished a number of awards, her most recent being an invitational show at the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, where 20 artists created pieces based on the theme of Light.

“Our work hung in the theater’s gallery for a whole year, so was enjoyed by hundreds of patrons.”

Pastel: Sensuous and Immediate

She achieved mastery of pastels by trial and error, describing the medium as “sensuous, very responsive and immediate.” For her, it is the perfect way to capture light and shadows, subtle variations of color, distinct elements of detail incorporated with the bold shapes of mountains, rocks, and rivers. It brings the viewer, she feels, into places she wants them to deeply experience.

“More and more,” Bjorge says, “I find myself focusing on the landscape with a deep sense of urgency.

“I want to record not only the actuality of place, but the essence and spirit of the location as well.”

Wenaha GalleryEdna Bjorge is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from August 25 through September 18, 2020.

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.

 

java junk journal gift diaray trudy love tantalo

No Rules — The “Junk” Journals of Trudy Love Tantalo

steampunk junk journal no rules trudy love tantalo diary

Steampunk, junk journal by Trudy Love Tantalo.

Rules are funny things.

We’re taught that they make our lives easier and “safer”  by protecting us from all the bad stuff and people.

But they also do something else: they grow and multiply, expand and enlarge, develop to the point where it takes libraries of volumes to contain them, and everyone, at some point, becomes a rule breaker. When rules get out of control, they limit and hinder, circumscribe and restrict, regulate and dominate.

It’s the perfect place to draw one’s thoughts — Art Paper 1 junk journal by Trudy Love Tantalo.

Artist Trudy Love Tantalo discovered this foray into philosophy by, of all things, creating “junk journals,” handmade paper books embellished with additions like lace, fabric, ribbons, even discarded cereal boxes. It was an epiphany.

Initially, the Des Moines, WA, creative “jumped onto the scrapbooking bandwagon” because of her fascination for papers and design. But she found that the emphasis on getting the pages perfect, the unwritten rule of scrapbooking, was stressful.

The Rules of Perfection

She encountered a similar sense of stress upon receiving an especially beautifully bound journal as a gift, after years of using whatever notebook she had on hand. A lifetime lover of journals to record her day or feelings, Love Tantalo noticed an unusual change in her behavior when she used the gifted journal: instead of writing in pen, as she usually would, she used pencil, in case she made a “mistake” and ruined the perfection of the page. Journaling, like creating scrapbook pages, was no longer fun because the emphasis was on perfection, not creativity.

Bird Neighbors junk no rules journal birding trudy love tantalo

For the birder, or someone who loves birds — Bird Neighbors journal by Trudy Love Tantalo

And then she discovered junk journals.

“I happened upon them on Pinterest — the uniqueness and creativity really appealed to me. And the fact that you didn’t necessarily need a lot of fancy supplies or papers fit perfectly with my innate frugality and desire to ‘upcycle’ as much as possible.

“This finally fit the bill for me.

“There were no rules!”

Freedom from Rules

The finding of junk journals released a sense of creativity that Love Tantalo didn’t know she had. She quickly put together her first two journals, choosing folded-over cereal box as covers and incorporating a variety of papers.  One she used as a travel journal on her trip to Europe, filling it with brochures and postcards, tickets stubs and packaging, thoughts for the day. And . . .

java junk journal gift diaray trudy love tantalo

JAVA — coffee comes in all flavors and styles, with no rules to limit its style. Handcrafted junk journal by Trudy Love Tantalo.

“I threw caution to the wind and used a pen to write with!”

Junk journals, to Love Tantalo, perfectly fit her desire to create, her interest in journaling, and the challenge of using items that might ordinarily be thrown away. These were interests, she realized, that other people had as well. She turned a second bedroom into her studio, filled it “to the rafters” with a variety of papers and all manner of upcycled items (“AKA ‘junk'”), and got to a most pleasurable and productive work.

“My biggest problem is becoming overwhelmed with all my ideas and possibilities,” she says.

Lots of Space for Writing and Drawing

“Because I am a journaler and use my own creations, I always make sure there is plenty of writing space in each one, although I want to make it fun and interesting to look at and use, too.”

Junk journals, like the precious people who use them, are unique, Love Tantalo says, and there is no one way, no incontrovertible series of rules, to use them. Some people use them as diaries, others as doodle spots. Some draw in them. Others write quotes, list what they’re grateful for, tuck in mementos, pen prayers, fashion collage.

Or do it all.

Because, after all . . . there are no rules.

Wenaha GalleryTrudy Love Tantalo is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from August 11 through September 4, 2020.

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.

moccasin lake evening landscape photography bill rodgers

Landscape Magic — the Photography of Bill Rodgers

moccasin lake evening landscape photography bill rodgers

For Bill Rodgers, photography is all about capturing the mood, the moment, the emotion of the landscape. Moccasin Lake Eve, fine art photography by Bill Rodgers.

Because we are all incredibly unique human beings, we gravitate toward interests that fit our distinctive abilities. It is for this reason that not everyone is a mathematician, or a writer, or a mechanic.

And it is the reason that Bill Rodgers, of Waitsburg, is a photographer as opposed to a painter.

“For as long as I can remember, I have always loved landscapes,” Rodgers says.

wallouse palouse landscape spring winter snow bill rodgers photography

On a cloudy day, the transition of winter into spring adds an element of delightful drama to the landscape. Snow Drifts, fine art photography by Bill Rodgers.

“I originally wanted to be a landscape painter until I realized that I would probably starve for a very long time.

“My eyes and hands have never communicated well, and after a few college painting classes I realized that I was not going to be able to paint the kind of landscape I wanted to paint.”

But Rodgers is an imaginative, creative man, and he was not satisfied with not being able to do what he set his mind upon doing. When, 51 years ago, he received his first “real” camera, a 35mm Mamiya DTL 1000, Rodgers began a lifetime journey of fulfilling his goal with landscapes.

Being in, Moving through, the Landscape

“I like being in landscapes, moving through them, looking at them,” he says. His images, he adds, are a playground for the eyes and mind of the viewer.

old grain elevator country landscape rural farm bill rodgers photography

An old grain elevator stands sentinel in a timeless rural landscape. Old Grain Elevator, fine art photography by Bill Rodgers.

Many of his fine art photography pieces focus on the landscapes within a 30-mile radius of his Waitsburg studio, a region he has dubbed “The Wallouse,” to distinguish it from the rolling hills of the nearby Palouse. And while he loves the Palouse (he grew up in Spokane), he finds the landscapes of the Wallouse to be subtly distinctive. Traveling along remote, gravel roads, he teases out emotional impact through the composition of his images, instead of heavily relying upon subject matter.

His goal as an artist, he says, is to take beautiful photographs. This differs from just taking pictures of things, or worse, depending upon familiar landmarks to carry the day.

“I know the ‘great places to photograph,’ and religiously avoid them because they have been photographed to death.”

Stonecipher Trees forest bill rodgers photography

Just the right amount of mist creates the perfect feeling. Stonecipher Trees, fine art photography by Bill Rodgers.

Rodgers’ photos reside in the homes of collectors throughout the country, and a number have been used in brochures and periodicals published by the Blue Mountain Land Trust, a conservation group that focuses on the scenic, natural, and working lands of 11 Washington and Oregon counties. The Trust’s coffee table books of the Blue Mountain region include many of Rodgers’ works. He is presently compiling and editing Volume 5, which will feature landscapes in the Trust’s eight-county John Day service area.

The Waitsburg School of Landscape Photography

A retired geologist, Rodgers turned to full-time photography in 2012. Part of this second career includes teaching at his Waitsburg School of Landscape Photography, where he leads regular workshops.

“The focus of the WSLP workshops is not technical. It is more about learning to find beauty in the mundane. I also teach my students to look for compositions — not things — to photograph. For me, it is the composition that makes a strong image — not the subject.”

He is always looking for what he calls a Magnificent Image. Rodgers defines this as a two-dimensional image in which all the elements of composition and content work perfectly to create a sublime whole that compels the eye to return and linger again and again. If he makes any statement with his art, this is it:

“My statement is, ‘Isn’t this a just a gorgeous landscape? I was privileged to be there at that time.’

“Enjoy.”

 

Wenaha GalleryBill Rodgers is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from July 28 through August 21, 2020.

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.

Turning Point

Freedom Requires Thinking, and Art Inspires Thinking

indian indigenous native american turning point steve henderson painting

It is the early 20th century, and a Native American woman stops from her daily work and looks back. What does she see? Turning Point, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, exploring the concept of human dignity and freedom

Art takes us places.

I know, this sounds like one of those “branding” statements corporate marketing experts encourage small, independently owned businesses to come up with, as if it will magically make them as big as the big guys.

“Create a catchy slogan, an easy to remember statement that customers will associate with you. Brand yourself.”

sunset fire stephen lyman beach campfire humanity freedom

Humans love warmth and laughter; when we are together, a fire of friendship burns in our souls. Sunset Fire by Stephen Lyman.

Branding, to me, is what ranchers do to livestock. It sounds rather painful, actually.

But back to the statement, “Art takes us places.” I say this because I mean it.

Art — good art, well executed art, art with a sense of freedom created by an artist who has spent thousands of hours honing skills and is able to convey emotion through pigment on a two-dimensional surface like canvas — takes us places.

Freedom to Not Match the Rug

Now not all art fits this definition, an upsetting concept for some because for years we’ve been taught that just about anything is art, and anybody can do it. To say otherwise is to be offensive. That’s a topic for another essay. But logic tells us that art created primarily to coordinate with the rug on your floor, a concept long propounded by corporate media voices in the design industry, isn’t necessarily going to take you anyplace deeper than your rug.

horshoes family game friends together freedom dave barnhouse

The simple things, the uncomplicated times together — these are the treasures of life. Pitchin for a Double Ringer by Dave Barnhouse

The art I am talking about, the art that takes you places, is representational art — art that shows a recognizable place or person, art that we can look at and say, “That’s a meadow,” or, “There’s a woman standing by the lake.” This art, because it represents a scene that our eyes and minds can readily grasp, has the power to take us to that place.

Again, for years, we’ve been told that this type of art is a lesser art, and art has “evolved” into something greater and more profound, the further away it is jerked from representationalism. True art, we’re told, is edgy, it “makes a statement,” it shocks and offends, or, if not that, it is so deep and esoteric that it takes great insight and intelligence to understand it. The people who say, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what like,” are laughed at, scorned, derided.

Freedom: “I know what I like, and I like beauty”

But those people, the ones who know what they like, have a point. After all, it is their home in which the art will be placed, their eyes who will see it, their hearts who are touched by what they see. Perhaps it is a wilderness scene, deep in the mountains, and when they look at it they are transported, mentally, to a place of deep quiet and beauty.

Or maybe it is an image of a child in a garden, and when they step into the room and see it, they are taken back to their own childhood days. “Things were so simple and pure then,” they muse. “Innocence lost? I’d like to recapture it.”

mother child beach coast ocean surf freedom

Artwork invites us into a world of goodness and honesty, and reminds us that such things do, indeed, exist. Lil Dipper by Thomas Sierak

For others, it’s a seascape. “I’d like to be there,” the viewer sighs. “The sea is so beautiful, timeless, majestic. There’s a sense of freedom. There’s no chatter, no push, no constant talking AT me.”

Art Talks to Us, Not AT Us

An artwork on the wall is quiet, waiting for us to be quiet as well. As we look at the image, allowing our eyes to gently rest upon its elements, our mind calms at the same time it opens up to our creativity, our ability to mediate, our need to question and analyze and wonder.

In other words, the artwork on the wall gives us time and scope and opportunity to think, and to think deeply. It holds a unique place in the world of thinking: good literature stimulates; honestly researched non-fiction informs; a well-acted play gives food for thought, but a painting, a picture — that, indeed, is worth a thousand words. And those words stem from our own mind, our own thinking, as opposed to the words of others.

In comparison to talk shows, “news” reports, political analysis, pop entertainment, social media — there is no comparison.

Art Takes Us Places Worth Being

Art takes us places because it takes our mind places, and when our mind goes places, when it is free to contemplate and question, to wonder and analyze, to ponder and deliberate and ruminate, then we, as a people, remain free. People who think deeply and often are not easily fooled.

Art takes us places.

Stay thinking. Stay free.

Wenaha GalleryAs of March 24, 2020, Wenaha Gallery is one of thousands of independently owned businesses deemed “non-essential” by the governor of the State of Washington. Our physical premises are mandated closed for an unknown period of time determined by the governor. Our Art Events, therefore, are suspended until we are given permission to reopen. We ask that you give your support to the small businesses with your encouragement and dollars. We are available online 24/7 at wenaha.com, and carry an extensive selection of original art, art prints, and gifts. Our gallery associates are available to take online orders, answer emails and phone messages, and communicate with you via phone, email, or social media.

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 during normal times 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.

 

candy nuts toffee chocolate mama monacelli gift basket

Candy Is Dandy — Artisan Sweets by Mama Monacelli

candy nuts toffee chocolate mama monacelli gift basket

From sweet candy treats to savory nut snacks, Mama Monacelli says, “Eat caro, cara, eat!”

It’s no secret that most people don’t like to see photos of themselves. (Especially candid ones!)

But most people do not have the unique situation that Nancy Monacelli has. The Walla Walla candy maker, who creates artisan toffees, brittles, chocolates, and snacks, needed an image for her packaging logo, and, in her own words,

english toffee candy chocolate mama monacelli

The English Toffee candy that started the flunking of Mama Monacelli’s retirement.

“I couldn’t abide the thought of looking at my own face all day.”

So, she and her graphic designer put their heads together, and went looking for a suitable face.

“I told him I wanted an older, Italian-looking, ‘How you gonna get a wife; you’re so skinny,’ kind of woman,” Monacelli recalls.

“He found a public domain image and said he thought he had just the thing if I didn’t mind being associated with a perfect stranger. I told him, if she was perfect, what more could I want?”

It Started out as Christmas Candy

So Nancy, as she is packaging up her many handcrafted treats for sale, does not have to face her face. And she can focus on what she really gets excited about: making candy using recipes that she has developed over decades.

“Basically, my business started as ‘the Christmas candy,” Monacelli explains.

“For years, I made baskets for family, friends, and co-workers, as well as to take to gatherings to donate to events. My kids told me for decades that I should ‘sell this stuff,’ so I finally listened to them.”

chocolate candy bark flavored sweet snack mama monacelli

Nine flavors and counting: Mama Monacelli works on new candy innovations in the winter

At the time, Monacelli was winding down a 30-plus-year career in general manufacturing, manufacturing software, and consulting, and she thought that candy making would be a pleasant diversion for her upcoming retirement. In 2017, less than four months after she made this decision, she was not only licensed and running, but well beyond the dabbling or hobby stage. She found herself with a business that was taking on a life — and a very robust and growing one — of its own.

“Basically,” Monacelli wryly observes, “I flunked retirement.”

Expanding Offerings

Now, Monacelli spends her days at the Blue Mountain Station in Dayton, where she operates a commercial kitchen in back and retail store in front. Fridays and Saturdays from spring through fall, while husband Richard minds the candy shop, Nancy heads to the Walla Walla and Richland Farmers Markets. In the winter, she focuses on new product development. This is an endeavor that not only stretches creativity, but the waistband as well.

bobpop candy snack popcorn mama monacelli

Bob the family dog was instrumental in the naming — and the research and development — of Monacelli’s candy popcorn treat, BobPop

“I generally do new product development in the first quarter of the year, when things are slower, so I tend to gain weight after the holidays, unlike most folks,” Monacelli says.

“There is a fair amount of trial and error, as you might guess, and my family are my guinea pigs. They really like the batches that I declare to be failures!”

Through the years, Monacelli has developed an array of flavors, building upon the signature English toffee candy that led to her initial flunking of retirement. She has added to that Maple toffee, nine flavors of chocolate barks; two brittles; seven “enhanced” almond snacks, and BobPop, a sweet and salty popcorn treat, “with a zing.”

Bob the Dog and Candy Tasting

“For the popcorn snack, I did the R&D in my home kitchen and our dog, Bob, was the preferred guinea pig — he really likes the stuff. So, around the house, we started referring to it as BobPop.

“When I was satisfied with the recipe and ready to go into production, we tried and tried to come up with another name. Failing, we just left it at BobPop, the only product that is named after a pet!”

With each of her candy and snack products, Monacelli is adamant that the ingredients be “real.”

Keeping that in mind, she seeks out the best she can find, locally when she can. There are no artificial flavorings or ingredients.

“The decision to use real, high quality, fresh ingredients is consistent with our approach to food and life,” Monacelli says. “Our chocolates are dairy and soy free; all of our products are gluten free. We are very careful in our sourcing, and sensitive to dietary issues.”

nancy mama monacelli snack maker dayton wa

Look closely, and you can see what Mama Monacelli really looks like

In addition to selling her artisan candies through her retail site and the Farmers Markets, Monacelli offers her products at specialty shops from Chelan to Glacier National Park. She has participated in the Prosser Balloon Festival and Walla Walla Fairgrounds Enchanted Christmas Market, and looks to keep expanding, just . . . not the waistline.

The Woman Behind the Face

So — what does Nancy, Mama Monacelli, really look like? That’s a mystery that is best solved when you meet her in person. But even if she doesn’t look like the woman on the package, she is, most definitely, Mama.

“The name was my daughter’s idea.

“I have five children, four step-children, a foster daughter, countless ‘spares,’ and now their children (12 and counting). So the ‘Mama’ moniker has been well used.”

Maybe, just maybe, Mama didn’t flunk retirement after all.

Wenaha GalleryMama Monacelli’s Candy is the featured  Art Event from January 27 through February 22 at Wenaha Gallery. A large selection of chocolates, toffees, and BobPop, will be at the gallery. Samples will be available.

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.

cabin country landscape view road mary soper acrylic art

Road of Life –The Acrylic Paintings of Mary Soper

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An old road, that once used to be a new path, surrounds a country cabin. Cabin with a View, original acrylic painting by Mary Soper.

Life isn’t static. We may start out on one road, heading to a particular destination, and by the time we’ve lived for awhile — say, 90 years — discover that we have been to all sorts of unexpected places.

Such has been the journey for Mary Soper, who spent 23 years teaching art in the Prescott (WA) School District and Pioneer Middle School (then junior high) in Walla Walla, and finishing out as the head of the art department of Garrison Middle School (then also called junior high).

country barn wheat field landscape mary soper acrylic painting

The road leading to it is covered by wheat, but the memories remain. Barn in the Blues, original acrylic painting by Mary Soper.

But a bit prior to that, she competed in the Miss Washington Pageant, as Miss Grays Harbor, in 1949. That gave her scholarship money to attend the University of Washington where she enrolled as a drama major, quickly switching to business and interior design when she discovered that while the world of theater was beautiful, it was not her world. She subsequently worked as office manager of a furniture store, at a telephone company, as payroll clerk at a milling company, then accountant and secretary to the Walla Walla County Engineer.

A Change of Road Direction

After 11 years at the last job, she decided it was time for a change — a big change. She returned to school for her teaching certificate in art and history. This particular path twist brought fine art seriously into her life.

“I started painting a little while I was teaching,” Soper recalls. “The kids I worked with were so creative that it made me want to explore more.

“I read somewhere, ‘We begin to learn when we begin to teach,’ and this is so true, at least for me.”

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A trusty old pick-up rests in a field, possibly in an abandoned, overgrown road. Old Blue, original acrylic painting by Mary Soper.

She discovered acrylic painting, a medium she connected to immediately upon studying under a visiting professor from the University of New Mexico. Later, she traveled to the United Kingdom for a six-week study abroad program entitled, “Design Resources from London.” Returning with hundreds of reference slides, she embarked upon painting in earnest, never running out of ideas because, when she wasn’t working on a scene from London, she looked around the Pacific Northwest and found continuous inspiration.

“With the collection of photos I have, it is never difficult to decide what I want to paint. It is more difficult to determine which one I want to do next.

“When I start working on a painting, it will often suggest another one, so I guess you could say I work within a theme.”

On the Road to Creativity

Through the years, Soper exhibited her work extensively throughout the Walla Walla Valley, especially at the Carnegie Art Center when it was still extant as an exhibition venue. She has also shown at the Russell Creek Winery, Walla Walla Little Theater, Darrah’s Decorator Center,  Williams Team Homes Realtors, and the Walla Walla Country Club.

Working out of her studio in an insulated garage (“When my little heater can’t keep it warm enough, I put down a tarp in my den and that takes me through the cold weather”), Soper describes herself as both a realist and a perfectionist. She loves old buildings and landscapes, often trying to visualize the people who, in the past, inhabited the space, visited it, or wandered through.

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Stopped on the road in front of an old, abandoned stone building, a wagon invites the viewer to stop as well. 1812 Trading Post, original acrylic painting by Mary Soper

“When I saw an old blue pickup in the bushes beside the road, I started wondering, where has it been and what was it used for? Did children or pets ride in the bed of the truck?

“An old combine made me think of how hard it had to work in the sun. Why was it left where it was?”

Commissioned to Paint

Many of her paintings start as commissions for people who have seen her work. With these, the story of the person commissioning is as intriguing as the pieces they commission.

“My painting, Music in Park — a painting of the park bandstand — was purchased by a mother for her daughter in California. She bought it because her daughter swung on the low hanging branch of the Plane Tree when she was a child.”

Old Oasis Barn found a corporate purchaser at the former Frontier Savings & Loan. Harvest made its way to the Senior Center. The Old Wallula Shack was commissioned by a woman, originally from New Zealand, who wanted a color painting from an old black and white photo.

Continuing on the Journey’s Road

“I think viewers look at my work and it tells a story to them based on their experiences,” Soper says.

“I really enjoy creating something that the people who commission it love.”

For a while, Soper took a break from painting, but she is back at it, inspired ironically by an element associated with this article.

“When I started reading the articles Carolyn (Henderson) writes in the Marquee, I thought maybe I should start painting a little more, even though I am in advancing years.”

And so she continues on her journey . . .

Wenaha GalleryMary Soper is the featured  Art Event from January 13 through February 8 at Wenaha Gallery.

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

cats felines animals box braldt bralds

Give Differently, and Conquer the January Blues

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When it comes to giving, why box ourselves to a certain way of thinking? Six Pack, art print by Braldt Bralds

After the hustle and bustle and giving of the holidays, January can seem like a bleak month.

The presents are all unwrapped, some already exchanged. New Year’s Resolutions have been dutifully made with subsequent feelings of failure to come. April 15 is closer than it was last month, and the credit card bills will soon arrive.

Yep. It’s bleak.

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Every season, every month, has its moment of beauty and goodness — even January. Sleigh Ride at Apple Creek, fine art edition print by William Phillips

But it doesn’t have to be. The same feelings of joy that stem from giving and that we experienced short weeks ago, don’t have to end because the holiday hype has. And money isn’t a factor: we can give five incredible gifts year round without having to spend a cent. As an added bonus, these gifts don’t even require time. Just effort.

And because gifts are never obligatory, we don’t HAVE to do these five acts of grace. In the spirit of experimentation, however, it’s worth considering giving them a try. So . . . let’s brighten up January (and February, and beyond) by giving five things we can’t tuck inside a box:

Graceful Giving

1) Give the benefit of the doubt. We all know someone who’s chronically late, or never pays their portion of the bill, or makes promises they don’t keep. And they are irritating. But the next time irritating happens, instead of thinking,  “They did it again! I’m so TIRED of them,” we have the option to gently muse, “Hmm. Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about. Maybe there are hidden circumstances in their life or their background (of course there are!) that are a factor in why they do this.”

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Listening is a skill that is a valuable as speaking. Indian Stories, fine art edition print by Morgan Weistling

Obviously, we don’t want to be walked over (in our society, that’s as bad as looking uncool), but we also don’t want to box people in. It’s always worth remembering that, if we have nine pieces of information out of 10 (and we usually don’t have that many), we’re missing the whole story.

2) Give it a miss. The next time we’re in a conversation, and we think up something incredibly witty that plays upon what someone just said, let’s skip saying it. Just this once, we can opt to not to be funny or amusing or witty. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being funny or amusing or witty, but — more times than we like to think — humor is at the expense of someone else. It’s not that we’ll never ever ever in our whole life make a joke again. Just this one time.

Listening Is a Gift

3) Give an ear. Genuinely listening to another person is incredibly difficult. We frequently want to add our own thoughts, give advice, or persuade them to our way of thinking. The first element is part of making conversation, the second is worth providing only when asked for, the third can easily be dispensed with. Cultivating the ability to listen is a skill that requires daily practice.

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Our heart speaks all the time, but if we don’t take time to listen, we won’t hear. To Search Within, fine art edition print by Steve Hanks.

4) Pass it on. (Yes, this is a deliberate decision to not start the sentence with “Give.” Why be predictable all the time?) All of us have items in our home that we have received good use from, but no longer need. It’s tempting to think, “This is in great shape: I could sell it for half the new price and make a little fun money.” Who can’t use a little more fun money? But then again, there are people who could really use the item we no longer need, but don’t have the money — fun or not — to buy it. Try this: ask God (or, if you’re not on speaking terms with Him, the general universe), “Do you know anyone who could use this?” and see what happens.

When We Give, We Receive Beauty

5) Give it a try. We are well trained to put ourselves, and our efforts, down. Our feet are too big, our dreams outlandish, our finances meager, our skills insufficient, our personality the wrong type, to make a difference. Bosh. If you’re used to analyzing your way through everything, ensuring that it is sensible, scientific, reasonable, or profitable enough to work, let your heart speak over your brain now and then and see what it says.

Yes, one small act of kindness makes a difference: one smile, one word of encouragement, one can of soup to the food bank, one biting back a retort, one package of toilet paper to the homeless shelter, one dollar, one letter, one hour, one idea.

The best thing about any one of these five gifts of grace is that, not only do they make a difference in the world around us, the make a change in us ourselves. And that’s a gift worth treasuring.

Wenaha GalleryThe Annual Canned Food Drive is the Art Event through January 31, 2020 at Wenaha Gallery. For every canned food item brought into the gallery through January 31, the giver receives $2 off their next custom framing order, up to 20% off total. All proceeds benefit the Dayton Community Food Bank.

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.

quiet country photography landscape barn luann ostergaard

Country Landscapes — Peaceful, Serene, & Timeless

quiet country photography landscape barn luann ostergaard

Quiet Country, mixed media by LuAnn Ostergaard

Country living.

It’s the subject of numerous songs, books, home improvement shows, stories, jokes, and even Facebook groups.

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Red Vineyard near the River II, original oil country landscape by Walla Walla artist Todd Telander

Whether it’s better to live in the country or the city is a debate that’s been going on at least since the sixth century B.C., when the former slave and storyteller Aesop related the tale of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse. His conclusion? It’s better to live with little (in the country) and be content, than live with much (in the city) and exist in fear.

A couple millennia later, 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde quipped, “Anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there,” reflecting the age-old argument that life in the country is boring, and there is nothing to do but milk cows and chew on pieces of straw.

Really, there doesn’t have to be contention. As 20th century author Louise Dickinson Rich, known for her fiction and non-fiction works on New England, put it,

“I think, probably, whether you’re better off in the country or in the city depends, in the final analysis, on where you’d rather be. You’re best off where you’re the happiest.”

Country Is Their Happy Place

For many of the regional artists at Wenaha Gallery, their happy place is the country, and they find themselves painting or photographing it in all its seasons and moods.

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Storm Maiden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, capturing the wilderness country landscape of the Southwest

Walla Walla painter Todd Telander, who loves the open space, agriculture, and mountains of the region, finds an astounding amount of visual interest in the country landscape. He focuses on this through his representational paintings, which are strongly imbued with impressionism.

“If my art makes a statement, it is up to the viewer to decide,” Telander says. “But for me I promote peace, contemplation, beauty, and solidity, and I suppose I like to share my vision of these things with others.”

Peace, contemplation, and beauty are also major factors in the art created by Steve Henderson, the Dayton painter who often incorporates people, especially women, in remote, wild landscapes and coastal scenes.

“I grew up in the country, and live now in the country, and it is part of who I am,” Henderson says. “It is my goal with every painting to create a place that the viewer will want to step into, a place of beauty and goodness where there is quiet and space. We need this quiet and space in order to deeply think.”

Out in the Open Country

Jim McNamara, a Walla Walla artist who prefers to paint en plein aire, or out in the open, agrees.

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The Blues, country wilderness landscape, original oil painting by Jim McNamara

“I believe the natural world deserves being looked at intensely and wordlessly,” he says. Some of McNamara’s favorite painting experiences involve donning a backpack, hiking to remote wilderness areas, and setting up his easel for an afternoon of concentrated, but pleasurable, work.

In this penchant for truly being outdoors — literally out in the country — he is joined by pastel and oil painter Bonnie Griffith, a former Walla Wallan who has relocated near Boise, ID. Griffith loves to paint outside in the natural light of the outdoors, and, like Henderson, seeks to create a place where viewers will want to stop, and stay, and be.

“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.”

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Living on the Land, original country landscape painting by Bonnie Griffith

Another Wenaha artist, LuAnn Ostergaard of Kennewick, finds and interprets her landscapes in an unusual, but highly effective way. Ostergaard haunts scrapyards, where she photographs the rust and patina of old cars and broken down appliances. She uses these images as the backdrop for landscapes which she then digitally creates with photo editing software.

“I feel a bit of an alchemist as I transform an image of scrapyard castoffs to a thing of beauty that resonates with harmony and balance.”

Unique Styles Capturing a Unique Place

The style of each of the artists is different, ranging from abstract to impressionist to representational; their mediums span from charcoal to oil, from acrylic to digital, but their love for their subject matter harmonizes in a manner best expressed by another artist who also extolled the country, Claude Monet:

“I’m enjoying the most perfect tranquility, free from all worries, and in consequence would like to stay this way forever, in a peaceful corner of the countryside like this.”

Or, as 18th century poet William Cowper so succinctly observed,

“God made the country, and man made the town.”

Wenaha GalleryCountry Landscapes, featuring the work of multiple Wenaha Gallery artists, is the Art Event from Monday, December 16 through Saturday, January 11. Featured artists are Nancy Richter, Steve Henderson, Jordan Henderson, Bonnie Griffith, LuAnn Ostergaard, Jim McNamara, Todd Telander and Gordy Edberg.

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.