Cowboy on horse roping calf by Sonya Glaus

Fish and Chips and Horses and Cows — The Oil Painting of Sonya Glaus

Cowboy on horse roping calf by Sonya Glaus

Roping, original oil painting by Sonya Glaus

Fish and Chips. Bogie and Bacall. Two-year-olds and Tantrums.

Some things just go together, irretrievably linked in our minds, and when we see one, we think of the other. So it is, for oil painter Sonya Glaus, with horses and cows, three words that blend into one when she speaks them.

Cattle Fording river stream original oil painting by Sonya Glaus

Cattle Fording, original oil painting by Sonya Glaus

“I grew up on huckleberries and horses, and spent many summer days riding the logging trails and hills around my Montana home,” the Waitsburg artist remembers. “My love of all things western is rooted in that childhood peppered with days spent on horseback out of range of humanity, and the natural draw toward the enduring combination of horse and cow.”

Upon moving from Missoula eight years ago, Glaus and her family immersed themselves in the horse races of the Walla Walla, Waitsburg, and Dayton areas. And while the bad news for Glaus is that the regional horse races no longer take place, the good news is that she has numerous photo references of the action. Inspired by the works of Sargent and Sorolla, as well as contemporary painters Richard Schmid and Carolyn Anderson, Glaus pushes color and texture to capture the sense of dynamic motion, focusing on the variations of light that make each image unique.

Girl sitting in chair with a red umbrella original oil painting by Sonya Glaus

Girl with a Red Umbrella by Sonya Glaus

“It is a constant challenge to get the paint to represent the amazing color that you see in real life,” Glaus says. “I do love color, and usually find that I like the bold color on a subject that morning and evening light accentuates.”

Ironically, Glaus began her art career in black and white, her earliest memories involving a pad of paper, some charcoal, and a campfire around which people sat, and Glaus sketched. The distinct shape and shadows cast by firelight captivated the young girl, and her fascination for light, perspective, and rendering began early.

“I think my early limitations to black and white rendering actually created a strength in drawing,” Glaus says. “I had a professor who was fond of saying that you can get the color wrong and make it work, but you can’t get away with poor drawing. Our eyes immediately recognize when something — especially people — is shaped wrong, but not necessarily when the color is a bit off.”

Racing man on horse at tracks original oil painting by Sonya Glaus

Racing, original oil painting by Sonya Glaus

Focusing on whatever she finds to be interesting or beautiful, Glaus divides her creative time between outdoor plein air and indoor studio work, although a “wild schedule” of raising kids, working, keeping the laundry under nominal control and a menagerie of animals fed, limits plein air. Add to this that her love for action is divided as well — between painting it, and doing it — requiring the constant demand that she make a choice.

“The last time we went to cow camp, I packed painting supplies and my camera, determined that I was going to let my girls ride and I WAS going to paint and take photo references.

“Well, they started sorting cow/calf pairs, and my resolve lasted all of about 30 minutes before I was compelled to snag a horse and start sorting.”

Mountains trees and fields original oil painting by Sonya Glaus

Mountains and Fields, original oil painting by Sonya Glaus

The next day’s choice was between painting and swimming in the creek.

“Getting into the zone for me requires being alone and not having anything else on my mind that I should or could be doing,” Glaus explains, adding that, while what is going on around her can be distracting, where she paints really isn’t an issue.

“The smallest studio I painted in was in a converted garage apartment. I added lights to the tiny broom closet it had, about 3 feet by 5 feet, just big enough to keep an easel and palette table in, with my chair outside the room and room to step back.

“I painted some good stuff in there!”

By comparison,  her present painting space — a room in her house — is palatial.

With a background in children’s book illustration, Glaus has sold her paintings in various galleries in Montana, as well as undertaken commissioned portraiture for individual clients. With no deep ulterior motives or messages to her art, the painter describes her goals as “pretty simple.”

“I hope that my paintings are enjoyed in whatever form that simplicity takes, whether it is an appreciation of the subject, the patterns of light, enhancement of a space, or some contribution to a general sense of peace and enjoyment.”

Wenaha GallerySonya Glaus is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, November 21 through Saturday, December 17. She will be at the gallery Friday, November 25, from 3 to 7 p.m., as part of the Christmas Kickoff Celebration. Joining her will be jewelry artist Lynn Gardner of Sandpoint, ID. Free refreshments will be served.

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

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 the gallery today!

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.