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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.