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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.”

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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.”

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

moose wildlife animal western art james reid

Wildlife Wonder — The Western Art of James Reid

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Moose in Early Morning Light, a wildlife moment original oil painting by James Reid.

When wildlife artist James Reid first picked up a brush, it wasn’t to paint an elk or moose. He painted a sign.

“My first year out of high school, I got a job at the PayLess Drug in Pasco (WA) painting signs. When I returned to Walla Walla that spring, I went to work for the PayLess Drug in downtown Walla Walla working in the camera department and painting signs. That was in the early 1960s.”

red fox wildlife resting sleeping james reid painter

This particular fox, Reid says, laid down to nap in Yellowstone Park, out in the open and around a crowd of people. Original oil painting by James Reid.

The Boise, ID, painter, who retired in 2007 after a 42-year career with PayLess in advertising and management, always wanted to be an artist. He started with pin striping cars in high school. Then he went into commercial layout and design. And then he jumped into fine art after taking the Famous Artists Course, which was created by 12 successful commercial artists in the 1948, including Norman Rockwell and Albert Dorne.

“By the time I finished, I was painting Western oil paintings,” Reid says.

Thousands of Wildlife References

He turned to full time painting upon retirement, and works out of a spare bedroom converted into his studio. Using thousands of his own reference photos, he has traveled to Yellowstone, Teton, and Glacier Parks since 1988. He describes the process of getting the references just as satisfying as the painting of them.

That first year to Yellowstone, 1988, set a high bar for all the years to follow:

“It was the year of the Yellowstone fires,” Reid remembers.

“We got there the first day that they reopened the park, and there was wildlife everywhere! The fires had forced them down from the timber and into the open.

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Standing in the sunlight, a bull elk is wary of sound and predators. Cautious Look Back, original oil painting by James Reid.

“We enjoyed that trip so much that we have returned for a week in Yellowstone every year since. That’s 32 years (32 weeks) of studying and photographing wildlife in Yellowstone. We keep returning for the wildlife.

“Every year it’s different, and we never know what we’ll find.”

Used to People

According to Reid, the wildlife in Yellowstone is used to people and not as bothered by “a guy with a camera.” For other areas where the animals are shyer, he relies upon 300, 400, and 500mm lenses to keep his distance. At one time, when Reid used to hunt, he would take his camera with him in his backpack and take advantage of being in the hinterlands.

“My hunting buddies would sometimes make comments when they saw me with my camera out and not my gun. Oh well, I still have all those photos, even if you can’t eat them.”

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Two horses walk gently through the woods in Indian Summer, original oil painting by James Reid.

Reid, who took an art class at Walla Walla High School with David Manual when they were both students, credits the nationally known sculpture artist for encouraging him to foray into the Western Art world. Reid participates in the Out West Art Show and CM Russell Auction, both in Montana, every year, and has also done well at the Ellensburg National Western Art Show (he was chosen poster artist in 2015); the Spirit of the West Show in Cheyenne, WY; (awarded Best of Show); and Paint America Top 100 Show (juror’s award).

Back with the Gems

And lately, since retiring and going into full time wildlife artist mode, he has added another item to his list:

“I’ve taken up guitar again and reunited with the Gems, a popular rock group in Walla Walla in the 1960s.”

Life is full, and busy, and never, ever boring.

“I am forever learning and amazed at new things I learn, almost with each painting.

“I will always be learning and improving technique, design, and skills.”

Wenaha GalleryJames Reid is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from June 29 through July 24, 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.

 

 

 

alstroemeria flower petal flower mo devlin

Stay Inspired: Alstromeria on Petal Confetti by Mo Devlin

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Flowers are a constant source of inspiration and beauty — such creativity it took to make them! Alstromeria on Petal Confetti, art print by Mo Devlin

One of the most terrific things about human beings is that we’re creative.

Oh, and resilient. The two together make a fabulous combination.

Faced with challenges, setbacks, walls, blockages, and barriers, our initial reaction is to become angry and bitter, frustrated and exasperated. Some people stay there. Others descend into depression and despair.

And then there are those who assess the situation, look at their options, and explore them, inspired by the challenge. Regardless of what materials we are given, there is much that can be done with them, if only we put our minds — our fabulous creative, inspired minds — to work.

The artwork, Alstromeria on Petal Confetti by Mo Devlin, shows how much a creative, inspired hand can do with pink, white, a spot of red and purple. The creative hand in this artwork is twofold: there is the First Creative Hand who made the flower, and then there is the artist’s creative hand that captured it in its space of light and shadow, its delicacy of form, its soft breath of elegance. One could say that both creators did a lot with pink, white, a spot of red and purple.

But the most important thing they did with that creativity is that they made something good. Regardless of the materials at hand, they fashioned them into something beautiful, elegant, colorful and . . . good.

Stay Inspired to Create Goodness

Wenaha GalleryThe featured image to this article is Alstromeria on Petal Confetti by Mo Devlin.  You may purchase the print online at this link. We would be absolutely delighted to frame the work for you, working online and by phone — something we have been doing successfully for many years with out out-of-town clients. Email us at Wenaha.com to start the conversation.

More works by Mo Devlin are at this link.

If this post has encouraged you, please pass it on.

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.

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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.”

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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.

 

cabin country landscape view road mary soper acrylic art

Road of Life –The Acrylic Paintings of Mary Soper

cabin country landscape view road mary soper acrylic art

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).

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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.

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Wildlife & Western Living — Paintings by Jan Fontecchio

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A horse finds itself in A Little Bit of Heaven by western and wildlife artist Jan Fontecchio of Moscow, Idaho.

Wildlife Wonder

Parents remember the oddest things about their children. And given that most adults do not recall their toddler years, we accept those memories with a gracious nod. Our own recollections often start later.

“I’ve done art since my first memory,” western and wildlife painter Jan Fontecchio says.

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Rancher, by western and wildlife painter Jan Fontecchio

“My parents say I drew a three-dimensional wedge of cheese when I was three. I don’t remember that, but my book covers at school were covered in sketches. A pencil was always in my hand, and if the teacher didn’t grab my tests quickly enough, there might be a little horse drawn in the corner of the paper.”

When Fontecchio was 10, a family friend who worked as an artist for Disney drew a horse portrait in charcoal for her. The resultant memory of this event stayed in Fontecchio’s mind and affected her life’s future plans: she went to art school.

“I think it took him two minutes or something. That little demo hooked me good!”

Western Upbringing

Raised on a horse ranch in the low deserts of California, Fontecchio spent her growing years immersed in the worlds of western wildlife. While earning a degree in fine art, she worked at California wild animal and big cat rescues, including the Wildlife Way Station, a non-profit sanctuary that for over 43 years housed, cared for and rehabilitated more than 77,000 wild animals; and the Shambala Preserve, which provides sanctuary to wild felines.

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Puma of Parowan Gap, portrait of a cougar by western and wildlife artist Jan Fontecchio

Later, while working in the craftsman department of Six Flags in Los Angeles, Fontecchio — who moved to Moscow, ID, ten years ago — befriended one of the dolphin trainers, who helped her get hired as the trainer’s partner. Every experience added to Fontecchio’s captivation with animals: their form, their thought process, their movement and grace and beauty.

A Fascination with Animals

“I became especially fascinated with the musculature of animals in stressful situations: stalking, fighting, running, etc., and in the case of dolphins, swimming and leaping.”

Fontecchio has explored this world of wildlife in a variety of mediums, beginning with baling wire, which was plentiful on the ranch where she grew up. She has sculpted in wire, clay, and blown glass. A stamped leather cover found itself on a Hollywood movie (“I wish I could remember the name of the movie, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a blockbuster or anything!”), and the first pieces she sold to her first gallery were colored ink on textured board. From there she moved to watercolor, then to pastel, and finally to oil, which she calls her dream medium.

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Summer Pasture, by western and wildlife artist Jan Fontecchio of Moscow, ID

Her studio situation is as eclectic as her experience. As the mother of four children, Fontecchio carves out a working space from what is available:

From Floor, to Washing Machine, to Studio

“I used to paint on the floor, then switched to the top of the washing machine in the laundry room.

“I did that for years until a room opened up when our two oldest moved out.”

While the space is still small (does any artist every consider the studio big enough?), it is Fontecchio’s sanctuary, filled with her collection of skulls, furs, Indian artifacts, cactus skeletons, a vintage can of her dad’s favorite beer, and the skin from the rattlesnake that Fontecchio shot in the barn when she was 15: (“It was coiled, so there are three bullet holes in it”).

Fontecchio is a member of the American Plains Artists, Women Artists of the West, and the Out West Artists. Through the latter, she has participated in Western Art Week in Great Falls, MO, the biggest art show of western and wildlife art in the U.S., revolving around the CM Russell Art Auction. Her art resides in the homes of collectors throughout the nation — including the CEO of Exxon Mobil — as well as from England to South America to Australia, with buyers from the latter especially drawn to her horse paintings. In 2016, her painting, On the Upper Pecos, juried into the prestigious London, UK, show, The Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition. What makes this notable event extra memorable is that it represented the very first time she applied for this particular show.

From Cheese to Western and Wildlife

Whether or not Fontecchio’s first foray into art was a three-dimensional wedge of cheese, her artistic portfolio today revolves around the western lifestyle, and the animals she loves. The subject matter is endless, and the main problem she sees is the lack of time to paint it all.

“I have so many things I want to paint. They’re stacked up in my mind and I’m always working on the comps for new work.

“I’ll never run out of things that I want to bring to life on canvas.

“That’s the reason I’ll live to be 100.”

Wenaha GalleryJan Fontecchio is the Featured Art Event from Monday, October 21, through Saturday, November 16 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.

 

 

 

bear bird wildlife scratchboard aniimals art sandra haynes

Wildlife Woman — The Artwork of Sandra Haynes

bear bird wildlife scratchboard aniimals art sandra haynes

Bear and the Bird, wildlife scratchboard art by Sandra Haynes of Heppner, OR

Wildlife Is a Way of Life for Sandra Haynes

The unusual nature of Sandra Haynes’ childhood is best evidenced by her baby blanket: a bobcat hide from an animal her mother found raiding the family hen house. As a little girl, Haynes’ first pets were domesticated, non-descented skunks (“They were pretty easy-going except in the winter when we left them to their semi-hibernation, undisturbed, as they were usually pretty cranky by then”) and a pet fox that she befriended by standing in a clearing, very still, and proffering biscuits.

By the age of four, she had learned to move slowly, talk softly, and keep her eye contact brief.

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Born Wild, colored pencil on Duralar by wildlife artist Sandra Haynes

“I was raised in Molalla, a timber town on the west side or Oregon,” the wildlife artist says.

“Being around wild animals was just part of my life as Dad and some of his brothers — all woodsmen — spent a lot of time in the heavy timber teaching me everything about the life of its inhabitants.”

Her favorite uncle, a government trapper, frequently brought an unknown animal to Sandra, then about eight. He enjoyed quizzing  her on what it could be and how it would live:

“He would ask me to tell him about it based on its fur color pattern, where it lived in the forest based on its anatomy, what it ate after examining its teeth, jaws, and claws, whether it was nocturnal, and was it likely to live mostly alone or in a group or herd.”

Later, a mountain man friend taught her how to sneak up on herds of 350 cow/calf elk pairs while remaining in their plain sight. Haynes also learned how to climb the sides of a cliff to feed apples to wild Big Horn Sheep rams.

Hunting Wildlife with a Camera

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Foxy Lady, graphite and pan pastel on Duralar by wildlife artist Sandra Haynes

Yes, it was an unusual childhood, and it’s not surprising that Sandra — who started drawing at the age of three — grew into a wildlife artist, capturing deer, elk, bears, cougar, moose and more in oil paint, pastel, graphite, watercolor, and scratchboard. Now residing in Heppner, OR, Haynes travels throughout the Pacific Northwest — especially its most remote spots — to photograph the animals she eventually turns into artwork.

“Hunting wild animals to photograph outside of animal parks is a difficult and far-from-guaranteed adventure, and is the reason why most artists who do their own photo reference gathering go to game parks or farms,” Haynes says, explaining that while she does visit animal parks, a photographer friend and she take the time now and then to go into the wild and do things the hard way. Accompanying them is Zora, Haynes’ Doberman bodyguard who more than once has kept her mistress from harm.

“One time my photographer friend and I were close to a herd of wild horses. We decided to walk to the other side of a pond when much to our surprise, the entire herd of about 12 horses decided to follow us.”

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Fire Cat, by wildlife artist Sandra Haynes

When two especially aggressive stallions sidled too close, Haynes and her friend bent to pick up rocks to chuck when Zora streaked past them and scattered the herd in a rush.

“After that, she went back to her playing without a glance at me or them. She knew she had done her job and did not expect a praise-filled fuss. But that showed me she had what it takes to protect me in any circumstances.”

Jumping into Scratchboard

Haynes’ medium of choice is scratchboard, a technique she first encountered 16 years ago when an artist friend gave her a small board and told her to get something sharp and scratch out an image.

“That was the end of my training.”

She persevered, found she loved the fine, etched lines that brought out details, and went on to enter shows and win awards with her work. A short list of shows includes the Phippen Western Art Show in Prescott, AZ; the Western Heritage Art Show in Great Falls, MT; Montana Charlie Russell Days; the Oldfield Art Show in Puyallup, WA; and the Western Art Show and Auction in Ellensburg, WA.

Haynes is a member of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists, and has published a series of scratchboard instructional books, as well as stories on her adventures as a wildlife artist.

In the Studio or Out in the Wild

It’s hard to tell where she is happiest — in the studio or out in the wild — but in both places she feels very much at home. The child who loved to draw, immersed in the world of wildlife and the woods, has grown into a mountain woman herself, one who shares, through her art and through her wisdom, the beauty of the world she knows.

“Art, to be good, only has to touch you in someway,” Haynes says. “Maybe it reminds you of someplace you have been or would like to be, or it makes you smile.

“For me, creating a piece that makes that connection is what it is all about.”

Wenaha GallerySandra Haynes is the Featured Art Event from Monday, September 23, through Saturday, October 19 at Wenaha Gallery. She will be at the gallery Saturday, October 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a special Autumn Art Show, also featuring bead weaver Alison Oman and Yakima acrylic painter Paul Henderson.

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.

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Plein Air Complexity — Watercolors by Jan Vogtman

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Sundance, plein air watercolor landscape painting by Jan Vogtman

Plein air painters get used to all sorts of weather. Because of the nature of their studio — outside, in the plain air — they operate without a roof over their heads. Unless, of course, they choose to bring one of their own.

“During the Paint du Nord Quick Draw competition in Duluth, MN, we painted in a huge rainstorm,” watercolor artist Jan Vogtman remembers. “The competition lasted two hours, exactly — they blow a horn to start and stop.”

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Bob’s Pond, plein air landscape painting by Jan Vogtman.

Told to paint what she saw, Vogtman took the challenge literally.

“My painting shows all the artists painting around me with colorful umbrellas.”

Another time, the Troy, ID, painter joined three plein air artist friends out in the wilderness, keeping watchful eye as a memorable storm took an hour to build up.

“When the wind and rain came, we huddled in the car, ate lunch, and had a few beers. But the storm had no intention of stopping anytime soon, so we gave it up and went home.”

Even Vogtman’s trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, had its moments. While the weather was grand during the Andy Evansen watercolor workshop she took there with a friend, sunny skies disappeared on the way back.

“We got stranded in Seattle during the Big Blizzard and got home two days later than planned.”

Not Just the Weather

Weather inconsistencies, however, are so much a part of plein air painting that one comes to accept them as constants. So is the issue of travel. Because landscapes do not transport themselves to the artist’s studio, it’s up to the artist to transport herself. And for Vogtman, who lives on Moscow Mountain, four miles from the nearest city of Troy (population 600), getting together with plein air artist friends for an afternoon of painting often involves significant time in the car.

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Exhibit Bee, watercolor painting by Troy, ID, artist Jan Vogtman

“Because I live rural, my travel time is normally one hour each way.”

Vogtman discovered watercolor 24 years ago while working at the University of Idaho. Side by side with students barely out of high school, she took as many university level art classes as she could while maintaining a full work load. Plein air she discovered in 2009, and since then has competed in regional plein air competitions as well as the event in Duluth. She is a member of the Palouse Watercolor Socius, the Idaho Watercolor Society headquartered in Boise, and the Northwest Watercolor Society in Seattle.

All A’s in Art, Not Math

And while art is something she was interested in from a very early age, it was not something she was able to focus on until she was an adult and had a “real career” in the business and academic worlds. That’s just the way things were when she was growing up, even though all her A’s in school were in art, and not math.

Vogtman recalls the time she entered a drawing competition sponsored by the Minneapolis Art Institute in her hometown.

“I was maybe around 12 years old — and when I saw this competition in the newspaper, I entered. I think the amount of the prize was $250, which had to be used for classes.

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Palouse Falls, watercolor painting by Troy, ID, artist Jan Vogtman

“My parents could not afford to send me then or at anytime for art education. I was told I could not collect the award.”

She went to school to become a secretary. In a career spanning 36 years, Vogtman worked up to Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Northern Europe for the Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis, and later, upon moving to Idaho, served as the Coordinator of the Executive Speaker Series, reporting to the Dean of Business and Economics at the University of Idaho. On retiring in 2000, she challenged herself to dive into the art world, returning to the passion of her childhood.

The Hobby That Became a Business

In addition to plein air, Vogtman paints in her studio, a daylight basement of her home where furry forest friends peek through the window and watch. Most recently, she has added teaching workshops to taking them herself, conducting an introductory course for 20 students at the Center for Arts and History in Lewiston, ID. She has had a studio at the Artisan Barn in Uniontown, WA; earned her merit membership with the Idaho Watercolor Society upon being juried into three annual shows; and served as treasurer of the Palouse Watercolor Socius.

What started out as a hobby has become a business. And what’s perfect about that is how the non-art experience blends and melds well with the brush work of paint.

It’s unexpected, and not something that could have been predicted when she exchanged an art scholarship for business school. Life, though, like weather for the plein air painter, is never static. The best stories — and often paintings — involve the stormy days.

Wenaha GalleryJan Vogtman is the Featured Art Event from Monday, July 29, through Saturday, August 24 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.

 

 

 

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Ceramics Dynamics — The Pottery of Kassie Smith

Ceramics Artist Teaches with Passion

By the time she was 17, ceramics artist Kassie Smith was done — absolutely DONE — with school, and wanted nothing to do with college.

So, in one of life’s unique twists, the Moscow, ID, artist found herself completing eight years of higher education, resulting in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Arts from the University of Idaho. She stayed on to work as a ceramics instructor. A short time later, she moved to Washington State University, where she joined the ceramics department there. When she isn’t at WSU, she’s the Dahmen Barn, an artisan instruction and studio co-op in Uniontown, where Smith both teaches and manages the pottery studio.

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Rocket-themed ceramic bowl, bottom view, by Kassie Smith of Moscow, ID

“I realized there was nothing I could do with my life without a degree,” Smith explains, adding that since childhood, she has always wanted to work with clay and glass art. The turning point came when she met an artist at a Baltimore gallery who created an “alcohol reduction” process similar to Raku.

“He took time to explain the process and connect with me, a 17-year-old rebellious creative soul who wanted to completely abandon academia, on a very human level. His passion was evident. After that interaction, I gave up the quest for glass art and focused solely on ceramics.

“I have kept his passion and philosophy, seeking to use my work and research as a way to connect with people, and hopefully spark a similar passion in others.”

Functional — and Beyond Functional — Ceramics Art

One of Smith’s specializations is functional pottery: she creates custom ceramics ware for local restaurants. She also focuses on female empowerment — both as a female entrepreneur and artist serving as a role model for other women, as well as with the specific subject matter she chooses.

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Smiling Teeth Mugs by Kassie Smith of Moscow, ID. The gold tooth in each features real gold.

“The content of my art often has imagery relating to the female body — either with objects that suggest a relationship or forms that allude.

“Most of my work is meant to be introspective, but recently I’ve been getting louder and more bold, getting closer to a ‘statement.'”

Although she has dug and processed her own clay — a process she calls both fun and incredibly labor and time intensive — Smith generally orders a pallet with 1,950 pounds of material. It’s cost effective. It also requires a lot of storage — in both its raw state and in the finished products.

“There’s never enough space,” Smith says, describing one of the many challenges of the ceramics lifestyle.

“Build shelves, fill shelves, need more shelves.”

The Benefit of Challenges

Finding enough space is just one challenge, or as Smith prefers to call it, life benefit. Another challenge/benefit is clay itself, because the material is a never-ending source of wonder. It adds a scientific element to the art that demands constant learning and experimentation.

“Clay is a fickle material, and all clays are different,” Smith says.  “Firing clay is an art form in itself.

“I am a super nerd for glaze chemistry. There is never enough time to run all the experiments I’d like. I could spend the rest of my life on glaze chemistry if I didn’t get tired of wearing a respirator.”

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Rocket-themed pottery mugs in red tones by Kassie Smith

Another challenge involves waiting, something every ceramics artisan spends more time doing than they’d like.

“Waiting for kilns to cool down is challenging. I want to see the things NOW!!!

“Patience . . . ”

Smith has shown her work at the Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts in Joseph, OR, as well as at the Moscow Farmer’s Market, every Saturday from May through October.

She shuttles her work in progress between three studio spaces. One is at WSU, one at her home in Moscow, and a third at the community pottery studio at the Dahmen Barn. Logistical planning for transporting ceramics is a nightmare, she admits.

“And I break things.

“But having three studios keeps me on my toes.”

Clear as Mud

Learning, teaching, researching, experimenting, creating, even the interminable waiting. It’s all part of being a ceramic artist, well worth all the extra schooling it took to get here. Whether in classroom or studio, Smith is where she wants to be, doing exactly what she wants to do.

“There are very few things I’d rather do than be elbows deep in the mud.”

Wenaha GalleryKassie Smith is the Featured Art Event from Monday, July 15, through Saturday, August 10 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.