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

Featherlight Touch — The Wildlife Art of Debra Otterstein

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

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

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

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

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

Calliope Hummer by wildlife artist Debra Otterstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cougar Cub, by Debra Otterstein

Cougar Cub, by Debra Otterstein

“Then I felt guilty.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fractured Terrain, original oil painting, by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

The Unexpectedly Unconventional Square — Showcasing the Landscape Art of Gordy Edberg

Fractured Terrain, original oil painting, by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

Fractured Terrain, original oil painting, by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

In the mid twentieth century, the term “square” was derogatively used to connote a boring traditionalist, one reluctant to take chances or break out of the box in his or her thinking.

For 21st century artist Gordy Edberg, however, square is the new unusual, and the landscapes which he paints in this format are not constrained by what he calls the typical, conventional horizontal format that people have come to expect.

Endless Fields, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

Endless Fields, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

“The square format, with its harmony of shape, is a useful and non-natural approach,” the Whidbey Island artist says.

“By using the square structure, the landscape subject is contained more, and it removes the expected topographical connotations.

“Thus there are segments . . . fragments . . . sections of the landscape and their abstract qualities which are allowed to come forward.”

Edberg, who has been painting since high school 60 years ago, approaches his artwork from the perspective of an architect, a profession he made his central career for 41 years. The combination of the two disciplines results in Edberg’s signature style, one “grounded in realism with a leaning toward impressionism.”

With a principal focus upon the landscape, Edberg says that, although he does not purposely make political statements with his art, he is fascinated by the existing environment, and how it is changed by man’s impact upon it. There are buildings, roads, pathways, patterns, and how they integrate with their surroundings creates and shapes the finished piece. The very nature of lines themselves — an element strongly used in architectural drawing — invites the artist, and his viewers, to explore the realm of abstract within the world of reality.

Basin Hills and Fields, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

Basin Hills and Fields, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

“I look for change occurring, things disappearing, other characteristics of the environment that suggest potential for abstraction expressions,” Edberg explains. And herein that square format intensifies the fluidity of form and shape, emphasizing the transcendental in the midst of physical reality, bringing out the best of each.

“The goal is for the formal subject matter to be seen as a composition, an arrangement of shapes and colors and with aesthetic qualities while still suggesting place,” Edberg says.

While Edberg has painted landscapes from throughout the Pacific Northwest and the west coast, as well as forays into Hawaii, Mexico, Ireland, England, France, Italy, and Greece, it is his Southeastern Washington landscapes that showcase, boldly, the integration of line and form, abstract and reality, outline and shape. Large, illusorily monochromatic fields and agricultural spreads are intersected by roads, power lines, waterways and the patterns of the fields themselves, a balance of both natural and man-made factors.

Power Grid, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

Power Grid, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

Shots of unexpected color, calligraphy, textured paint, and marks and incisions upon the substrate surface enhance the mood and setting of the work, creating a place that is real and identifiable, yet not remotely as a camera would capture it.

“Landscape images and also urbanscape and marinescape images painted in the studio are many times imagined in response to the mood and feel of actual places that I’ve sketched or painted en plein air,” Edberg says. In the spirit of fluidity and freedom, he refers to plein air paintings or onsite sketches for his studio pieces, and does not rely upon the camera.

The goal is to catch the mood, the place, the feeling, because within each landscape, Edberg feels, there is a story, and it is his pleasurable goal to tell that story.

Wheat Road, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

Wheat Road, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

In addition to creating his oil-painted landscapes, Edberg also works in pastels, as well as designs and builds wood furniture. To do as much as he does requires space, and Edberg’s studio in the upper floor of his home is set up with four painting stations, including a wall easel which can accommodate up to six-foot sized paintings. The garage houses his woodworking equipment and tools, and, in addition to furniture making and packaging and shipping of paintings, another important activity takes place there: the cars can still be parked within.

That’s the architect, sharing space creatively with the artist.

A signature member with the Northwest Pastel Society, Edberg has earned awards from both that organization and the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Artists, and he has received Best of Show at the Washington State Convention Center Art Exhibition. His work is housed in both private and corporate collections throughout the U.S., and he maintains paintings in galleries on both the East and West coasts.

The architect may be retired, but the artist is very busy these days.

Wenaha GalleryGordy Edberg is the featured artist at Wenaha Gallery’s Art Event from Monday, May 4 through Saturday, June 13, at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA.

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

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

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

The Artist’s Life, and Wife — A Different Perspective on Fine Art Painter Steve Henderson

The Land of Chief Joseph, original oil painting by Wenaha artist Steve Henderson

The Land of Chief Joseph, original oil painting by Wenaha artist Steve Henderson.

“It must be fascinating, being married to an artist!”

This is one of those less than profound comments one encounters in social situations in which the speaker is really looking for someone else to talk to, but you’re the only one next to a free chair.

Child of Eden, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist, Steve Henderson.

Child of Eden, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist, Steve Henderson.

But yes, since you asked, it is fascinating being married to an artist, and my particular artist, painter Steve Henderson of Dayton, WA, is a man I haven’t completely figured out in 32 years of being together. (Of course, he’s still puzzled about me, and this is a good thing.)

The other day, we were sitting in the river — not just dabbling our feet, but immersing the bottom part of the canvas chairs and everything that was resting upon them, chatting. Steve had spent the afternoon in his renovated barn studio, working on an oil painting teaching DVD, and the river is our air conditioning.

Midway through an observation on the genius of Nikola Tesla and the lack of any serious follow up on his many and varied discoveries in electricity, the man stops.

Most of the time, this means that he has heard or seen an animal — a deer, a dog, a snake, this latter not a comforting thought since these reptiles manage to swim — but  this time it was the river itself.

“That light, reflecting on the water,” he mused.”And the canopy of vegetation. I wonder if I can get  my camera out here without slipping on the rocks?

“Ah, but we were talking about Tesla . . . ”

Three Horses, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery Artist Steve Henderson

Three Horses, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery Artist Steve Henderson

(He did manage to get the photo, and he didn’t slip on the rocks. He has the balance of a mountain goat, the hearing of a deer, and the eye of an eagle which occasionally requires reading glasses.)

In movies and books, artists are unbalanced, eccentric creatures, and the only reason in a murder mystery that they are not the perpetrator is that they are so scatty in their random, disparate thoughts. It’s a wonder that they manage to hold a paintbrush, much less wield it, but given the artwork that they purportedly create on screen, perhaps this isn’t such a surprise after all.

But in the real world, at least in the world I inhabit with Steve Henderson, the artist is an organized, well read, soft spoken, articulate, intelligent man who at any given moment is either digging up potatoes in the garden, taking photos of a model in Dayton’s Boldman house for a future series of 1940s period paintings, mending  a goat fence, dressing up as Santa Claus for one of his holiday works, or reading George Orwell’s 1984.

In the Workshop, original Santa oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Steve Henderson.

In the Workshop, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Steve Henderson.

He hikes to and through the landscapes he paints. He does not mind rain or inclement weather. He eats anything, with gratitude, and he treats every person as if they were equal to one another. His artwork is a fusion blend of representational attention to detail with impressionistic brushwork, and he loves rich color, complex light, and intricate shadow.

What he creates on canvas is the result of years — years — of time behind the easel, experimenting, learning, trying, retrying, and absorbing himself in beauty.

His philosophy of art — and  of  life — is that the world is a rough, cruel place, and it doesn’t need yet another painting about darkness, despair, gloom, hopelessness, discouragement, and muddy, mangled, greyed out colors.

“Hope, peace, joy, goodness — those are part of reality, too,” he says. “And they certainly look better on the living room wall.”

As an ordinary man, one who spent many years in the cubicle business world of commercial illustration, he is committed to getting art in the hands of real, regular people, and to this end he keeps the prices of his original works reasonable, and partners  with his agents to get his works licensed and available at online and retail establishments.

“Art is a necessary component to a well-rounded life,” he says. “Everyone should have an opportunity to own, and enjoy it.”

By choosing to focus on goodness, one is not denying the existence of evil,  he adds. Rather, one is not allowing evil to triumph over good by feeding it, extolling it, concentrating upon it.

“Artists interpret the times,” he says. “And in every historical time you will find children, family, people who love one another, picnicking, reading, walking, daydreaming. You will find trees, mountains, rivers, clouds, deserts, meadows, beaches, and sunsets — and all of these aspects of nature are filled with color and complexity.

“That’s what I paint.”

Steve Henderson  is the featured Art Event Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery, July 13 through August 9, 2014. Come see the exhibit at the gallery’s downtown Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.  Wenaha Gallery

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

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Birds and Antlers and Frogs — Oh My! The Sculpture Art of Ralph Trethewey

miniature pecan antlers by wenaha gallery artist Ralph Trethewey

Though these antlers are much, much smaller than the original from which they are inspired, they retain the accuracy and attention to detail of full size. Pecan Shell Moose by Ralph Trethewey.

Most people think of pecan shells as something to throw away after eating the nut within. For sculptor Ralph Trethewey, however, the material on the outside is far more valuable, and he has carved, quite literally, a career out of those pecan shells. Credited with discovering a form of sculpture unique in the world, the Walla Walla artist creates miniature masterpieces by carving, with rotary power tools and small knives, Lilliputian antlers, which he mounts to small-scale walnut plaques.

“My grandpa raised pecans in Phoenix, AZ,” Trethewey explains. “We would visit there in the winter, and one time when I picked up the shells I noticed the curvature, which is similar to the outer curvature of a mule deer’s antlers. I made a mental connection, and the next step was making the carving.

“It’s kind of nuts, isn’t it?”

Crazy or not, the resulting original and precision works are in the hands of collectors as unique and distinguished as the artworks themselves: Ripley’s Believe it or Not owns a set, as does contemporary Western artist Bev Doolittle.

“I was antler crazy at a young age,” Trethewey says. Raised in the Mojave Desert of California and near the Wasaatch Mountains of Utah, Trethewey grew up listening to the hunting stories of his father, John Trethewey, who once shot a buck with an eight-point rack on one side and twenty on the other.

“Every time I asked him where those antlers were, he simply said, ‘I just left them out in the cedars because we only needed the meat.'”

Trethewey recalls regularly embarrassing his father by asking total strangers where he could find antlers, and while he received some funny looks, he also picked up good tips, following up on them by looking in gas stations, on garages and fence posts, even straining to peek into bars to see antlers.

“It was a healthy addiction for which no support groups existed.”

Perhaps it’s a good thing no support group existed, because the result was that Trethewey directed his energy, and his passion for antlers, to art, cultivating what he considers a God-given talent for woodcarving into a career as a professional artist which he has been pursuing since 1973.

hand carved wood goldfinch sculpture by wenaha gallery artist Ralph Trethewey

Hand carved from wood and hand painted, Goldfinch by Ralph Trethewey meets the strict standards of approval by experts like the wildlife biologists of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“I began carving as a boy and got affirmation for my first efforts,” Trethewey remembers. “I turned to Utah’s aspen trees and would carve deer from these which sold for $25.”

In addition to miniature antlers made from pecan shells, Trethewey carves full sized antlers in wood, which he reproduces in limited edition cast polymer. He also creates original wood carvings of birds and other wildlife, as well as limited edition bronze sculptures. The next time you’re in downtown Walla Walla, walk to the southeast corner of Main and Third Streets to enjoy The Thinker, a whimsical frog based upon the iconic work of Auguste Rodin.

The various homes for Trethewey’s works are as varied and eclectic as the works themselves, and along with municipal public art and a presence at Ripley’s, Trethewey’s creations — from his realistic carved birds to his signature “Wyoming Wonder” World Record Antler sculptures —  have been purchased by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, musician Hank Williams Jr., and former governor of Oregon Barbara Roberts.

Trethewey has received numerous First Place, Best in Show, and People’s Choice awards in various group exhibitions, and he garnered Best of Show at the 17th Annual American National Miniature Show in 1992. His Thinker sculpture received the Walla Walla Architectural Award. To this point, he has produced 47 limited edition sculptures, many of which are sold out.

“The statements I make (with my art) are basically a love of nature and an attempt to duplicate/interpret realistically its beauty,” Trethewey says.

“Life is all about learning. It postpones the onset of Alzheimer’s.

“In summary, I love what I get to do!”

Trethewey’s many and varied artworks are on display at Wenaha Gallery’s Art Event  in his honor, which runs from April 28 – May 17 at the downtown historic gallery, 219 East Main, Dayton, WA. Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery Website: www.wenaha.com

Read more about Art Event, our celebration of Pacific Northwest Artists,  here.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Van Gogh Lives on — the Art of Jeffrey Hill

 

Venice Canal, framed original oil by Jeffrey Hill.

Venice Canal, framed original oil by Jeffrey Hill.

Van Gogh and wine — they’re both so delightfully European somehow. What starts in Europe, however, doesn’t necessarily stay in Europe, and the Walla Walla area finds itself with its own version of  both:

Artist Jeffrey Hill — whose high color, swirling creations in paint earned him the nickname of Vineyard Van Gogh — celebrates the area’s ripening winemaking tradition with paintings, murals, and sculpture. If you’ve walked through the area at all, you have no doubt seen one of Hill’s works, whether it is the emblematic wine grape picker installed in the front of Walla Walla Community College’s Center for Enology and Viticulture or a mural at a winery tasting room.

“I got in on the ground floor chronicling the history of this Valley’s  growth in grapes and wineries,” Hill, a fourth generation Walla Wallan, explains. “I found success with my paintings, murals, illustrations, fabrications, and sculptures in connection with the burgeoning Walla Walla wine industry.”

From Child Prodigy to Adult Master

Success indeed. Hill’s paintings, sculptures, and murals bedeck more than fifteen different wineries in the area. After winning the Washington Artist of the Year Award at the 2001 Washington Wine Festival, Hill was approached about installing his artwork at the WWCC Enology Center in 2003. Two large panel paintings in the foyer and six larger panel paintings in the reception hall  tell the “Vine to Wine” story of winemaking in the Walla Walla area.

“I was a child prodigy in art beginning in my elementary school days,” Hill says. “At Prospect Point Elementary I was allowed to leave during the middle of the day and walk to Walla Walla High School to study art with Edwin Moser, Wa Hi’s art teacher.

The Artist, sculpture by Jeffrey Hill.

The Artist, sculpture by Jeffrey Hill.

“It was this experience that first allowed me to try my hands at sculpture and oil painting.”

Subsequent years, and hard work, led to scholarships to study with Dick Rasmussen, the then-head of the art department at Whitman College, eventually resulting in Hill’s 1978 graduation from Whitman with double majors in Fine Art and Art History. Hill then accepted a position with Sotheby’s, an exclusive auction house in London, UK, where he furthered his fine art studies.

Walla Walla does not give up its homegrown talent easily, however, and after a career in Seattle as an appraiser and fine art dealer, Hill found himself back on the family farm, Forgotten Hills, where he and his wife Kathryn planted a three-acre plot of Merlot.

“We had no idea if this would be successful,” Hill remembers, and while they waited, Hill decided to try his hand at painting the vineyards of the area — their landscapes, their workers, their people. What he created resonated quickly and powerfully with area merchants and residents, and winemaking took a back seat to capturing the process, in paint and bronze.

Hill’s paintings are bold, both in brush technique and color, and he captures a landscape, or an interior, with a sweeping sense of movement and energy. Pure pigments of color demand the viewer’s attention and draw him into the action. Even when the subject matter is still, there is movement.

After a recent trip to Europe, Hill chronicled the experience in oil and acrylic, and four of these paintings, which have never yet been shown, are on display at Wenaha Gallery, Dayton, WA, where Hill is the featured Art Event artist from Monday, April 14 through Saturday, May 3. Also featured will be Hill’s new sculpture, The Artist, in its debut to the public.

“I am very proud and excited that Wenaha will offer this piece for the first time,” Hill says.

The Artist is a culmination of Walla Walla and Whitman themes. Here is the consummate painter in the moment of inspiration, depicting a Walla Walla vineyard scene.

“He paints en plein aire, possibly in the vineyard. He is possibly a Whitman College graduate, possibly a native son.”

A sculpture of a native son, by a native son, radiating a European feeling, in a Pacific Northwest setting. How delightfully Walla Walla.

www.Wenaha.com

Gallery artist at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, WA, Jeffrey Hill is the featured Pacific Northwest artists for Art Event, a three-week showcasing of his works, beginning Monday, April 14, at the gallery. Hill’s Art Event runs through Saturday, May 3.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.  

Read more about Art Event, our celebration of Pacific Northwest Artists,  here.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.