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Conversation fish james christensen wenaha gallery

Seriously Fantastic — The Art of James Christensen

Waiting Tide Everyman James Christensen Wenaha Gallery

Waiting for the Tide by James Christensen

He was whimsical. He was serious.

He painted religious themes. But his trademark image was a floating or flying fish, often on a leash.

He knew his Shakespeare. And he celebrated his Everyman, too — the podgy, humpback character who represented the imperfections in all of us.

lawyer adequately attired print james christensen wenaha gallery

A Lawyer More Than Adequately Attired by James Christensen

James Christensen, the renowned fantasy artist inspired by the world’s myths, fables, and tales of imagination, left his mark on the art world, and the world in general, during his long and illustrious career of painting “the land a little to the left of reality.” His passing this January from cancer left collectors and lovers of his work saddened and bereft, as expressed by Todd Fulbright of Redmond, WA, who with his wife Jackie owns nearly 20 of Christensen’s art prints and porcelain figures:

“He will be missed by his family — a great father and husband and grandfather. For my own selfish reasons as an admirer of his work, I always looked forward to his next project.

“What a great imagination, and what fun characters he created!”

Among his many fans, Christensen’s creative genius is undisputed, but for those who had the privilege of meeting the artist in person, the experience has added even more dimension, personality, and warmth to their treasured collections.

“James was brilliant in his humor and intellect as it was ever present in his art,” says Dayton resident Lorrie Bensel, who used to gaze at Christensen’s window display at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, and dream about some day buying one of the artist’s prints. Little did she foresee that, not only would she own  a number of those prints, but would also meet Christensen in person, during a time when the artist visited the gallery and Bensel worked there.

Pink Ribbon woman in dress james christensen wenaha gallery

Pink Ribbon by James Christensen

“He made you feel like an old friend even upon a first meeting.”

Lael Loyd, present manager of the gallery, agrees, remembering her first meeting with Christensen in 2005, which was also her very first major artist show.

“I was so nervous!” Loyd recalls. “I stayed late to clean the floors the night before the show while Ed and Pat Harri, the owners of the gallery, went to pick up Christensen and his wife Carole at the Walla Walla Airport.” Loyd’s mind raced with Christensen images, embedded through weeks of preparing for the show, and she dreaded — but still hoped for — the possibility that Christensen would pop by that night.

“Sure enough, he did!

“He walked in and immediately put me at ease. The next day, when he came in for the show, it was like we were old friends.”

Shakespeare world is a stage james christensen wenaha gallery

All the World’s a Stage by James Christensen

A talented but regular guy, as Loyd phrases it, Christensen explained to her that he had worked out a system with his wife, Carole, to “rescue” him from being buttonholed in the corner by enthusiastic fans, an occurrence which was not unusual because he didn’t know how to extricate himself without hurting feelings. When he tugged on his ear, Carole was to come over and move things along.

“At one show, James told me, a person was going into great detail telling about a dream he had, and how the artist should create a painting from this dream. After a few minutes, James tugged on his ear. No Carole.

“He tugged harder. Still no Carole.

“Finally, with both hands, he tugged frantically to catch her attention. He wasn’t sure that she hadn’t seen him the first time, but this gave me insight into his sense of humor, their relationship, and his reliance on her to help all go smoothly.”

Conversation fish james christensen wenaha gallery

Conversation Around Fish by James Christensen

Christensen, who began his career as a junior high school art teacher — slipping in freelance illustration and selling at sidewalk art fairs while raising a young family — lived to enjoy international acclaim. From winning all the professional art honors the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention can bestow to appearing on an episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (in which he created a picture featuring a member of the family), Christensen never lost sight of the ordinary, regular person, and never doubted he was within their ranks.

“Believing is seeing,” was his philosophy, as he sought to teach people to use their imaginations to overcome the problems and stresses of living life. If Everyman could find a way, so could they.

“He will be sorely missed by many, as he touched many lives with his art and soul,” Bensel says.

Loyd agrees. “He helped me see life through a different pair of eyes.

“He will be missed, but more than that, he will be remembered and live on.”

Wenaha Gallery

Wenaha Gallery is holding a special Tribute to James Christensen Saturday, April 1, from 1 to 4 p.m., and invites all Christensen fans, long-time and brand new, to visit and view Christensen’s art. During the Tribute, as well as for Christensen’s month-long Art Event (March 27 – April 22), the Gallery will display every single Christensen artwork, porcelain, book, DVD, and puzzle in its collection, with many being discounted on April 1, only.

Also on April 1 is a special art show for Pamela Claflin of Kennewick, WA. Claflin’s richly colored oil paintings capture the unique landscape of the Pacific Northwest. The artist will be on hand to meet and greet, and free refreshments are provided.

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 the gallery today!

 

 

Dawn's Jade Glow by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Expressions in Espresso — The Coffee Art, and More, of Paul Henderson

Dawn's Jade Glow by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Dawn’s Jade Glow by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Very few of us, after watching a movie, embark upon a yearlong project of intense and highly disciplined creativity, but fine artist Paul Henderson of Yakima, WA, finds insight in uncommon places.

“My artistic interests are wide and varied,” the painter says. “I love the Northwest wilderness and wildlife, but I also enjoy world history, cultures, and geography; therefore I call myself the ‘Northwest Artist with an International Touch.'”

Coffee is the medium of choice in Paul Henderson's Coffee Capital, Seattle painting.

Coffee is the medium of choice in Paul Henderson’s Coffee Capital, Seattle painting.

Inspired by the film “Julie and Julia,” in which blogger Julie Powell challenges herself to cook, within one year, all 524 recipes in famed chef Julia Child’s first book, Henderson embarked upon his “Modern and Experimental Series,” with the intent of creating two paintings per week for 52 weeks.

The spirit of the project never stopped, and while Henderson fell just short of 104 paintings (he completed 90), he continued the challenge, and in the five years since then has been finessing the sheer art of experimentation:

“I decided to not limit myself to detail but to do any style or subject from abstract to detail, to fantasy, to loose style, and to just experiment,” Henderson says.

“This has literally set my creative juices on fire, and I will continue even more creative techniques and mixed media. I love to try different methods; it keeps me fresh and invigorated.”

Color Storm by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Color Storm by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Some of those methods involve fiberglass taping mesh, highly textured papers, netting, plastic, or styrofoam from packing boxes which Henderson attaches to the canvas, conveying a 3-D effect to a two-dimensional substrate. Another innovation revolves around something most of us have in our kitchen cupboards — coffee — to give new perspective upon the medium of watercolor.

“In 1986, after my then five-year-old daughter accidentally splashed coffee over one of my sketches, voila! Espresso art was born,” Henderson remembers. “At that time, I became known as the ‘original fine art coffee painter,’ and my story appeared in newspapers and TV all around the Northwest.”

Planetory by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Planetory by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Henderson’s coffee paintings — which use both regular and decaf, and whatever brand of coffee he happens to be drinking at that time — remain consistently popular, capturing Americana themes including both wildlife and western. He has shown at grand openings of many Nordstrom coffee bars as well as at Starbucks, and he offers both originals and prints through his studio and at local coffee bars.

Henderson’s philosophy of art, in short, can be expressed in one simple sentence:

Don’t limit yourself.

“I’ve drawn since I could walk,” Henderson says, “and I’ve been painting for 42 years.”

With a skill repertoire that ranges from highly detailed, almost photo-representational wildlife to dreamily hued abstract, Henderson is not circumscribed by any subject matter, and not only does he create Native American art as well as planetary fantasy, he also incorporates the two. In the same manner, his floral and landscape representational works dance in a background of abstract. It is all part of the spirit of exploration and adventure, an insistence upon not being boxed in, nor expecting his viewer to be so.

Forest Glow by Paul Henderson, Wenaha Gallery guest artist.

Forest Glow by Paul Henderson, Wenaha Gallery guest artist.

“I am free to create anything, to experiment and have fun along with the learning,” Henderson explains. “Art really comes from within the artist and expresses it in the physical.”

Henderson has exhibited in shows and galleries throughout the west, including Reno, Nevada, Hawaii, and California, and at one point was contacted by a gallery in Hawaii asking if he would paint a falcon to be presented at a private showing for the king of Saudi Arabia.

Autumn Glow by Paul Henderson, Wenaha Gallery guest artist.

Autumn Glow by Paul Henderson, Wenaha Gallery guest artist.

He has studied under Don Crook, affectionately known as the “Rockwell of Western Art,” and attended workshops by pastel and portraiture artist Daniel Green. His learning, his creating, his innovation and research — including classes on animal anatomy and taxidermy to give him a better understanding of his subject matter — have revolved around a schedule that involves full-time employment in a different arena than art. After hours, it’s time to create.

“My studio is in my home — I use one bedroom, half of the family room, and store in the garage — I also blitz on large projects in the garage where I take the cars out and go at it.”

There is a reason that the movie, “Julie and Julia,” resonated so much with Henderson — he really does approach life with an international flair.

Wenaha GalleryPaul Henderson is the featured artist at Wenaha Gallery’s Art Event from Saturday, April 4 through Saturday May 2, at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA. There is an artist’s reception April 4, from 1-4 p.m. Free refreshments will be served, and Paul plans to create one of his coffee paintings during the reception.

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.