Teanaway River oil painting landscape laura gable

Plein Air Magic — The Oil Paintings of Laura Gable

Teanaway River plein air magical oil painting landscape laura gable

Teanaway River, original plein air oil painting with a magical air, by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

It’s easy to forget that, when we put something in the back seat of the car, it doesn’t go away.  Artist Laura Gable, however, never forgot what she set in the back seat, and when the time came to retrieve it, she readily and happily did so.

plein air landscape magical oil painting eastern washington laura gable

Furrowed Fields plein air landscape oil painting, with a sense of magic, by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

“In college, I loved all my art classes,” the Kennewick oil painter says, “but they started to take a back seat when my family advised I follow more practical pursuits rather than art (which ‘didn’t make any money’).” So she switched her double major from Art and Accounting to Accounting and Data Processing, and entered a career as an accountant and auditor.

“The funny thing about it,” Gable adds, “is that when these business roles needed anything artistic done (posters, invitations), they came to me and I’d create them by hand.”

So, even though art was sort of in the back seat, it functioned in the capacity of back seat driver, ensuring that Gable always heard — and heeded — its voice. When a job layoff prompted Gable to retrain as a graphic designer, the art in the back seat settled into the passenger seat, and not many years later, took over the driver’s position as Gable turned to painting full time.

Plein Air Painting out of the Studio: It’s Magic, and Magical

Gable now works out of a studio in historic downtown Kennewick, maintaining hours “by appointment” because, on any given day, she is more likely in the field somewhere, painting en plein air, a French term which describes painting outside, as opposed to in the studio.

forest tree plein air magical landscape oil painting laura gable

Lone Pine plein air landscape oil painting, featuring a prominent tree and a magical atmosphere, by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

“I started doing it before all the Plein Air conventions and hub-bub started, and before everyone was doing it and it became the new buzzword, the new ‘golf,'” Gable says. “I thought I knew how to paint until I went outside, and it was like I had to start all over again.

“Painting outside is a constant learning experience, and nature is a consummate teacher.”

There is the weather — which isn’t always, and frequently isn’t — balmy; there are insects and crawling things and larger creatures and other living and unpredictable elements of nature; and there’s the light, which doesn’t stay conveniently in one place for hours on end. Plein air painting, Gable explains, requires that the artist stop and truly see, processing the colors before her eyes, and letting the brush speak with a few expressive strokes as opposed to many smaller, painstakingly detailed ones.

Expressive and Impressionistic, Magical Plein Air

“I want the work to be expressive and thus impressionistic without defining every blade of grass or every ripple. The eye does a remarkable job of filling in what I leave out if I just give the viewer enough information — in fact, I find it more intriguing when an artist leaves out details and can define something with a few strokes of the brush.

tranquil waters river plein air magical landscape oil painting Laura Gable

Tranquil Waters, original plein air oil painting with a magical feeling by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

“It’s magic!”

As a longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Gable is intimately acquainted with unmagical grey winter days, which she finds aren’t as difficult to handle when she gets outside to paint. Once there, her increasingly trained eye sees beyond the grey to the subtle colors that are everywhere: lavenders within the clouds; bronzes and golds tucked among the sage of desert grasses; teals and aquas hanging around the steely blues of river water.

Also quite colorful is Gable’s painting clothing, most notably a parka she found on the clearance rack that, with every winter season, increasingly shows the colors of her craft.

Painting Nationally

A member of several prestigious, national artist organizations — including the Oil Painters of America, American Impressionist Society, and Outdoor Painters Society — Gable shows and sells her work nationwide. Her awards roster includes Gold, Second, Director’s, Merit, Memorial, and Honorable Mentions, and her most recent accolade was garnered at a month-long plein air show at the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale.

plein air magical landscape tree field meadow oil painting laura gable

Meadows and Cottonwoods plein air landscape, magical painting of trees in the field, by Kennewick artist Laura Gable

Her honorable-mention winning piece, Forest Whispers, was painted near Cascade Locks in the midst of smoke drifting down from the British Columbia fires, blanketing the atmosphere with haze. Coupled with the intense heat of a 100-plus summer day, it made for challenging, but ethereal, conditions as constantly shifting light revealed subtle nuances of alluring, dappled patterns.

“It was another magical moment spent painting,” Gable recalls.

Magical Beauty

That’s what painting is, Gable believes — both magic and magical — dependent upon the skill and soul of the artist to create work that is beautiful and has truth in it. She strives for a delicate balance of technical proficiency with informal spontaneity, the resulting work aiming to draw an emotional response from the viewer.

“I don’t have a political platform — I just want to represent the beauty that surrounds us.

“God is the ultimate creator: I show my impression of what has already been created.”

Wenaha Gallery

Laura Gable is the featured Pacific Northwest artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, November 20 through Saturday, December 16, 2017.   Gable will be at the gallery in person Saturday, November 24 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., for a special show also featuring The Talented Trio, a family of artists from Kennewick.

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


The Science of Art — Watercolor Paintings by Lisa Hill

Tangerine and Cream, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill.

Tangerine and Cream, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill.

When it comes to art, there is a tremendous amount of science involved.

For those who don’t believe, watercolorist Lisa Hill of Richland poses a question:

Colors of Autumn, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill.

Colors of Autumn, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill.

Why, when one mixes three primary colors in particular proportion — Phthalo Blue, Quinacridone Rose, and Hansa Yellow (even the names sound like something from a laboratory) —  is the resulting color black?

“This is a lesson on how pigments absorb or reflect certain color wavelengths of light,” Hill, who teaches watercolor as well as creates it, explains.

“Between the three paints, all the light is absorbed, almost none is reflected back to the eye, and we perceive it as black.”

And not only black can be actualized from these three colors, Hill adds, pointing out that thousands of hues result from two or three of these ideal primaries, which closely match the CMY (cyan, magenta, and yellow) of printing inks.

Hill herself creates boldly vivid, richly chromatic artwork with a limited palette of roughly five colors (none of which are white or black), but, not wanting to make things too challenging for her students, she allots them a magnanimous seven paints to manage and master.

Ripple Ellipse, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

Ripple Ellipse, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

“I teach my beginning students to make color mixing charts with these seven paints and show them how valuable the charts are as a planning tool for a painting. The color mixing possibilities are endless.”

If Hill sounds thoughtful, methodical, and organized (she adds the word, “meticulous” to the list), she comes to it from a background in dirt — planting soil, specifically — and her success in capturing flora and fauna two dimensionally is related to her first career in ornamental horticulture and landscape design.

Lost Edges, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

Lost Edges, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

After moving to the Tri-Cities from Spokane, Hill was ready for a change of pace and occupation, a watercolor class with Kennewick artist Laura Gable sparking an interest that later turned into a vocation. With the same sense of inquiry that she used in horticulture, Hill focused on being a student of art, first; then an artist; and finally, a private teacher of art based out of her dream home studio, a 700-square foot apartment Hill and her husband teased out of a second floor bedroom, with an enviable view of the Yakima River.

Student, Artist, Teacher — Hill wears all three caps seamlessly, her fervor toward her chosen medium strongly evident in her research, experimentation, zeal, and knowledge.

“I’m going out on a limb here since I haven’t painted with oils or acrylics,” Hill muses, “but I think success with watercolor techniques requires a higher level of scientific knowledge of behavior of water and light, and the mechanics of vision, specifically color and value perception.”

Blue Skies, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

Blue Skies, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

What causes the “transparency” of watercolor?

Is it possible to layer a lighter color successfully over a darker one?

How does one keep the “wet” look once a painting dries?

“Understanding how water behaves puts the artist in charge (mostly) of what happens to the paint on the paper,” Hill says. “The answers are almost always related to the water — how much is on the brush, the paper, and in the puddle of paint.”

Quiet and soft spoken, Hill nonetheless speaks with confidence, and one person who noticed was Robin Berry, a nationally known author and porcelain and watercolor artist who put Hill in touch with Quarto Publishing of London. The happy result included a series of published step-by-step demos of Hill’s work, as well as images of her paintings, in three Quarto art books.

Cereus, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill

Cereus, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill

Hill, who regularly participates in Richland’s Allied Arts’ “Art in the Park” and the Custer Arts and Crafts Shows in Pasco, Spokane, and Wenatchee, garnered Director’s Choice at the 2014 Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts in Joseph, OR, with the winning painting, Lost Edges, featured prominently in the event’s 2015 promotional materials. She sells her original work, as well as prints and note cards, to collectors throughout the Northwest.

An unapologetic proponent of representationalism, Hill admires the skill and knowledge necessary to create abstract or vaguely realistic art, but gravitates toward realism, an area she finds uniquely suited to capture the subject matter she finds most intriguing.

“I have a lot of plant knowledge and thoroughly enjoy gardening, so it is natural that the subjects I most  love to paint are flowers and foliage.

“I don’t think I am making a statement by painting these things — I just love them.

“Maybe that IS the statement.”

Wenaha GalleryLisa Hill is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA from Saturday, September 19 through Saturday, October 17. She will be in the gallery Saturday, October 3,  from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., to give live watercolor demonstrations during Dayton’s Art Walk.

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

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

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.