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.

horshoes family game friends together freedom dave barnhouse

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.”

mother child beach coast ocean surf freedom

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, 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 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


country landscape acrylic painting becky melcher

“They” Speak, But She Ignores Them — Becky Melcher Paints Acrylics

country landscape acrylic painting becky melcher

On the Fence, acrylic painting by Becky Melcher. She doesn’t worry about what “they” say when she chooses a subject to paint

In the back of our minds, “they” always speak.

Who “they” are is a mystery, but their voice — if we let it — dictates what we do, how we do it, and who we do it with. Call it peer pressure, societal norms, tradition, or propaganda from the advertising industry, all people feel it in some format or another, and how we deal with “them” impacts how we live our lives.

sailboat sailing water lake acrylic painting becky melcher

Too Calm to Sail, acrylic painting by Yakima artist Becky Melcher. She paints what she wants and not what They dictate

“According to the rules, you are always supposed to have a plan, but my plan is constantly changing,” says Yakima fine art painter Becky Melcher, who has spent most of her life not listening to the voices of convention. During the 1970s, to pay for college in Los Angeles, Melcher got her pilot license and ferried airplanes between the Santa Monica and Van Nuys airports, but while she loved flying, she wasn’t so excited about where all her money was going.

“They” Say College; She Says, No

“College seemed to promise nothing, so I eventually quit and went to work for a law firm summarizing depositions. Back in the day there weren’t very many college paralegal programs, so this was learned on the job. I was self sufficient and independent!

“But as satisfying as that time was, I was fed up with Los Angeles. So I visited my aunt in Yakima, was spellbound by what I saw and never returned to California.”

She married, had triplets six months into her pregnancy, and eventually arranged to work from home, summarizing depositions for a local law firm. And when she could, she painted: representational landscapes during a time when abstract was the art world’s favorite child. After 40 years of being in the legal field — ranging from working for a government contractor making parts for nuclear submarines to administrating the business office of a private law firm — Melcher retired and threw herself full time into what she never had time enough for before.

“I have poured myself into learning and experimenting: the computer age and the Internet have afforded me great instruction on techniques, color, values, composition and the like.”

summer farm home house landscape country becky melcher acrylic

Summer at the Farm. Yakima acrylic painter Becky Melcher creates landscapes from photo references as well as images from her mind

Finding that watercolor “doesn’t allow for change of mind,” and oils require more patience than she has, Melcher focused on acrylic paintings, with her favorite subject matter being landscapes.

Landscapes: They Draw You In

“They draw you into a story that the artist is telling — You can live in landscape paintings!

“They exude the life experience and the extraordinary world around us.”

Working out of what she describes as “a tiny office in my home — more tiny art studio than office,” Melcher has created a body of work welcomed in various area restaurants, wineries, and businesses, from which she makes brisk sales. Buyers have mentioned that they like the feeling and emotion of her works.

well traveled path country rural landscape becky melcher acrylic painting

Well Traveled Path, acrylic painting by Yakima artist Becky Melcher. She listens to her heart and mind before she pays attention to what “they” say.

“Most of my landscapes are out of my imagination,” Melcher explains. “I take a lot of photos. Not necessarily of scenes I want to paint but of skies or lighting that I especially like and want to incorporate into a painting.”

One of the next items on Melcher’s learning list is exploring the world of abstract, with the idea of incorporating it into representationalism. She aims to bring out the best of each.

“They” Don’t Define Art

“Abstract art is not what people think: I believe it is painting the essence of a subject, incorporating color and texture, but I don’t believe a red stripe on a white canvas or a black dot on a blue canvas is truly abstract art.”

“They” may disagree, but then again, Melcher isn’t concerned with them. Each artist, Melcher believes, is a unique individual, and must be free to paint in accordance with their heart, soul, skills, vision, and being. There is no room for an imperious, monolithic voice imposing its views upon the world, dictating what is, and isn’t art.

“I love reading what other artists have to say about their vision, journey, and focus of artistic endeavor,” Melcher says.

“I will always be an artist in training, because there is so much more to learn and try.”

Wenaha GalleryBecky Melcher is the Featured Art Event from Monday, March 11 through Saturday, April 6 at Wenaha Gallery.

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.

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.