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.

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