Some things — not cell phones — never change, and in a world where the news of 15 minutes ago is hopelessly outdated, it is good to know that there is another world, a quieter one, where things move at a slower pace.
Such is the reality embraced and painted by fine artist Jackie Penner, who focuses on the west — its people, its landscapes, its horses, and its wildlife. And while, admittedly, cowboys and Indians are more of a legend than contemporary fact, Penner draws inspiration from a sphere of wildlife and domestic animals whose daily life, in many ways, consists of the work and play that they have always done.
Grizzly bears, despite their size and temperament, still look remarkably winsome as they’re trying to spear a fish; horses exhibit an intelligence resulting in veritable friendship between themselves and their owners; wolves, in their solitary existence, remain outcasts, but ones capable of evoking awe and respect.
“Western life in its variety holds a special fascination for me,” Penner, who for the last 49 years has lived on a family farm since she married her Dayton high school sweetheart, Jay Penner, says. Penner’s introduction to art began when she was a child, taking informal drawing lessons from longtime area resident and artist, Vivian McCauley Eslick, and she added oil painting to her repertoire upon adulthood.
Living within the midst of both farm and wildlife, Penner gathers reference material just by virtue of living each day, with many a gentle ride on her beloved Quarter Horses resulting in an unexpected siting of two young badgers playing; a bird in the bush; or one of the majestic, working Belgian horses, raised by her husband’s family for many years.
This, primarily, has been her education in art:
“Live in an old rural schoolhouse, surrounded with an abundance of wildlife, and paint, paint, paint.”
Like many artists, however, Penner has had to find time to paint, paint, paint. In the early years, raising two children to successful adulthood was her primary goal, but even after those human birds had flown, Penner found her hours demanded by the bookkeeping she does for the family business. Not so oddly for her, numbers are as fascinating as paintbrushes, and the attention to detail she accords accounting translates well to the canvas when she is recording a living subject.
“I’m very, very detailed,” Penner says. “All my life people have been saying, ‘loosen up, you need to loosen up.’ But I got to a certain age and thought, ‘I’m going to do what I like to do, which is detail.’ ”
This detail comes out most strongly in Penner’s graphite drawings, but her paintings, as well, focus on the damp textured pattern of a bear’s fur, the plumage of pheasant in flight, the intricate harness and tack of a Belgian horse team ready to work the harvest.
“Living on the farm, surrounded by nature and the animals and lifestyle I love, gives me the passion to transfer those feelings to canvas.”
Through workshops, Penner has studied under well-known wildlife artists such as Daniel Smith, Paco Young, Terry Isaac, and John Banovich, and she herself is a member, emeritus, of Women Artists of the West, an organization of more than 200 professional female artists. Penner has served as both its president and ad director.
“My art has taken me on a journey that I never dreamed possible,” Penner says. It is a diverse and varied journey that Penner, a 1966 graduate of Dayton High School, did not foresee 49 years ago, and as Dayton Alumni Weekend approaches this Saturday, July 18, Penner joins another Dayton Alumni, Gary Wessels-Galbreath (1975), in celebrating that artistic journey, through a combined art show and reception at Wenaha Gallery.
Wessels-Galbreath, like Penner, focused on art from a young age, with that focus being quite literal from the other end of a camera — beginning with a 110 Kodak pocket model when he was 12.
Traveling the world as a Navy Seabee, Wessels-Galbraith studied photojournalism upon rejoining the civilian world, graduating from Evergreen State College with a B.A. in art and Native American Studies. He directs his attention primarily upon the environment and landscapes, and, like Penner, captures a sense of timelessness in a rapidly changing world.
Animals. Landscapes. People. Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Jackie Penner and Gary Wessels-Galbreath are at an artists’ reception in their honor Saturday, July 18 from 10:30 a.m. (immediately after the Alumna Weekend Parade) until 2:30 p.m. at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA. Free refreshments are provided.
Penner’s show at the Wenaha Gallery runs from June 27 through July 25. Wessel-Galbreath’s work is on hand from July 6 through July 25 .
Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.