Baby, Even When It’s Cold Outside, Plein Air Painters Paint — The Landscapes of Bonnie Griffith

Summer Fields, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
Summer Fields, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Some people spend a chunk of their day outside — mountain climbers, builders, hotel doormen, and definitely not least on the list — plein-air painters.

Grand Staircase II, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
Grand Staircase II, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

A central facet of 19th century French impressionism, plein-air painting is so called because it is done outdoors, in the plain, fresh air, and those artists committed to the method rival U.S. Postal carriers in their approach to rain, snow, sleet, wind and the occasional, much appreciated, sunny day.

“There really is nothing like painting outdoors; it makes you a stronger artist, I think,” says Bonnie Griffith, a painter who trilaterally focuses on oil, pastel and encaustic (hot wax) as her mediums of choice.

“You are in natural light and not utilizing the eye of a camera to dictate to you what you see to paint.”

Admittedly, she adds, some days are exceptionally inclement, and she has been known to paint from the interior of her heated car. Given the amount that Griffith travels — participating in shows, teaching and attending workshops, and rotating gallery stock throughout the west and Northwest — perhaps the car isn’t such an odd option.

Symphony in Green, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
Symphony in Green, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

“I am a landscape artist, so I am always on the lookout for a place that catches my eye,” Griffith explains. “I love to paint water, so often I am seeking out spots with streams to paint.”

Griffith, who has lived in Walla Walla, WA; Montana; and now Meridian, ID, confesses a special passion for the landscapes of the west, from Canada to Mexico, and is happiest when ensconced in the canyons of the Colorado River, or by the waterways of Montana and Washington, and all that is in between.

“My goal is to create paintings that draw the viewer into the painting, to experience the time of day, the temperature, the sound, the smells.”

River Bend, original pastel by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
River Bend, original pastel by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Much of her outdoor, onsite work is done in pastel, a highly portable medium that has the added benefit of capturing and translating brilliant color.

“It is so pure pigment that you can create this wonderful sparkle with ease,” Griffith says. “Oils can be mixed to create wonderful color and a visual story. And when you combine either with encaustic medium, you get wonderful, often surprise results.”

Good surprises are, well, good, but given that working with molten material presents the potential for perturbation, Griffith does find herself — when working with wax — indoors, in the studio, and well prepared for any contingency.

“I do have a spare room that I work with my encaustics, complete with fire extinguisher since I utilize hot wax and a torch to create these pieces!”

Creekside, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
Creekside, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Born into a family of watercolorists, illustrators, and musicians, Griffith has been drawing and painting since childhood, seriously pursuing gallery representation and public recognition from the early 1990s. Her work is in the homes of collectors throughout the United States and Canada, as well as Australia, Sweden, Germany, and England.

She has participated in numerous prestigious, competitive shows, including the Pastel 100 National Competition, the Northwest Pastel Society Member Show, the International Pastel Show, Plein Aire Moscow, and Plein Air Moab, garnering professional accolades such as People’s Choice, Juror’s Award, and Director’s Award. Most recently, Griffith has completed a one-month Artist in Residence for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, during which time she avidly painted, gave public demonstrations, organized a community paint along, and provided art projects to the local school system.

Traveling, learning, teaching, experimenting, and transporting medium, substrate and easel from the car to the painting site — it is all part of Griffith’s interpreting what she sees onto canvas or paper so others can see it, too. And when they do, then this is sweet success.

“It is about color and painting a work that invites the viewer to step in and make it their own story,” Griffith summarizes. “I say that, if that happens, than I have done my job.”

Wenaha GalleryBonnie Griffith will be at Wenaha Gallery Friday, November 27 for a special art reception during Dayton, WA’s Christmas Kickoff celebration. Join us at the gallery from 3 to 6 p.m. to meet the artist, view incredible art, and enjoy free refreshments. Griffith’s work will be on featured display through December 12.

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 at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

Life Is a Journey — The Primitive Rock Art Paintings and Sculpture of Monica Stobie

Belle, by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.
Belle, by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

Some humans live for many many decades, while others measure their lifespan in moments. But all humans, whether or not they ever physically walk on the earth, leave a footprint. It is part of their journey.

A Little Attitude by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.
A Little Attitude by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

For fine artist Monica Stobie, the concept of a journey is simultaneously highly personal and sweepingly universal, embodying the distinctive experience of the individual in concomitance with the lives, stories, and existence of people throughout history. Stobie, whose subject matter — and passion — is rock art, creates pastel, oil, mixed media, collage, and sculpture that draw inspiration from the petroglyphs (pictures carved into rock or stone) and petrographs (pictures drawn or painted on a rock surface) of ancient people. Raised on an apple ranch in the Yakima Valley, Stobie was attracted from a young age to the symbolism and animal imagery of Native American culture, and when, years later, she stumbled upon rock art at a site near the Snake River, she was, as she phrases is, “hooked.”

Cowbird by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.
Cowbird by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

“I have traveled extensively, exploring rock art sites, which has given me an unlimited source of inspiration,” Stobie says. “I worked for several weeks one summer documenting rock art sites on private land. Having a Navajo guide provided a unique perspective on these ancient sites. “Hiking through harsh desert conditions gave me an understanding of a much more difficult time of survival for ancient peoples.”

Fly Away by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie
Fly Away by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

Stobie translates this understanding, empathy, and fascination into two- and three-dimensional format, and over a professional art career spanning 30 years, she has evolved her technique and style through exploration of various mediums. “Originally, I worked with paper collage — kind of a paper marquetry –fitting different pieces of paper into a design, much like a puzzle.”

Constant experimentation with papers led to her discovery of Mexican bark cloth, a heavily textured paper made from indigenous tree bark that holds layers of rich pastel colors and texture. The next step was sculpture, in response to requests by various galleries carrying her work, and the most recent path is that of oil and mixed media. Throughout all the variance and experimentation, the research and exploration, however, the crux of the matter, which forms the basis of her pilgrimage through both life and art, remains constant:

“When I look at the journey, the prevailing theme of textures, primitive imagery, and animals are prominent,” Stobie observes. She loves the mystery of it all. Life is, after all, a mystery to and for all of us, with none of us knowing where the next step will lead.

Red Hills by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie
Red Hills by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

In Stobie’s case, art has been a part of her life since early childhood, when she learned under the aegis of her grandmother, a watercolorist.  Early school experiences reinforced a fledgling artistry, when a second-grade teacher praised Stobie’s interpretation of a bird as a sign of outstanding creativity. Adulthood found her graduating from Eastern Washington University with a degree in Art Education, which she put to use for 15 years teaching junior and senior high art in Walla Walla, WA, and Milton-Freewater, OR. Moving to Dayton, WA, coincided with the decision to turn her steps to a new path, one that plumbed the adventures of independent, full time, professional fine art.

Whispers by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie
Whispers by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

“Working in a converted bedroom turned into a studio, I began my trek to carve a place in the art world,” Stobie says.

Given her chosen subject matter, it is ironically appropriate that Stobie chooses the word “carve.” The impact she has made extends far from her Dayton venue, as she shows and sells her work to a diverse and widespread clientele.

“During the span of my career I have shown in galleries, mostly throughout the Northwest but also Wyoming, Colorado, and California. In recent years, fellow artist Jill Ingram and I managed our own gallery in Dayton.”

And now, it’s a new adventure, a new direction on the path as Stobie and her husband prepare to move to the Southwest, using this new home as a base from which to travel.

As with all of life’s experiences, some things change, while others stay the same: in a new home, a new venue, a new adventure, the studio, for now, will start out in the familiar fashion of a converted bedroom. But it’s all part of the adventure. “And so,” Stobie proclaims, “a new journey begins.” Wenaha Gallery

Monica Stobie is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA from Saturday, August 22 through Saturday, September 19. An Artist’s Reception is scheduled Saturday, August 22, from 1 – 5 p.m. at the gallery, during which time Stobie will be present to meet viewers and talk about her art. Free refreshments are provided.

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.

Rock, Paper, Scissors — Cheri McGee’s One-of-a-Kind Cut Paper Paintings

Colorful Spheres original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.
Colorful Spheres, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

Most people, even if they flee at the mention of a fabric store, have met a quilter. Those unfamiliar with the craft marvel at the concept of taking yards of intact fabric, cutting it into smaller and disparate pieces, and reassembling those pieces into one planned, designed, and cohesive unit.

Blue Cat, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee
Blue Cat, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

But a quilt seems like a simple thing when placed side by side with the cut paper art of Cheri McGee, an Enterprise, OR, artist whose palette consists of thousands of snipped, scissored, and punched out pieces of paper — some of them smaller than a tick. Practiced throughout the world, paper art can be as basic as a silhouette, those portraits in profile that we associate with the Victorian era, or insanely complicated — as  is the more intricate traditional work from China, Indonesia, Germany (Scherenschnitte), and the Philippines.

McGee does a little of everything, embracing a style that ranges from a timelessly nostalgic folk art village scene to a sinuously flowing, almost curvaceous abstract mixed with realism. And then there are the mosaic works, consisting of itsy bitsy (think back to that tick, in company with sunflower seeds and some orange pips ) squares and circles and triangles and diamonds meticulously arranged to create a paper version of something you’d expect to find in a Turkish marketplace.

African Dancers, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.
African Dancers, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

“Painting with oils may be easier,” the artist comments, explaining how, in the process of cutting and layering card stock into a cohesive image, weeks fly by. But it is this very detail and intricacy, in addition to the uniqueness of the medium itself, that is the attraction.

“I have been working in paper for 30 years,” McGee says. “It began as both an experiment and a need for wall art when the phrase, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ kept echoing through my head.” Faced with a new home of blank, white walls, McGee’s eyes turned to her young daughter’s supply of construction paper, her hands picked up a pair of scissors, and a passion was born.

City Scene, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee
City Scene, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

In short order, one pair of scissors grew into more than 25, and the cache of paper multiplied to, well, the equivalent of a quilter’s stash, as McGee kept an eye out, everywhere she traveled, for unique, unusual, textured, exotic, patterned, and colored stock. A spare room in her home functions as her studio, where creativity reigns and portable desk fans, even on hot days, do not.

Every finished artwork is unique, and while McGee may work on multiple projects simultaneously, there are no (no pun intended) short cuts. While in the early days she pre-cut and stored in drawers images and shapes as a means of speeding up future artworks, McGee found that she never used them, preferring, instead, to custom cut exactly what was needed precisely when the moment called for it.

It’s a build-as-you-go process, and the artwork itself makes its own demands. But when it comes to subject matter, anything goes, depending up McGee’s mood and inspiration, both of which are influenced by her interests, a childhood background in traveling as the daughter of a military family , and marriage to another artist, sculptor and flute carver Roger McGee.

“Being a self-taught artist, I find inspiration in that freedom, to create what strikes my fancy,” Cheri says. “I have recently begun a series of images and designs from the ’60s. I am also inspired by Moroccan designs, having lived there as a child when my father was serving in the Air Force.”

Lucky Charmz, original cut paper art by Cheri McGee
Lucky Charmz, original cut paper art by Cheri McGee

McGee’s works are in the homes of collectors from California to New York, as well as in Japan. She has shown and sold her work at the Kalispell Art Show and Auction in Montana, Spokane’s MONAC Western Show and Auction, and the Western Art Association Show and Auction in Ellensburg.

But the best place to find the artist herself is in that studio, scissors in one hand, paper in the other, as eyes, soul, and psyche focus on creating a work of art that has no twin of itself, anywhere, in the world.

Wenaha GalleryCheri McGee’s cut paper art is on display at Wenaha Gallery through Saturday, June 27, 2015.

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.

The Sensual Flutist — Roger McGee Hand-Carves an Ancient Instrument

Handcarved Eagle Flute by Wenaha Guest Artist Roger McGee.
Handcarved Eagle Flute by Wenaha Guest Artist Roger McGee.

The hauntingly beautiful music of Native American musicians Carlos Nakai and Mary Youngblood is nothing short of sublime. And while neither Grammy Award winner is a resident of Oregon or Washington state, some of the flutes that they have played originated in the studio of Roger McGee, a master flute maker from Joseph, OR.

Egret bronze sculpture by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee
Egret bronze sculpture by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

“What a fine and gentle artist this man is,” Youngblood described McGee. “(The flute is) almost Georgia O’Keefish . . . very sensual and so carefully carved.”

McGee, who has created more than 1,000 custom, hand-made flutes, is a professional sculptor of 35 years standing, making his initial mark as an artist of western and wildlife bronzework. As a Vietnam War veteran, he considers it a high honor to have created four monuments placed in the Pacific Northwest, including the Jonathan Wainwright statue at the Veterans Medical Center in Walla Walla, Peo Peo Mox Mox near the Marc Hotel in the same town, and the VFW Globe in Salem, OR.

The path to creating Native American-style flutes, he explains, was a winding one. Like most artists, McGee listens to a variety of music for inspiration while working in his studio.

Detail from hand carved Horsehead Flute by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee
Detail from hand carved Horsehead Flute by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

“I was particularly captivated by the haunting sounds of the Native American flute and wanted to learn as much as possible about this small instrument with the powerful voice.

“I was inspired to make a Native flute, and the awesome sound of the flute that I made captured my soul. It has changed my life and given me a new way to express myself with my art.”

Now, in addition to his bronzework, McGee has added the intricate detail of hand making, one at a time, highly individualized Native American flutes, an instrument with a history dating back reportedly 60,000 years (they are said to be the third oldest known musical instrument in the world). McGee creates all artwork, painting, woodwork and sculpture on his flutes free hand, burning the holes in with a hot metal rod.

Not Forgotten Bison bronze sculpture by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee
Not Forgotten Bison bronze sculpture by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

“I guess you could say that I follow where the artistic spirits guide me,” McGee says, adding that he not only makes the flutes, but plays them — with two CDs to his credit — as well as teaches others how to do so.

“Over the phone, I taught a Navaho Indian (Fred ‘Yellowknife’ Keams) how to make and play flutes . . . I also taught a Buddhist Monk (Park Jin Hong) from South Korea how to play the flute using Skype and the Internet!” McGee sells his flutes throughout the world, with other noted names who play McGee’s instruments including Grammy Award nominee Peter Phippen and recording artists Robert Mirabal and John Two-Hawks.

Inlaid shells, buffalo teeth, carved totems, feathers, beads, and paint are all part of the customized creations, with themes ranging from rattlesnakes and scorpions to horses and bears. In 2013, McGee won the Best Cultural Heritage Award at the Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts for his Stone Crushed Inlayed American Flute, and in past years, his work has captured Directors Choice awards.

Detail from White Canoe hand carved flute by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee
Detail from White Canoe hand carved flute by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Roger McGee

As beautiful as the flutes are to look upon, however, their ultimate test takes place in the playing, and McGee’s numerous clients have much to say about the creator, and what he creates.

“The beauty and soulful sincerity of this amazing instrument is only surpassed by the incredible artist who created it,” one musician writes on McGee’s website.

“The tone is amazing,” another fan said, describing how her husband, not knowing that she was playing her newly-purchased instrument, marveled at how much she had improved. “The flute made the sound jump a quantum leap — I sure wasn’t doing anything else much differently. The flute’s voice is just awesome.”

In his spare time, which he somehow finds despite a fulltime art schedule side-by-side with that of his wife, cut paper artist Cheri McGee, Roger has lately taken on refurbishing a totem pole, which when repaired, will return to the Creating Memories Camp for Disabled Children in Joseph. At the moment, the pole is in pieces as McGee fixes broken parts, fills cracks, sands, paints, and reassembles.

It’s all part of following that artistic muse, one that entered his life when he was the youngest of nine children growing up in the deep South, always using his hands to make things.

“It was easier to make myself a toy than it was to wait to get a store-bought one,” McGee remembers. “I have been very blessed!”

Wenaha GalleryRoger and Cheri McGee are the featured artists at Wenaha Gallery’s Art Event from Monday, May 18 through Saturday, June 27, at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA. There is a reception for both artists on Saturday, May 23 from 10:30 a.m. (immediately after the town Memorial Day parade) until 2:30 p.m. Roger will play the flute during the reception. Free refreshments are provided.

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.