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.

 

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The Unexpectedly Unconventional Square — Showcasing the Landscape Art of Gordy Edberg

Fractured Terrain, original oil painting, by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg
Fractured Terrain, original oil painting, by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

In the mid twentieth century, the term “square” was derogatively used to connote a boring traditionalist, one reluctant to take chances or break out of the box in his or her thinking.

For 21st century artist Gordy Edberg, however, square is the new unusual, and the landscapes which he paints in this format are not constrained by what he calls the typical, conventional horizontal format that people have come to expect.

Endless Fields, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg
Endless Fields, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

“The square format, with its harmony of shape, is a useful and non-natural approach,” the Whidbey Island artist says.

“By using the square structure, the landscape subject is contained more, and it removes the expected topographical connotations.

“Thus there are segments . . . fragments . . . sections of the landscape and their abstract qualities which are allowed to come forward.”

Edberg, who has been painting since high school 60 years ago, approaches his artwork from the perspective of an architect, a profession he made his central career for 41 years. The combination of the two disciplines results in Edberg’s signature style, one “grounded in realism with a leaning toward impressionism.”

With a principal focus upon the landscape, Edberg says that, although he does not purposely make political statements with his art, he is fascinated by the existing environment, and how it is changed by man’s impact upon it. There are buildings, roads, pathways, patterns, and how they integrate with their surroundings creates and shapes the finished piece. The very nature of lines themselves — an element strongly used in architectural drawing — invites the artist, and his viewers, to explore the realm of abstract within the world of reality.

Basin Hills and Fields, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg
Basin Hills and Fields, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

“I look for change occurring, things disappearing, other characteristics of the environment that suggest potential for abstraction expressions,” Edberg explains. And herein that square format intensifies the fluidity of form and shape, emphasizing the transcendental in the midst of physical reality, bringing out the best of each.

“The goal is for the formal subject matter to be seen as a composition, an arrangement of shapes and colors and with aesthetic qualities while still suggesting place,” Edberg says.

While Edberg has painted landscapes from throughout the Pacific Northwest and the west coast, as well as forays into Hawaii, Mexico, Ireland, England, France, Italy, and Greece, it is his Southeastern Washington landscapes that showcase, boldly, the integration of line and form, abstract and reality, outline and shape. Large, illusorily monochromatic fields and agricultural spreads are intersected by roads, power lines, waterways and the patterns of the fields themselves, a balance of both natural and man-made factors.

Power Grid, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg
Power Grid, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

Shots of unexpected color, calligraphy, textured paint, and marks and incisions upon the substrate surface enhance the mood and setting of the work, creating a place that is real and identifiable, yet not remotely as a camera would capture it.

“Landscape images and also urbanscape and marinescape images painted in the studio are many times imagined in response to the mood and feel of actual places that I’ve sketched or painted en plein air,” Edberg says. In the spirit of fluidity and freedom, he refers to plein air paintings or onsite sketches for his studio pieces, and does not rely upon the camera.

The goal is to catch the mood, the place, the feeling, because within each landscape, Edberg feels, there is a story, and it is his pleasurable goal to tell that story.

Wheat Road, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg
Wheat Road, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Gordy Edberg

In addition to creating his oil-painted landscapes, Edberg also works in pastels, as well as designs and builds wood furniture. To do as much as he does requires space, and Edberg’s studio in the upper floor of his home is set up with four painting stations, including a wall easel which can accommodate up to six-foot sized paintings. The garage houses his woodworking equipment and tools, and, in addition to furniture making and packaging and shipping of paintings, another important activity takes place there: the cars can still be parked within.

That’s the architect, sharing space creatively with the artist.

A signature member with the Northwest Pastel Society, Edberg has earned awards from both that organization and the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Artists, and he has received Best of Show at the Washington State Convention Center Art Exhibition. His work is housed in both private and corporate collections throughout the U.S., and he maintains paintings in galleries on both the East and West coasts.

The architect may be retired, but the artist is very busy these days.

Wenaha GalleryGordy Edberg is the featured artist at Wenaha Gallery’s Art Event from Monday, May 4 through Saturday, June 13, at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA.

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.

Prolific, Determined, and 95 — Vivian McCauley, Painter of Just about Everything

At the Beach original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Vivian McCauley
At the Beach, original watercolor by Vivian McCauley, guest artist at the Wenaha Gallery

It sounds like a riddle that Gollum would propound to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit:

How does someone paint like Picasso, without painting like Picasso?

The answer, in the Shire of Dayton, WA, where fine artist Vivian Eslick McCauley has lived and painted for nearly 90 years, is this:

Barn with Wheat original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Vivian McCauley
Barn with Wheat original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Vivian McCauley

Both Picasso and McCauley are versatile in their art, never limiting themselves to a particular style or subject matter.And as a bonus, both artists painted into their 90s, with McCauley, at 95, still actively at work:

“My paintings are smaller now that I have moved from Dayton, to an apartment in Arizona,” McCauley says, “but I still do them and display them at my entry way or next to my door.

“Down here they have beautiful sunsets, and I’ve been painting them, along with some florals and a few Western pictures. Through the years I’ve done animals, flowers, landscapes, just whatever interests me at the time, and I’ve worked in all media. Right now, I’m focusing on pastels.”

Life slows down at 95, McCauley concedes, but that doesn’t mean it stops, and since her move to the desert two years ago, McCauley has painted both indoors and out in plein air, as well as taught a beginning watercolor class, something she would like to do again.

“I’ve taught classes in the community for years,” McCauley, who received her teaching degree in 1967 from the Laguna Beach School of Art in California, says. Although she started out in the elementary school classroom, she quickly broadened out to the adults in the area, offering classes to small groups of beginning and intermediate artists.  “Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, Dayton — I think just about every adult artist in Dayton can verify that they took lessons from me.

“Sometimes I would travel to the Tri-Cities and just stay, teaching classes throughout the week — drawing, portrait, oil, pastels — I taught all of them.”

Daffodil Pitcher by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Vivian McCauley
Daffodil Pitcher by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Vivian McCauley

For McCauley, who farmed and raised her family in the Dayton area, art worked itself around daily life, but it always had a way of making itself known: through the years, McCauley painted public art for the Columbia County Fairgrounds; volunteered with the local art club to run the art department at the fair; and spearheaded the Columbia County Mural Society, which in the mid-90s commissioned muralist Robert Thomas to sketch out the mural outlines, that McCauley, and the dozen-plus members of the society, then painted in.

Abstract Mixed Media by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Vivian McCauley
Abstract Mixed Media by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Vivian McCauley

In 2008, McCauley joined forces with Dayton resident and artist Meredith Dedman to create the Blue Mountain Artist Guild, bringing rebirth to the area’s flagging art club, and within a short time, she arranged for local art to be in the public eye: Guild members create regular displays at the Delaney Building, next to the public library; the Liberty Theater; and most recently, the hospital.

“Vivian is very dogged when she sets her mind to it,” Dedman says. “She talked to the CEO and the board members and kept at it, and now we have a space in the entryway and the hallway. People love it.”

Regarding McCauley’s art, Dedman says, “Art is such a passion with Vivian, and she has such a good eye. She’s always been interested in taking a new class and learning something new.”

Through the years, McCauley has studied under noted artists such as Merlin Enabnit, Robert Wood, Frank Webb, Morten Solberg, and Barbara Nechis, defining and refining a style that is predominantly representational, with a nod now and then to the abstract. An interest that started with her first award, in first grade, and the assurance that she has a “God-given talent for art,” has led this prolific painter to show, sell, and teach her art wherever she finds herself. Intriguingly, she has done all of this without ever having enjoyed a proper art studio.

“I wish I could have had a studio,” McCauley says with a sigh. “I painted in the garage, sometimes on the patio, and sometimes on the kitchen table, depending on the weather. This means that when it was cold outside, I painted inside!”

Now, she paints in a small apartment, still with no proper studio, but also still with the dogged, indefatigable attitude that Dedman observed.

“I’m 95,” McCauley says.”But I just try to ignore that 95 and do what I can.”

Wenaha GalleryVivian McCauley is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from January 12, 2015 through February 7, 2015 at Wenaha Gallery’s historic Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.

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 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.

 

 

 

Mountain Man Painter — The Landscapes of Jim McNamara

Bend in the River, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jim McNamara.
Bend in the River, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jim McNamara.

Jim McNamara is a man who moves mountains, because that is what landscape painters do.

“Cameras can do a better job at exact duplication,” the Walla Walla fine artist says, “but one of the great advantages of being a painter is the freedom to move elements around to suit the needs of the composition. So if a tree isn’t where I want it to be, I move it.”

McNamara, whose day job until retirement 15 years ago was in public education as a school psychologist, has been drawing and painting all his life, thanks to a bunch of determined women:

Dirt Road, Big Sky by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jim McNamara
Dirt Road, Big Sky by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jim McNamara

“The nuns at St. Bridget Elementary in Omaha saw a spark in me and coaxed my parents into sending me to summer school at Joslyn Art Museum when I was barely old enough to ride the bus,”  McNamara remembers. Art classes continued in high school and college — interspersed with courses in English literature, counseling, and school psychology — and specialized workshops followed throughout adulthood, as McNamara studied under some of today’s outstanding outdoor painters: Jim Lamb, Ned Mueller, Ken Roth, Matt Smith,  John Budacin, and Ralph Oberg.

The result of all the study, eclectic interests, and hard work has been McNamara’s unique style, blending brushstrokes with realism, plein air with studio work, a painterly attitude with attention to detail:

“My colors and shapes are broadly realistic but I prefer to employ a ‘painterly’ style,” McNamara explains. “I think painting is more interesting and involving if it leaves something to the viewer’s imagination.

“I like to see brushstrokes in a finished painting: it adds a textural dimension, and makes the work more fun to look at close up.”

McNamara, who prefers oil but forays into watercolor on occasion, is a consummate landscapist, focusing on broad, sweeping images of the Pacific Northwest and West, which he captures both on scene — en plein air  — and in his studio, inside an old house, built in 1900, with the high ceilings and quantity of windows that prompt other artists to sigh with envy.

“Where I paint is what I imagine was once the master bedroom,” McNamara says. “There are paintings on the walls, as well as art books, paints and brushes set up. I have an iMac with four or five thousand images to keep my mind occupied in the winter, when it’s hard to get outside.”

Trailhead View by Wenaha Gallery artist Jim McNamara
Trailhead View by Wenaha Gallery artist Jim McNamara

With such an ideal set-up, one would think that McNamara would stay in the studio all the time, content with the absence of rain and wind, but the Great Outdoors seductively calls,  and McNamara has painted en plein air from the Rockies to the coast, covering most of the western states in his travels with his wife. His favorite painting experiences involve backpacking to some remote location, setting up his easel, and painting directly from nature.

“Painting outdoors produces the most accurate color and the most spontaneous result,” McNamara says. “But because outdoor conditions are not always ideal in the Northwest, especially in winter, I do rely on reference photographs, which are always taken by me.” Hence, the iMac, with its 5,000 images.

While in the earlier years of his full-time painting McNamara entered juried shows and competitions throughout the  region — the Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts and the former Walla Walla Carnegie Art center, the latter where he won People’s Choice Award and sold the painting the same day — the artist now concentrates his time on as much painting as he can get in. Most of his sales generate from his home studio, The Fort Walla Walla Winery on Main Street, or Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, with one of the most pleasurably memorable sales being to a collector in France, in Walla Walla for a wine tasting — from one area known for its wines, to another.

“I think representational art always makes a statement because it regards its subject as important and significant,” McNamara reflects upon what he does. “Just the act of intensely looking at a subject for the sometimes lengthy time required to render it gives it significance.

“I believe the natural world deserves being looked at intensely and wordlessly.”

Wenaha GalleryJim McNamara is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from December 16, 2014 through January 10, 2015 at Wenaha Gallery’s historic Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.

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 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.