Useful and Usable Sculpture — The Artisan Soap of Walla Walla Soap Works

The unique shape, colors, and scent combinations of Walla Walla Soap Works soap is testament to the artisan flair of its creators, Jesse and Scooter Johnston
The unique shape, colors, and scent combinations of Walla Walla Soap Works soap is testament to the artisan flair of its creators, Jesse and Scooter Johnston

Babylon.

Buried deep within the mists of time, this ancient civilization sends forth its tendrils to touch contemporary society, its effect felt in our religious, scientific, financial, and literary realms. Babylon brings to mind astrology, astronomy, the Code of Hammurabi, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and . . . soap.

Individual bars from Walla Walla Soap Works start out as part of a long log, which itself is cut from a larger shape.
Individual bars from Walla Walla Soap Works start out as part of a long log, which itself is cut from a larger shape.

And while this latter, soap, is not majestic, like the legendary hanging gardens that King Nebuchadnezzar II created for his foreign wife, it’s still around, a 5,000 year-old chemical wonder of fats blended with alkaline salts that in today’s society, approaches an art form. At Walla Walla Soap Works, a family-run business that creates Artisan soaps from luxuriant ingredients that would have been the envy of ancient monarchs, soap is practical, but it is beautiful as  well.

Large wooden trays hold and display the useful, usable soap sculptures of Walla Walla Soap Works
Large wooden trays hold and display the useful, usable soap sculptures of Walla Walla Soap Works

“We get a lot of questions about the unique shape of our soaps,” says Jesse Johnston, co-owner of the business with his wife Scooter, both of whom have been creating this ancient yet modern marvel for 20 years. The couple’s signature Artisan Bar — rectangular with sworls and peaks across the top like frosting —  is like no shape one will find in a store, or even among other artisan soap makers.

“In our early days of soap making, the shape really didn’t matter as it was  purely for our family use,” Johnston explains. “But when we began selling it, we obviously cared  more about its  appearance and quickly became frustrated when our cut bars weren’t the perfect rectangles that soap is ‘supposed’ to be.

And while it looks good enough to eat, the soap from Walla Walla Soap Works feeds the skin with premium, luxury oils such as Shea, mango and cocoa butters, and oils like avocado and hemp
And while it looks good enough to eat, the soap from Walla Walla Soap Works feeds the skin with premium, luxury oils such as Shea, mango and cocoa butters, and oils like avocado and hemp

“When we decided to peak the top a bit to help it appear less uneven, this proved to be the best thing ever, as once you free yourself from the box you really feel the creativity take over.”

Creativity abounds in an endeavor that includes not only Jesse and Scooter’s energy, but that of their now-grown children as well. What began as a personal search for a product that didn’t trigger skin allergies of various family members, has grown into a venture, and adventure, of color, scent, form and formulation. The resulting products range from soaps with names (and corresponding coloration) like Cranberry Fig and Mango Mandarin, to embossed squares incorporating wine as the liquid, to Bar None, the unscented, non-colored bar that is a consistent top seller.

“It’s appreciated by so many others who have sensitive skin,” Johnston says.

With each family member contributing unique strengths and perspective, Walla Walla Soap Works produces soap all year round from the Johnston’s dedicated home studio, individual batches of 40-80 bars requiring a three to six week “cure” before the soap is ready for final sale. Regular vendors at the Walla Walla Farmers Market since 2007, Jesse and Scooter also sell retail through holiday craft shows and online, wholesale throughout the state, and coast to coast at natural grocery stores and gift shops.

Printed with vegetable-based inks, the packaging of Walla Walla Soap Works reflects the owners commitment to natural products and ingredients
Printed with vegetable-based inks, the packaging of Walla Walla Soap Works reflects the owners commitment to natural products and ingredients

“We’ve had customers take it as gifts to Japan, Canada, Australia, England, France, Germany, Mexico, Iceland, and Scotland,” Jesse says.

As artistically pleasing — and unusual — that the shape of the Johnston’s bar is, this very distinctiveness led to challenges when it came to packaging. How does one protect, and display, such an odd shape?

“The more traditionally used cigar-style paper wrap labels, plastics, and boxes just really didn’t make sense with these fun soaps,” Jesse says. The paper labels didn’t protect, the plastic didn’t allow the soap to breathe, and both plastic and paper boxes created more waste than the Johnstons were comfortable with.

“It seemed crazy to create a product so good for the skin but at a cost to the environment,” Jesse observes.

So, as they have done from the beginning, the family came up with a unique solution, signature paper “suit sacks” hand fed into a vintage printing press and stamped with vegetable-based inks. Stacked neatly and safely in wooden trays, the soap exudes a sense of cheerful chromatic harmony, its whorling tops decorated with dried lavender, poppy seeds, or oats, its interior marbled with color. It is, as Jesse describes it, “fun.”

“It is a product we love, and feel passionate about,” he says.

Such is the sentiment that all true artisans, and artists, express about their art, from Babylon to the present.

Wenaha GalleryJesse and Scooter Johnston of Walla Walla Soap Works are the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, January 25 through Saturday, February 20.

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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Why the World Needs Artists

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

For those who keep up on educational buzzwords, trends, and movements, it is understandable if they question why the world could possibly need artists.

After all, STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — is where it’s at. One website, iseek.org, lays it out bluntly by saying,

“Think about key skills needed in today’s workplace: problem solving, analytical thinking, and the ability to work independently. What do they all have in common? They’re all related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).”

Not much room for artists — and their legendary tendency toward being sensitive, moody, emotional, affective, and temperamental — there.

Statue of David by Michelangelo
Statue of David by Michelangelo

But contrary to limited, traditional thinking, art — and artists — do not operate outside of the realms of reality. Rather, they are firmly entrenched within it, and in the same way that science, and technology, and engineering, and math, seek and pursue (or should seek and pursue) truth, so also do artists.

They just  do it differently.

In the laboratory, scientists study all sorts of facts to find truth: they research air quality, and public policy is based upon their findings; they investigate germs and diseases; they explore nutrition; they even delve in the deep recesses of the human mind, and try to figure out why we behave the way we do, sometimes, unfortunately, for no other reason than to sell us a product.  (Yes, this is a simplistic overview, but so also is the limiting of intellectual human energy to four areas.)

The province of science, we are told, is to study, discover, report, and work with truth, and so high do we esteem the work of the STEM disciplines that we treat what their members say with an almost religious fervor.  If Science so declares, then it must be true.

But not all truths are able to be seen, swished about in a test tube, or neatly graphed, and these truths are the ones that artists delve in.  Honesty, integrity, compassion, beauty, patience, perseverance, determination, loyalty, peace, hope  — these are good things that are also real things, and when humans strive for them, further good things — that are not necessarily items that we can touch, or buy, or park in our driveway — abound.

Ellen Mary Cassatt with a Large Bow in Her Hair by Mary Cassatt
Ellen Mary Cassatt with a Large Bow in Her Hair by Mary Cassatt

Conversely, there are truths on the opposite end of the spectrum — envy, hate, bitterness, despair, cunning, manipulation, horror, pride, fear — that, when we pursue them, draw out the worst in us.

These are the areas, bad and good, that artists research, study, analyze, scrutinize, explore, define and communicate to the world around them. While there is a stereotype that artists are weird  people, self-absorbed and mumbling to themselves in their garret studios (and frankly, we can thank mass media and popular culture for promoting this ), many artists are as level-headed and intelligent as we accord to the STEM crowd.

Artists are the canaries in the mine, warning society when it is on the wrong track, encouraging it when it moves toward something good. They see where we are going before we get there; they identify the good truths that can be and the bad options that entice. Some artists make a point of promoting and elevating good truths so that others can grasp and understand them. Other artists are fascinated by darkness, cynicism, and despair, and their best contribution is to show us how we don’t want to be. (Not all artists, in the same way that not all STEM sorts, use their gifts for good.)

Though we insist upon doing so, we really cannot divide ourselves, as humans, into exclusively black and white, left brain and right brain, scientists and artists, because there is a little bit of both in all of us, and we need both elements. To deny one, at the expense of the other, makes losers of us all.

Life without science, applied and conceptual, would be a dark, dull place, because we humans are creative beings,  always looking to do something a better, faster, more intriguing way.

But life without art would be a cold, barren wasteland — one without color, emotion, form, touch, or, frankly, humanity — because that is what artists do: they open our eyes and our souls to our humanity.

In a society that promotes engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and technicians as the highest forms of helpers to mankind, artists are not valued for the deep and abiding contributions they make, but let us not be deceived: building bridges and developing treatments for cancer are vitally important, but so also is showing us the deep, unseen truths that transcend our five senses.

This is what artists do.


Wenaha GalleryWenaha Gallery supports art and artists by offering original two- and three-dimensional work by Pacific Northwest artists; art edition prints from Greenwich Workshops; and custom framing of treasured art pieces and mementos of our local and regional clientele.

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.

 

 

 

Storyteller — The Western and Camouflage Art of Bev Doolittle

The Forest Has Eyes is a prime example of Bev Doolittle's camouflage art, with hidden things to be found everywhere.
The Forest Has Eyes is a prime example of Bev Doolittle’s camouflage art, with hidden things to be found everywhere.

In a cinema-saturated society where most people effortlessly rattle off the monikers of 20 living celebrities, naming a fine art painter — especially one who is still breathing — is a challenge.

Within that limited list, however, the name Bev Doolittle will probably appear.

Sacred Circle by Bev Doolittle
Sacred Circle by Bev Doolittle

One of America’s most collected artists, Doolittle paints highly detailed Western Art, primarily in watercolor, that focuses on the environment, Native American tradition, and wildlife. In ironic variance with her name, Doolittle has created, during a career that spans more than 40 years and counting, a significant body of work, which she sells as both originals and prints.

Her images are on calendars, journals, and note cards. They are in a number of books that she has co-authored and illustrated. Through Greenwich Workshops, her principle publisher, Doolittle’s limited edition prints have consistently sold out, and during a 2005 show at Wenaha Gallery when the artist appeared personally in Dayton to sign her prints, the line of purchasers extended out the door and into the sidewalk.

Runs with Thunder by Bev Doolittle
Runs with Thunder by Bev Doolittle

“From the front desk, where I was busy processing sales, I looked across the room where Bev was signing work and chatting with clients,” Lael Loyd, who presently manages the gallery, remembers.

“What impressed me the most is how much time she spent interacting with each person. She was not rushed or moving people through the line quickly. She took time to talk and sign and interact.

“People loved her.”

People still do. Although Doolittle is popularly known for her camouflage technique, in which elements like animals or human faces are hidden within rocks and trees or clouds and streams, not all of her work employs this stratagem. Loyd remembers Doolittle explaining how the public’s reception to the first camouflage piece was so overwhelmingly positive, that the artist was encouraged to, well, Do More.

“Many people call me a ‘camouflage artist,’ but that just isn’t true,” Doolittle says on the Greenwich Workshop website. “If I have to be categorized at all, I like to think of myself as a ‘concept painter.’ I am an artist who uses camouflage to get my story across, to slow down the viewing process so you can discover it for yourself.

“Everything I do is intended to enhance the idea of each piece. For me, camouflage is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

“My meaning and message are never hidden.”

Hide and Seek by Bev Doolittle contains a hidden message that, once clear, doesn't disappear.
Hide and Seek by Bev Doolittle contains a hidden message that, once clear, doesn’t disappear.

That being said, a viewer can spend a lot of time in front of a Doolittle piece, searching for images that may, or may not, be there. In Hide and Seek, a compilation of 24 smaller paintings of brown and white paint horses set against rocks and snow, the words “Hide and Seek,” once seen, are never unseen. They become one with the work, and the viewer feels as if he shares the secret, and the pun, with the artist.

But sometimes, according to Loyd, viewers see things that even the artist doesn’t know are there.

“Once Doolittle became known for doing camouflage, that’s what collectors began seeing,” Loyd says, “but as Doolittle herself says, not all of her work uses this technique.

“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Look — I see a fish in that rock!’ when there isn’t one, but I’m sure Doolittle wouldn’t mind.

“With both her ‘camo’ and her regular work, Doolittle has given collectors much variety.”

The Arrival, for a long time, was hidden to those who knew it existed, but couldn't find it.
The Arrival, for a long time, was hidden to those who knew it existed, but couldn’t find it.

One of Doolittle’s earliest ‘regular’ works, painted in 1977, is The Arrival, depicting a group of Indian scouts spotting the season’s first herd of buffalo. Sold to a private collector, the painting vanished from public view, and Greenwich Workshop made a concerted effort to find it.

“They knew it was out there, but they just didn’t know where,” Loyd says. “When they did find it, and secured permission from the owner to make limited edition prints from it,  it added to the history of the Doolittle collection. It tells a beautiful story, like so many of her works do, and I’m glad that this story can be told to more people.”

Doolittle is still telling stories, and in the spirit of adventure and the great outdoors, she adds additional diversity — more writing, as well as different media and sculpture — to the work done in her California studio. As she told Ralph Cissne, author of the 2015 article about Doolittle, Hidden in Plain Sight, in Chrome Magazine,

“You don’t really retire from art. Hopefully, I can keep going until I fall over on my brush.

“The West is an endless source of ideas for paintings and stories.”

Wenaha GalleryWenaha Gallery is featuring a collection of hard-to-find Bev Doolittle limited edition prints at our latest Art Event, running from Monday, October  19 through Saturday, November 14. Central to the Event are 14 framed pieces dating from Doolittle’s earlier paintings. Also included is The Arrival, released in 2010, and Beyond Negotiations, a limited edition of Doolittle’s first acrylic in 30 years.

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 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 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.

Get Me to School EARLY — The Breaking-the-Rules Art of Brenda Trapani

Faithful Friends original watercolor India ink and colored pencil drawing by Brenda Trapani
Faithful Friends, original watercolor, India ink and colored pencil painting by BrendaTrapani

Getting to school extra, extra early isn’t top priority with many children, but when Walla Walla painter Brenda Trapani was a girl, she made the proverbial early bird look like a sluggard.

“When I was little, we didn’t have money for art paper, markers, or any sort of drawing or painting materials,” Trapani explains. “When I went to school in the first grade, I found that if I came in early, my very creative teacher would let us draw on paper that was piled high, and use big ink markers that were in a shoe box.

Garden Pillars, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.
Garden Pillars, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.

“I didn’t have any of those at home, but I had time, and I couldn’t get to school early enough.”

Paper, pens, markers, pencils, brushes — throughout a childhood that Trapani describes as “shy and introverted” — the artist employed her creativity not only through drawing and painting, but in finding the material to do so, and no scrap of paper — especially the highly prized backs of used envelopes — escaped her.

“It has taken over 40 years for me to throw away an envelope or paper with a blank side, without habitually pausing and thinking about the doodling and scribbling it could hold,” Trapani says, adding that those childhood scraps of paper were direct answers to prayer, although she did not realize it at the time.

“I often didn’t think that God was even listening or helping,” Trapani remembers. “I was desperate. I didn’t pray for paper; I prayed for help.

Long Walks, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.
Long Walks, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.

“I prayed for things to get better in my life and home.

“God did not force His will by preventing people’s bad choices, but He gave me a way to escape — a way to cope — a way for things to be better for me.”

In fourth grade, Trapani’s interest in art solidified into a long-term, lifetime passion as she found herself in the classroom of teacher Anne Bullock, who created pottery and paintings founded in the skills of ancient, indigenous people. To a young girl, Bullock’s encouragement was life changing:

“Not only did she read  to us wonderful, insightful, imaginative and compellingly deep stories, she encouraged us to do the same.

Quiet Dwellings Peaceful Livings, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.
Quiet Dwellings Peaceful Livings, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.

“Write! Read! Draw! Speak! Express yourself! Share! Make a big deal out of simple things! Tell your story!”

Telling that story is something Trapani has been doing ever since, both through her artwork — which encompasses watercolor, India ink, colored pencils, and oil pastels — as well as through her “day job” as a massage therapist, a skill she has practiced for the last 27 years.

“Like art, massage is a quiet, sacred type of work,” Trapani says.  “People often hold their stories, memories, traumas, and joys inside. Massage can help get the bad effects of pain and trauma out.

“Art can do this as well.”

The Memories of This Lifetime, original watercolor, India ink, and colored pencil drawing by Brenda Trapani
The Memories of This Lifetime, original watercolor, India ink, and colored pencil drawing by Brenda Trapani

Because of her own challenging past, and the influence that adults like Bullock had upon her, Trapani donates her time and talent to the lives of others, and has taught art to children and teens in public and private settings, including the “Action Zone” drop-in care at the YMCA. She marvels at the impact that doing art has upon children, especially those she describes as being “sweet, but troubled.”

“I am reminded that art is a gift from God. It may not seem like an answer to a hurting child’s prayer, but since the family often isn’t well, and God does not force his will on people, God still hears the cries of the children.

“Even if they do not see it then, like myself, hopefully (they) will see God sent them powerful teachers, kind grandparents, at least one dependable parent, a cool college kid to look up to.”

If there is any statement that Trapani makes in her art, it is this — that God is real, and that He hears the cries of those who hurt. Another statement she makes is that there is no inflexibly right or wrong way to do things — people frequently comment that she uses paint, ink, and pens “incorrectly” — and it’s no use letting the perceived or potential criticisms of others get in one’s way.

As she tells the young people she teaches, if they have a dinner plate to put blobs of paint on, some wads of paper towel for a brush, and some scraps of paper — even the backs of envelopes — they can create art as unique as they are themselves.

“I feel sad when people say, ‘I wish I was artistic!’  or, ‘I don’t have any talent!’ That’s nonsense!”

And that’s commonsense encouragement from someone who knows how to draw — quite literally —  the most out of the back of a used envelope.

Wenaha GalleryBrenda Trapani is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA from Tuesday, September 22 through Saturday, October 17. Many of the works in Trapani’s Event were created using watercolor paints, India inks, and paper given to her by David Bullock, after the death of his wife, Anne Bullock, in 2014. “She was, and still is, in the lives of many of her former students,” Trapani says.

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.

 

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.

Celebrating the Extraordinary of Ordinary — Anne Bullock’s Raku, Stoneware, Pottery and Multi-Media Art

 

Ring Handled Vessel, pottery sculpture by artist Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery.
Ring Handled Vessel, pottery sculpture by artist Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery.

Woven baskets and clay pots — these humble vessels have been used by ordinary people throughout history. And although they have been and still are a major factor in the daily lives of many, humble vessels are frequently overlooked and discounted in the worlds of both academia and fine art.

Corn Box potter sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery
Corn Box potter sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

It is the rare, sensitive eye that sees the value of the prosaic, and Anne  Bullock, a Walla Walla mixed media artist who, until her death in 2014, celebrated the history and culture of the Plateau people, recognized and respected the expertise and creativity of Pacific Northwest, Native American artisans.

“Anne always worked from a place of deep spiritual meaning,” her husband, David Bullock, remembers. “She found meaningful inspiration in the way these skilled designers used materials at hand in environmentally sound ways to create beauty as well as function.”

Anne’s interest in indigenous baskets took her throughout the region, as she explored the exhibits of the Wanapum Heritage Center Museum, Maryhill Museum, The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, Sacajawea State Park, Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, The Northwest Museum of Art and Culture,  the Fort Walla Walla Museum, and numerous other historical locations.

Blue Vase pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery
Blue Vase pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

“Vessels are a metaphor for my life and work,” Anne said in her artist statement. “I’m impressed with how early Native American Indian artisans worked with indigenous ‘of the earth’ materials. The gifts of the earth were revered; only what was needed was taken.”

In the spirit of the people she admired and honored, Anne worked in multiple mediums, both two- and three-dimensional, primarily in pottery, but her skills, like her interests, extended a wide range.

“She worked with charcoal, colored pencil, pastel, acrylics, and mixed media assemblage,” David says. “She also augmented her art with work in bamboo, wood, stone, wool, and paper.”

Untitled pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery
Untitled pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

A most outstanding piece, remembered by artist friend and curator of Anne’s work Colleen Sargen, is “Earth, Wheat, Fire,” consisting of 36 tiles which needed to be precisely placed at the former Willow Gallery in Walla Walla, WA, during Anne’s Interwoven Exhibition there in 2010.

“She impressed wheat, other flora objects to honor the earth, bark of trees lost in the Walla Walla wind storm of 2007, and specific items such as sand dollars carefully placed, to honor individuals dear to her who have passed on,” Sargen says.

Adding especial interest to the installation was that the tiles were still being created during the week that Sargen was installing the show. “Because the tiles were still smoldering in the fire pit, the fire needing to extinguish naturally, we waited, realizing it would be the last piece installed!” Sargen recalls. But the wait was worth it.

Plateau Series Relief on Panel by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery
Plateau Series Relief on Panel by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

“It is a stunning work, and Anne’s wish was that it be placed in a health care facility.”

These wishes are completely in line with who Anne was, Sargen continues, describing her friend and colleague as “so very tender hearted, it seemed that she herself suffered for the pain of others and actively took steps in daily life to ease pain and bring peace.” One means by which Anne accomplished this was through the March of Peace events that she organized in 2008, involving community members in the creation of small, clay “pinch pots” that were placed in an outdoor art installation at the Walla Walla Foundry’s sculpture garden.

David explains, “Anne sought every opportunity to involve community in her art, in ways such as attaching prayers to her bamboo prayer walls, tying personal mementos to a community memory strand, and even using puzzle pieces from second-hand puzzles to make vessels.”

Throughout Anne Bullock’s life, and during the 38 years she worked and created in Walla Walla, community was a driving factor. Whether that community consisted of the town in which she was living, or the memories of the people who had lived in the area centuries beforehand, she devoted her energy, her skill, and her art to acknowledging and honoring the contributions of ordinary, every day people:

“I am compelled to tie, bind, glue, blend, melt, carve, coil, weave, overlap or somehow piece together media in any way materials allow or dictate,” Anne’s artist statement outlines her deep-set beliefs.

“Integrating materials through these processes gives voice to my themes of honoring the earth, its resources, and inhabitants.”

Wenaha GalleryAnne Bullock’s collection of two- and three-dimensional work is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest feature at Wenaha Gallery from February 23, 2015 through March 21, 2015 at Wenaha Gallery’s historic Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.

“Anne had a special connection with the Wenaha Gallery for many years, and I hope this showing of her work here can honor that connection and provide her community of friends the opportunity to remember and appreciate her creative endeavors.” — David Bullock

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.