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.

 

 

 

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.