Category Archives: Art

Amusing Monday: ‘Plein air’ art captures beauty of Columbia Gorge

More than 40 artists traveled to the Columbia River Gorge in late July to participate in what was essentially a four-day paint-off — a competition to see who could best capture the heart and soul connected to this rare and magnificent landscape.

“Bingen Skyline” by Lilli-anne Price, winner of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Award in the Pacific Northwest Plein Air competition. (Click to enlarge.)
Photo courtesy of Friends of the Columbia Gorge

While I often feature artwork that receives recognition in children’s art contests, I was impressed by the professional paintings in the 14th annual Pacific Northwest Plein Air competition that was completed a little over a week ago, and I wanted to share them with you. The competition, sponsored by Maryhill Museum of Art, features artists from throughout the Northwest and a few from more distant locales.

Artists often tour the area in advance to select a vantage point that will inspire their creations. Most paintings include an image of the Columbia River, but some focus on Mount Hood or other features of the landscape, such as interesting trees or historic buildings. Plein air painting, made popular by French impressionists, calls for venturing beyond the studio walls to paint “en plein air,” which is French for “in the open air.”

“Vista House at Sunset” by Yong Hong Zhong, first-place winner in the Pacific Northwest Plein Air competition. // Photo courtesy of Maryhill Museum of Art

“The Gorge is just an amazing motherlode of a landscape for artists,” said Lilli-anne Price of Salinas, Calif., who was named the winner of a new Friends of the Columbia Gorge special award. “The day before the paint-off started, my husband and I were riding our bikes around the White Salmon area to scope out potential scenes. As we made our way around, we stopped for a rest in the parking lot of Skyline Hospital, and I knew instantly: There it is; this is where I want to paint.”

Lilli-anne’s painting, “Bingen Skyline,” is the first on this page. Her comments and a photo of her at work appeared in a news release from Friends of the Columbia Gorge. You can see more of her work on her website, Lilli-anne Price Fine Art.

“Sandy River Reflection” by Yong Hong Zhong, “Best Water” winner in the Pacific Northwest Plein Air competition. // Photo courtesy of Maryhill Museum of Art

“If conservation in the Gorge hadn’t happened, what would we paint?” she asked. “It’s important to see the natural beauty kept intact. Our planet is so beautiful; it’s everybody’s heart. If we don’t have this what do we have?”

Named as the first-place winner in the overall completion was Yong Hong Zhong of Lake Oswego, Ore. His watercolor, “Vista House at Sunset” is the second on this page, and you can see more of his work on his website. He also took the award for “Best Water” with his watercolor “Sandy River Reflection,” third on this page.

Runner-up for the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Award was Elo Wobig of Portland, Ore., with her oil painting “Shoulders of the Columbia River” (fourth on this page). Her website: Elo Wobig Fine Art.

Photos of all the winning paintings can be viewed on the Pacific Northwest Plein Air Facebook page. The paintings will be on display and available for purchase at the museum until Aug. 24.

“Shoulders of the Columbia River” by Elo Wobig, runner-up for the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Award in the Pacific Northwest Plein Air competition.
Photo courtesy of Friends of the Columbia Gorge

The plein air contest was launched in 2006 by Hood River artist Cathleen Rehfeld to make a stronger connection between art and nature in the Columbia Gorge. This was the first year that the Friends organization joined the contest with special awards.

The Maryhill Museum of Art, about two hours east of Vancouver, Wash., overlooks the eastern portion of the Columbia Gorge. It was originally intended as a mansion for Samuel Hill, who started the town of Maryhill, which was named for his daughter Mary. The unfinished mansion was dedicated as a museum after Hill’s land company failed. Read the full history on the museum’s website, where you can also see a description of permanent and special exhibitions.

Artists are attracted to the annual plein air competition not only by the possibilities of landscape painting but by the museum’s hospitality. Receptions allow the artists to show off and sell their paintings, with a portion of the proceeds going to the museum. A figure painting workshop was offered this year by artist Randall Sexton.

Amusing Monday: Sand sculptors worldwide continue to amaze

While I have never been to Revere Beach, I look forward each year to photos of the amazing sand sculptures from a competition that brings people from throughout the world to this location just north of Boston.

The winning entry in the Revere Beach sand sculpting contest was “Nest” by Mélineige Beauregard of Montreal, Canada. // Photo: Revere Beach Partnership

Adding to the enjoyment of the Revere Beach International Sand-Sculpting Festival are longtime sand-sculptors Dan Doubleday and Meredith Corson-Doubleday, who bring the event to life, especially for distant viewers, with their expert commentary on all the pieces. I also appreciated the slide show created by professional photographer Greg Cook on his Wonderland website.

The sand sculptures are evaluated using four categories: (1) degree of difficulty, (2) originality and creativity, (3) quality of sculpting, and (4) overall visual impact.

In the two videos on this page, Dan and Meredith conduct their fourth-day “walkthrough” together, as the sand sculptures take on their final forms. At the time that Dan and Meredith recorded their commentary, they did not know who the winners would be, so I would like to add some help with that:

Day Four Walkthrough, sculptures 8-15 (first video)

The video opens with a sculpture created by Tacoma’s Sue McGrew called “Eye of the Tiger.” It reflects Sue’s new-found love of boxing. The work is impressive, although Sue did not place at Revere Beach this time around.

At 4:24 in the video, we see “Shell-ter” by Jonathan “Jobi” Bouchard of Montreal, Canada, the second-place winner in the competition. It is his interpretation of what it means to be homeless and forced to find a place to stay while living on the streets.

At 8:12 is a sculpture by Dan Belcher of St. Louis, who took fifth place with “Trance,” showing two isolated eyes staring at a person. Dan pointed out the tall, heavy, and nearly vertical edge to the piece, which shows sort of an engineering ability to the craft.

“Guardian Angels,” third place, by Ilya Filimontse of Russia.
Photo: Revere Beach Partnership

The winning sculpture, by Mélineige Beauregard, also of Montreal, appears at 11:45 in the first video. She mentions in the awards ceremony that her piece, titled “Nest,” reflects the feeling of “love and shelter” that she is feeling in her new relationship. She sort of demonstrates in the sculptors’ video at 4:14.

Also in the first video, at 12:41, is the third-place winner, Ilya Filimontse of Russia with his impressive piece “Guardian Angels.” You can see a portion of the sculpture in a photo on this page, but go to Greg Cook’s photos to see the full thing, including the back. The wings are amazingly fragile, as Dan and Meredith point out, and early in the production one wing partially collapsed and had to be rebuilt. There is some special meaning to the mismatched wings, as Ilya points out in the sculptors’ video at 5:20.


Day Four Walkthrough,
sculptures 1-7 (second video)

At 1:07 in the second video, we see the People’s Choice winner Sudarsan Pattnaik of india. It’s a powerful image of ocean pollution with the message “Save our oceans; stop plastic pollution.”

The always-intricate Sculptors’ Choice award comes up at 2:26 with Belgium native Enguerrand “Mac” David’s piece about Notre-Dame Cathedral.

At 8:56, we see the fourth-place sculpture, “An Ode to Apathy” by Abe Waterman of Prince Edward Island, Canada. This was my personal favorite, because Abe was doing something with colored sand that I have never seen before. The technique works perfectly to distinguish the continents from the oceans as the Earth breaks apart. Meanwhile, a human observer sits and eats his popcorn as he watches it happenen.

Just added this morning are two sculptors’ videos, in which the artists present their work in the same order as their plots and what was presented by Dan and Meredith. They present many thoughtful and amusing insights. One video shows plots 8-15. The other shows plots 1-7.

A video of the awards ceremony includes an introduction of the sculptors and some additional commentary. (You can skip the first 24 minutes, which just shows people milling around without sound.) Other related videos can be seen on the RevereTV Channel on YouTube.

Other competitions

It appears to be a good year for Mélineige Beauregard, who took first place in June at the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Contest in New Hampshire. Her piece in that competition is called “Breaking Out,” and you only get the full impact back looking at the front and then the back, as shown in the image on this page.

Front and back of the piece titled “Breaking Out” by Mélineige Beauregard, first place at the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition.
Photo: Hampton Beach Village District

For other photos at the Hampton Beach event, see the slideshow at the bottom of the website for the Hampton Beach Village District or look at the official Facebook page.

By the way, Sue McGrew will build a sand sculpture at Sammamish City Hall next month as part of the Sammamish Party of the Plateau celebration. The 16 tons of sand will be dropped off on Monday, Aug. 12, and she will work on the sculpture until the following Thursday. The event is sponsored by the Sammamish Arts Commission.

Other upcoming events include:

Amusing Monday: Animations find new ways to talk about climate crisis

I’m always looking for new ways to visualize the causes and effects of excessive greenhouse gases and what is happening to the Earth’s climate. A clever new animation depicts the carbon cycle as a clickety-clackety machine that moves the carbon from place to place.

The video, produced by Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, shows how carbon takes on different forms as it moves from the air into plants and animals, becomes embedded deep in the ground and then is turned into fuel at a pace that upsets the natural cycle. (Don’t forget to go full-screen.)

“Humans have thrown the carbon cycle out of adjustment, with increasingly severe consequences for climate, oceans and ecosystems,” states the description below the YouTube video.

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Amusing Monday: Student artists share views of rare species

A student art contest focused on endangered species produced some impressive paintings and drawings this year for the 14th annual Endangered Species Day, which was celebrated this past Friday.

The contest, called Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest, is sponsored by the Endangered Species Coalition. It gives the young artists and their audience a chance to understand species at risk of extinction. Some choose plants and animal that are well known; others go for the obscure.

Texas blind salamander by ©Sam Hess
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

The grand prize this year was awarded to Sam Hess, a first grader from Portland, Ore. He depicted a Texas blind salamander, a rare cave-dwelling species native to just one place, the San Marcos Pool of the Edwards Aquifer in Hays County, Texas. The salamander, which grows to about 5 inches, features blood-red gills for breathing oxygen from the water.

The art contest, for students K-12, is sponsored by the Endangered Species Coalition, including more than 450 conservation, scientific, education, religious, recreation, business and community organizations.

“We owe it to this generation of children to pass down healthy ecosystems brimming with wildlife,” said Leda Huta, the coalition’s executive director, in a news release. “Every year, their artwork demonstrates how deeply they feel for nature and all of its wondrous creatures – large and small.”

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Amusing Monday: Young artists describe dangers of trash in the ocean

Student artists are helping people understand how ocean creatures are affected by human trash. At least that’s the goal of the annual Marine Debris Art Contest, now in its sixth year. The contest is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program.

Aaron K, Grade 5, Michigan

Hundreds of entries from all over the country were submitted by students, from kindergarteners to eighth graders. I’ve selected a few of my favorites for this page, but you can see all 13 winning entries on the contest website. The 13 winners will have their drawings featured in an upcoming calendar, with one picture on the cover and one for each month. After posting, the calendar can be downloaded from NOAA’s website. To enlarge the pictures on this page, click directly on the image.

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Climate Sense: The road to clean energy – politics, technology and culture

Experts say it is possible, in the not-too-distant future, for the United States to generate nearly all its electrical energy from sources that do not produce climate-changing greenhouse gases. But first some political and technical hurdles must be crossed.

In this week’s “Climate Sense,” I share some news articles that I found noteworthy, as well as an interesting description of five movies about climate change — including the one in the video player here. Films can help bring about cultural change, as mentioned in a review of five films about climate change (Item 6 at the bottom).

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Learning the fate of Springer’s stick, a key to an orca rescue

When is a medical intervention appropriate for a sick or ailing killer whale?

It’s a complicated question, as I learned by interviewing a variety of experts in a two-part series just published in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

One aspect of the story that I found interesting was how a simple tree branch helped to make a connection between humans and a lonely orca named Springer. If you have read my story, you might be interested in how the stick played an ongoing role after the rescue.

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Amusing Monday: Simon shares quirky, all-too-familiar stories of a cat

British animator Simon Tofield has turned his love affair with cats into an amusing series of cartoon videos, delighting millions of viewers on YouTube and other outlets.

For his inspiration, Simon relies on his memories of his numerous companions through the years — Jess, Maisy, Hugh, Teddy, Poppy and Lilly — but the name of the cat in his cartoon is known simply as Simon’s Cat.

The first video on this page asks the question “Do cats really hate water?” It is from Simon’s highly informative series called “Simon’s Cat Logic,” in which cat behavioral expert Nicky Trevorrow joins the conversation to explain how cats think.

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New online magazine describes life in and around Puget Sound

John F. Williams, a Suquamish resident who has been creating dramatic underwater videos for years, recently launched a new online publication called Salish Magazine. Its goal is to help people to better understand the ecosystem in the Puget Sound region.

For those of us who live in the region, John and his Still Hope Productions have helped us visualize and understand what lies beneath the waves and up the streams of Puget Sound. The video “Is this where Puget Sound starts?” (shown below) is a good example of the video production. Other videos can be found on Still Hope’s website.

The new online publication shifts to the use of more words, along with photos and videos, to explain the connections among living things. The first issue includes extensive articles on sea anemones, barnacles, sea stars, mussels and glaciation, spiced up with art, poetry and personal stories. Download the magazine as a huge PDF (56.6 mb) file or open it in iBooks.

The second issue of Salish Magazine is about the importance of forests, with articles on forest character, forest restoration, barred owls and more, as well as poetry, essays and lots of photos, all combined in a web design that combines variable scrolling with pull-down menus.

As John describes it, “A key focus of the magazine is to illustrate the interconnectedness woven through our ecosystems, using lenses of history, science, and culture.”

The first two issues are free, although a subscription is expected to be announced next year. Meanwhile, one can sign up for newsletters on the Subscribe webpage. Salish Magazine is published by the nonprofit firm SEA-Media.

Speaking of environment news, I hope everyone is familiar with Puget Sound Institute and its online newsletters. The December issue includes a quiz on Pacific herring and articles on rockfish, Puget Sound vital signs, the Clean Water Act and recent research papers.

Puget Sound Institute, an independent organization affiliated with the University of Washington, strives to advance an understanding of Puget Sound through scientific synthesis, original research and communication. PSI receives major funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.

One can subscribe to the PSI newsletter, blog and alerts to articles in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound on the Subscribe webpage.

Full disclosure: I am employed half-time by Puget Sound Institute to write in-depth articles about scientific discoveries and ecological challenges in the Puget Sound region.

Further note: A previous version of this post stated incorrectly that Still Hope Productions is a nonprofit company.

Amusing Monday: Wild and Scenic Rivers to be featured on U.S. stamps

In the coming year, you could choose to use postage stamps depicting the Skagit River in Washington, the Deschutes River in Oregon, the Tlikakila River in Alaska, and the Snake River, which runs through portions of Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

Skagit River: Wild and Scenic Rivers stamp
Photo: Tim Palmer

These rivers are among 12 Wild and Scenic Rivers to be featured in a pane of stamps scheduled to be released as Forever stamps in the coming year.

The year 2018 has been celebrated as the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, with a special celebration in October, so I didn’t think I’d be writing about this topic again so soon. But I couldn’t pass up a mention of these stamps that show off some beautiful photographs by Michael Melford, Tim Palmer and Bob Wick. The pane of stamps was designed by art director Derry Nores for the U.S. Postal Service’s stamp program.

Deschutes River: Wild and Scenic Rivers stamp
Photo: Bob Wick

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve sections of rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values. Although the Snake River runs through portions of four states, the designated section is actually just a 67-mile segment downstream of Hells Canyon Dam along the Idaho-Oregon border.

Reporter Kimberly Cauvel of the Skagit Valley Herald wrote about the Skagit River stamp, quoting photographer Tim Palmer and salmon biologist Richard Brocksmith, executive director of the Skagit Watershed Council.

Snake River: Wild and Scenic Rivers stamp
Photo: Tim Palmer

“Clearly Skagit belongs in that group of rivers to celebrate around the country,” Richard told her. “There’s no other single river anywhere in Washington, maybe even the country, that exceeds all superlatives for its unique beauty, fisheries resources, recreational values, natural free-flowing condition and local contributions to our economy such as Skagit’s agriculture.”

With the largest runs of Chinook salmon among Puget Sound streams, one could also argue that the Skagit plays a key role in the effort to save the Southern Resident killer whales from extinction.

Other Wild and Scenic Rivers featured as stamps in the upcoming release (with photographer) are:

  • Merced River in California (Melford),
  • Owyhee River, a tributary of the Snake River in Oregon (Melford),
  • Koyukuk River, Alaska (Melford),
  • Niobrara River, a tributary of the Missouri River in Nebraska (Melford)
  • Flathead River, Montana (Palmer)
  • Missouri River, Montana (Wick)
  • Ontonagon River, Michigan (Palmer),
  • Clarion River, Pennsylvania (Wick)

Since 1847, official U.S. postage stamps have been used to promote the people, places and events that represent the history of the United States.

Tlikakila River: Wild and Scenic Rivers stamp
Photo: Michael Melford

“The miniature works of art illustrated in the 2019 stamp program offer something for everyone’s interest about American history and culture,” Mary-Anne Penner, executive director of the USPS Stamp Services Program, said in a news release Nov. 20.

The Postal Service previewed 20 upcoming stamps or sets of stamps for 2019 in the news release. The stamps honor people including Marvin Gaye and Walt Whitman and range in subject from the USS Missouri battleship to four species of frogs. So far, I’ve been unable to obtain release dates for these stamps, but some info should be posted soon in the USPS Newsroom. Also, if you haven’t heard, the price of a Forever stamp will rise from 50 cents to 55 cents on Jan. 27, as approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

If you’d like to see the state-by-state list of Wild and Scenic Rivers, go to the map on the Wild and Scenic Rivers anniversary website and click on any state.

Previous Water Ways blog posts about this year’s anniversary:

Twelve Wild and Scenic Rivers stamps are scheduled for release in 2019. // Source: U.S. Postal Service