DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: A fresh look, in full color

IT HAPPENS WHEN least expected. A single still image beams me back to a place, a feeling.

We look at scores of pictures in the course of the day. Videos, websites, graphics, selfies everywhere.

A work of art, then, needs a kind of grace to capture the attention.

And though I didn’t see it coming, this is what painter Simon Winegar did with his image of downtown Salt Lake City: a view up State Street to the Capitol and the snowy shoulders of the Wasatch Range.

I lived in Salt Lake for three formative years, before and during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

I wasn’t part of the dominant Mormon culture, but its members were unfailingly kind to me.

I experienced the sweet silence of Nordic skiing through a forest in January, the buoyancy of biking City Creek Canyon in September and the thrill of watching Olympic ice dancers fly.

In an instant, Winegar’s painting brought all of it back.

He’s one of 22 plein air artists on his way here for Paint the Peninsula, the competition and show starting this Sunday (PaintthePeninsula.org).

For a week straight they’ll strike out into the open, to render ocean, strait, mountains, fields and, above all, colors.

We get to see the resulting images on display, through the following Sunday, at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.

This being August, another big summer party is about to bloom.

The Art Port Townsend studio tour (Northwindarts.org) happens this Saturday and Sunday with local artists in their lairs, from Chimacum to Water Street, displaying and demonstrating their particular passions.

Carolyn Doe is one of nearly 50 Art Port Townsend participants.

A former field camp manager and cook in Alaska, she’s an interpreter of the natural world.

She’s set to show her work at Meg Kaczyk’s Cape George studio this weekend.

As a painter, “You see different kinds of blue,” Winegar told me.

In Utah for example, the sky is a red-based blue; in Spain, where he lived for two years, it’s a blue shimmering with yellow.

Which immediately had me rhapsodizing about Lake Crescent.

Wait, I said, till you see the blue spectrum in our lake, our sky, our Salish Sea.

Hold on. I don’t want to take the self-congratulatory tone of “This is the best place in the whole world to live” that I hear now and again.

What I hope for instead is to continually see this place with fresh eyes.

Fortunately artists, through painting, sculpture and photography, renew our views in this way.

Paint the Peninsula rocked my world last year: The visiting painters showed me new perspectives of Madison Falls, Sequim at nighttime, the Olympic forest cathedral, even downtown Port Angeles.

The more you paint outside, the more you see and feel, Winegar said.

Yes, it’s tempting, amidst the bugs and wind, to stay in the studio and work from a photograph.

“Better to go to the source,” he said. “You need to get as close as possible.”

The source, to me, is not only the land and sea he’s painting. The source is the heart.

“You tend to instill things in a [plein air] painting that you wouldn’t in a studio,” Winegar said.

The breeze blows onto the canvas, he said, as does his state of mind.

“If you’re happy out there, that comes through,” there in the painting.

Doe, for her part, finds inspiration in light, birds, trees. Batik art, she says, has become her voice.

“I love the stillness of the land,” she writes in her artist statement.

Stillness. In our video-blazing world, it’s a drink of cool water.


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Sept. 5.

Reach her at [email protected]

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