If Fairweather House and Gallery in Seaside’s July exhibition “Making Waves” demonstrates anything it is that the ocean has countless faces, providing an equal amount of opportunities for artists for develop individual relationships with the water while striving to capture its expression.
“All artists sort of share that same problem-solving dilemma: How to accurately render a surface of water,” said artist Phil Juttelstad, of Tigard, who is presenting work for the first time at Fairweather.
“There are a thousand ways to interpret an image, so there are lots of opportunities to explore.”
The exhibition is on view now through the end of July opened with a reception during Seaside’s First Saturday Art Walk. According to gallery owner Denise Fairweather, the exhibition includes new original work created entirely by 18 North Coast artists.
Every month, Fairweather transforms her gallery with a new exhibition centered on a particular theme.
Late last year, she sent a list of potential themes to her resident artists – those who consistently have work on display at the gallery – and they shared their preference for the themes that fit with their existing work or for which they wanted to create new pieces. At least once per year, the theme relates in some way to water and the ocean.
Excitement and energy
The range of images, styles and techniques in the current exhibition, Fairweather said, “reveals the extraordinary impact of the sea and waves.”
For oil painter Sharon Abbott-Furze, who is also new to gallery and did a demonstration during the opening reception, the theme “Making Waves” was a natural fit.
She regularly paints seascapes and has an affinity for everything about the ocean: “the power, the lighting, the movement, the moods,” she said.
Dabbling in abstract impressionism and expressionistic realism, she focuses on capturing the emotions evoked by what she is observing.
“I meander,” she said. “I’m not trying to paint what I see, I’m painting what I feel, and oils really accommodate that well.”
Although Abbott-Furze now lives in Vancouver, she and her husband had a boat ported in Ilwaco for many years from the late 1960s to the ’80s.
She and other artists expressed what they find to be unique about the ocean and its expression on the Oregon and Washington coast as compared to other locations.
“They don’t have the excitement for me, the power, the terrain of our coast,” Abbott-Furze said.
Juttelstad agreed, adding, “The Oregon Coast is singular in that it has kind of an energy about it that a lot of locations can’t impart.”
Additionally, he said, the mountains and rocks along the coast create “some really nice geometry and opportunities for dynamic composition,” with rough waves and muted colors because of the surrounding atmosphere.
Painting the ocean, coast
Karen Lewis, who over the years has sought to paint “the many moods of water,” also pays close attention to even subtle color variations and how they factor into her composition.
Each coastal location “has its special quirks,” she said.
For instance, when she paints images of the ocean in Hawaii, she specifically keeps pthalo blue on hand to accurately render the water. In Oregon, the ocean contains more green. The surface also reflects the sky and the shadows that pass over it.
“The water itself creates opportunities that don’t exist in looking at a static surface, such as the side of a building or a hillside,” Juttelstad agreed. “You have to render the surface of the water, the waves, and the debris that is on the surface. You also have to render what is underneath the water.”
Lewis added seascapes also encapsulate movement, which presents another challenge for painters.
“You have to watch for patterns – patterns of color, patterns of movement – and things that repeat to find a moment to capture,” she said.