Karen E. Lewis at Columbia River Gallery

Columbia River Gallery presents:

Local Oil Landscapes by
Karen E. Lewis

August 3 – 31, 2007
Columbia River Gallery
305 E Columbia R. Highway
Troutdale, OR

First Friday Artwalk August 3, 5-9

Below, Just Around the River Bend, oil on canvas, by Karen E. Lewis.

just around the river bend

We asked Karen to talk a little about her work, and here’s what she says:

Gathering landscape material is my first step. I find inspiration on hikes and canoe trips, and painting en plein air in favorite places. I sketch directly on small (12 x 9) canvas, using a limited palette to mix all the colors I see. Painting on location forces me to simplify, distilling the scene into its most important elements, because within two hours, the light will have changed dramatically.

Although I take many photographs, my strongest impressions come from the plein air painting. Being there, my eye sees what the camera cannot. Time after time, I’ve painted a scene, putting in colors and shades that I saw. Bringing home sketch and photographs, I find that the camera faithfully recorded detailed shapes–the angles of a building, the multiple leaves on the trees–but all the colors seem to have averaged out into a mere approximation of the sensations I experienced. Being there, you notice the warms within cool shadows, the cools at the tops of trees, the dancing colors in the water. You notice the color of the sky. As you continue to look, you become aware of atmosphere, of a hint of breeze. You put these into the sky, and it becomes more sky-alive.

In the studio, these on-location paintings expand into larger works. Searching through my photos and sketches, I select and design new compositions, using my imagination to freely change the design. I manipulate the digital photographs on the computer, expanding parts, creating composites, emphasizing certain colors, de-emphasizing others. The palette of the plein-air sketch informs the studio choices. On my palette in the studio, I enrich colors even further, juxtapose contrasting hues to enhance atmosphere and mood.

The new composition goes onto the canvas in brush-painted lines, with sketchy shading for the darks. Then I can evaluate the light and dark pattern one last time before I begin actual painting. Each painting develops in a slightly different way. Sometimes I cover the entire canvas alla prima, incorporating all the color and texture the first time around. Other paintings build in layers, enabling me to separate complements and create rougher textures.

My favorite subjects are rivers, lakes, waterfalls, clouds, any form of water.

Karen’s studio will be open October 20-21 through Portland Open Studios, where you can see more of her work and artistic process.

For more information about Columbia River Gallery, see http://www.columbiarivergallery.com.

To see more of Karen’s work and learn about her classes, see http://www.karenlewisstudio.com.

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