Tag Archives: watercolors

Take Your Broken Heart and Make it Art


Sue Sommers’ “001-1111-16,” Watercolor pencil and crayon on Magnani Pescia paper, 11 x 11″. From Sommers’ “Sibling” series.

In this week’s Jackson Hole News & Guide, editors ran a short letter about “clowns” demonstrating on Jackson’s Town Square the afternoon of January 15th. The letter could be taken as a thinly veiled threat: get those “clowns” off the streets of Jackson, or we’ll take our business elsewhere. Presenting all points of view is important, but placing that particular letter ahead of all others is astounding.

It’s a new town, a new year. Luckily, we can take our broken hearts and still make art!

Wyoming’s Pipeline Art Project artist Sue Sommers recently wrote a great piece for Wyofile, and she’s also come out with lots of new art and a new website. Her art explores different subjects, all close to home. Two of my favorites are her “Sibling” and “Willows” series. Though Sommers doesn’t specifically say so, these works draw from the same well, a source of roots and connection.

Sue Sommers, “Willow 2.” Intaglio on Rives Cream, plate size 9 x 12″, edition of 6.

Think of a tree’s branches as fingers, reaching to the sky, beckoning sun, rain and wildlife to its limbs. Think of families — most of Sommers’ abstract “Siblings” resemble fingers — as hands connected by fingers.

She could, she says, use a word like “meditation” to describe the “Sibling Series'” origins. But the real origin is terror.

“I call them (the Sibling Series) because they look like related organisms moving around in a confined space – like a family,” writes Sommers. “Thinking about my own siblings while I draw liberates me. I know (but didn’t when I was growing up) that I have to let the shapes be what they want.”

Sue Sommers. A landscape, “Fenceline 0615″ Acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas, 48 x 48 x 1.5”

Sommers writes about process rather than “content” or “meaning.”

She could, she says, use a word like “meditation” to describe the “Sibling Series'” origins. But the real origin is terror.

“This would be embarrassing if I didn’t know lots of other artists fighting messy tides of dread and self-doubt. Do I have anything interesting to say? Am I any good? Is there any point to the sacrifices I make? After nearly 40 years of valiant battle, I felt like the terror was winning. My way out was to make marks. Any marks.”

Sue Sommers. Stripes sketchbook green yellow. Watercolor and crayon in handmade sketchbook, 4 x 6 inches open. NFS

Sommers started with square pieces of scrap paper and a children’s watercolor set. Working slowly, she pressed her nose almost to the paper, her brush dragging incrementally across the paper’s tooth as pigment soaked in and spread.

“Every inch of every strip of color I laid down was my choice: I choose to make this now. And this. And this. I made dozens of these stripe pieces. Eventually they started changing, and I started changing.”

You can view Sommers’ new work and new website here

Duke Beardsley, Hangtown. Mixed Media on Collage 40 x 52.”  At Altamira Fine Art, Scottsdale.

Altamira Fine Art’s Scottsdale gallery welcomes a new solo show, “Range Monitor,” by contemporary Western artist Duke Beardsley. 

“A highly anticipated new body of work will be highlighted in this new show, which centers on the idea of transparencies and visual plays on overlapping realities and falsehoods,” writes the gallery.

Artist Reception & Opening: January 26, 6:30 – 9:00 pm, in Scottsdale. 

This appears to be an excellent show. Find out more about it by visiting Altamira’s exhibition description here.

Fluids & Solids; Creative Arts Capital


April 26, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, the Art Association presents two shows: Fluid Watercolor in Jackson Hole and Clay In Your Face. Works will be on exhibition in the Art Association’s gallery and Theater spaces. Watercolors and ceramic works by a bevy of well-known Art Association-affiliated artists should be plentiful, as at least 50 names appear in related press materials. Refreshments at the opening, mais oui!

By the way, next time you visit Jackson’s Center for the Arts, check out the free arts-related publications and flyers behind the visitor’s information desk. There’s a wonderful revolving selection of materials available. The National Endowment for the Humanities pamphlet lists NEH programs for school and college educators taking place all over the country, and there are several I’d LOVE to be able to take!   www.artassociation.org 


The competition is of the highest caliber, and arts writers grantees approach contemporary art in the most innovative ways. If arts writers are innovative and relevant enough, they may receive grant monies from The Creative Capital|Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program. Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Andy may not be with us, but his mojo is.

A sign of the times: The Foundation notes that “Due to legal constraints we can only fund U.S. citizens, permanent residents of the United States, and holders of O-1 visas.” 

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New Stratmans at Horizon Fine Art; Business Incubators

Happy Equinox!

Watercolorist Kay Stratman, who describes her work as “Asian influenced,” has posted new work on her newly revamped website. In the letter she sent me, Stratman featured one of her new paintings, Monday Morning Breakfast Group, depicting yellow headed and red winged blackbirds gathered for conversation. Perched on some cattails and set against a liquid blue-green background, these are animated, upbeat birds. It must be Spring; as I write this a flash mob of rosy finches is filling the air with chatter and clamoring around in the trees, while several robins look on, keeping their distance.

“The title came first, before the image, inspired by my husband Paul’s Monday morning breakfast group,” says Stratman. “I think it is lots of fun and hope you do too. [This painting] appears a bit more detailed than many of my looser, more spontaneous paintings. Actually the details are only in the beaks, eyes and feet. The rest is very loosely handled with watery color flowing and blending in the background.”

The artist also plans to teach some art classes later this spring; both involve watercolor technique and one incorporates encaustic wax. Classes take place at the Art Association this May and early June, and to find out more, you should visit the Art Associaton’s website –www.artassociation.org–or call 307.733.6379. Stratman will also take part in the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s June 16th Annual Quickdraw event.

Stratman is also represented by Horizon Fine Art, 30 King Street, in Jackson, Wyoming. Her work is part of a group show there, taking place the week of June 16th. www.horizonfineartgallery.com. Stratman’s website: www.kaystratman.com.

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Bonnema-Leslie at Center St. Gallery

This article appeared in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, August 2008

What: New Works by Kathy Bonnema-Leslie
When: Opening Reception Saturday, August 23 4-7 pm
Where: Center Street Gallery, 30 Center Street
Telephone: 733-1115

A first glance at Montana artist Kathy Bonnema-Leslie’s work triggers this response: “Wow, that girl does good woodblock!”

“We hear that a lot,” says Center Street Gallery’s Ryan Wright. “Kathy pays extreme attention to countless, individually defined shapes. Her watercolors and serigraphs are fashioned in an exact manner and easily taken for woodblock. All that detail means time spent on the work increases significantly.”

Bonnema-Leslie wants to deliver details, but she she’s also exhilarated by the air standing between her and the mountains, aspen trees and bodies of water she paints; that air creates atmosphere and space; it also brings energy. Primarily portraits of Montana’s country, her watercolors are often landscape series, visual chapters in a book about favorite locations that more fully explore feelings about place.

Even as the artist invites space, her compositions are flattened by the use of large, geometric color fields. Children’s first art lessons often include cutting up colored construction paper to create design. Bonnema-Leslie’s watercolors ultimately do produce the feel of a Japanese woodblock print; the art form is common and long-standing in Japan, as well as in the west. Painters such as Matisse, Monet and Vincent Van Gogh were some of the most influential western artists to incorporate woodblock; this exhibit wraps its arms around that tradition.

One woodblock style, Ukiyo-e, translates to “scenes of the floating world.”

Let’s talk about the color! To say that these skies are blue is like saying Robert Downey Jr. is cute. This artist’s color palette exaggerates every hue. Her blues! Indigo, sapphire, ultra-marine, and electric blue are right; robin’s egg blue, baby blue and sky-blue are wrong. Bonnema-Leslie’s ‘the water is bluer at the bottom’ blue surrounds foaming, bubbly aspen leaves. They buoyantly crown and surround long, leggy aspen tree trunks.

Regardless of medium, the artist favors using intense glazing or layering techniques to produce rich, saturated colors. Generating Montana’s landscapes sparkling hues and dimensional light are a priority.

Clouds, often rendered amorphously, now resemble flying oyster shells. They’re arced, rippled; shadows are as clearly defined as tree rings. “Piper #11,” an autumn landscape, depicts distant mountain peaks and golden fields pushed down by the sheer pressure of a procession of marching clouds—they come towards us, flying over and past us, an onslaught of nature-friendly UFO’s.

Bonnema-Leslie’s serigraphs are created by hand, as opposed to relying on film and computer imaging to mechanically produce a finished product. This artist lays linen stencils down, applying them with watercolors. In any given work, each stencil represents a single color. When multiple layers of stenciling are completed, a finished image results. Bonnema-Leslie’s serigraphs are all unique, but the artist does produce compact series of her works.

“For some of her smaller serigraphs, Kathy might do 50 editions,” notes Wright. “Larger prints may warrant 15 editions. But all are original. Serigraphs are a more affordable option, with prices ranging from $175 – $800.” Watercolor prices begin at $800. The show includes 25 works now on display; an additional dozen will be added.

In his last decade of life, Matisse found renewal through his bright and playful cutouts. Using paper, he designed stained glass windows for the Chapelle du Rosaire. Bonnema-Leslie could work big; her paintings feel as if she wants to. She should push past her current parameters. If Montana is the church, its mountains the steeple, then her aspens, lakes, clouds and wildflowers are surely the people.

Tammy Christel

Jackson, Wyoming