OMAK — Okanogan County Artists' 38th annual Western and Native Art Show features 16 returning artists from as far away as Montana and Idaho, across Washington state and many local artists.
This year's poster artist is Sherry Orchard of Walla Walla, whose unique technique is painting on feathers.
“I always look forward to coming up to Omak. It's a wonderful town and the art show is one of my favorites,” said Orchard. This is Orchard's fourth year attending the Western and Native Art Show.
“This show has always been a lot of fun for me. The community is very supportive of the artists, and I've made some great friends at this show,” said Orchard. “Being held the same weekend as the Omak Stampede brings in a high number of visitors to buy artwork.”
Orchard's paintings have been purchased by collectors from as far away as England, France and Australia as well as across the U.S.
She began painting on feathers about 15 years ago, after using canvas for years. She uses several kinds, but most commonly wild turkey and peacock. Orchard said there are a lot of wild turkeys on her and her husband's property in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, and in the past they would just collect them to put in vases.
“A friend of my mother's made the suggestion to paint on one of those feathers, and it was like a light bulb went off in my head,” recalled Orchard. “I picked up a small feather and painted a deer, and after that I couldn't stop.”
Orchard said it took a lot of experimenting to figure out ways to stabilize the feathers to prevent them from splitting.
“Turkey tail feathers are wide and lay flat which makes them ideal for painting,” said Orchard. “Plus, I have an unlimited supply.”
Orchard said the peacock feathers are a little more difficult to find, and she would like to have her own flock in the future.When using peacock feathers, she chooses the ones that support the fancy tail feathers, as they lay flat and can be as long as 24 inches. After a while, she began to put feathers together to make larger “canvases.”
“I can layer these types of feathers to make various sizes of paintings. They just kept getting bigger and more detailed,” said Orchard, adding her largest piece so far is the one chosen for this year's poster for the art show. The framed piece is 31 inches by 36 inches. Done on peacock feathers, Orchard said the longest feather used is 25 inches.
“I've also used the "eye" tail feathers for what I call my hummingbird collage paintings,” said Orchard. Each 'eye' has an individual hummingbird painted on them and then arranged together to make a large painting. Orchard said these are the most difficult feathers to paint on, as they tend to split easily.
“I've come up with a technique that helps prevent that, but it's still difficult at times,” said Orchard, adding she rarely uses wing feathers because they have an arch that makes it difficult to frame since they won't lay flat.
Orchard said she also does tiny feathers, as small as one inch, which she calls her “micro paintings.”
Orchard said for her, the most difficult things to paint are deer and elk.
“Getting the antlers correct is a challenge,” said Orchard.
This year, Orchard starting painting hat feathers, after visiting an art show last summer where the hat company Resistol had feathers for sale to support military men and women.
“They were a simple design with their logo stamped on them. That gave me the idea to paint single feathers with rodeo images on them and I have had them available at shows specifically made to wear in hats,” said Orchard. “They're very popular now, so I'm researching ways to reproduce them.”
Orchard said her love of art started at a very young age.
“I remember being little and asking my mom to draw horses for me. I thought they were amazing and I wanted her to teach me how to draw like her,” recalled Orchard. “I grew up drawing on anything I could find, paper plates, napkins, even rocks.”
She began painting in oils while in her teens and later switched to acrylics. She said she prefers the versatility, bright colors and quick drying time of acrylics.
“Until I discovered feathers I only painted occasionally,” said Orchard. “Raising my kids and working full time didn't give me much free time.”
Orchard finds inspiration from other artists as well.
“There are so many that I admire it's hard to name just a few,” said Orchard. “Robert Bateman, Terry Isaac and Collin Bogle are my favorites for wildlife; and as far as western art Chris Owen and Robert Walton are amazing.”
Orchard's busy schedule this season includes shows in Great Falls, Montana; St. Paul, Oregon; and Jackson Hole, Wyoming as well as shows around Washington state. She takes advantage of the time on the road to create.
“While my husband drives, I paint. A lot of my feathers are finished going down the highway,” said Orchard. “My husband builds most of my frames, so I give him the dimensions I need and when we get to where we're going the feathers are ready to be framed and added to my booth. It's a combined effort and we love it.”
Also returning this year is Jack Babcock of Auburn, known for his Western landscapes and ability to paint on a round surface as well as the traditional canvas. His realistic scenes of life in the Pacific Northwest feature breathtaking landscapes often including people and horses. Babcock has studied under Robert Walton, Herb Shraml and Lenora Landgren and continues to refine his talents in his notably individual way.
Ron Adamson will be returning from Libby, Montana. Adamson grew up next to the Kootenai River, and by his teenage years had already begun carving on cottonwood trees. Adamson researched the history of local settlers, trappers and Native Americans in order for his artwork to present them realistically, and by the end of his teen years began experimenting with acrylic paints. His landscape art draws the viewer in, with scenes like “The Birches,” created in 1975, inviting one to slip step inside the painting and leave all else behind as they stroll through the scenery with the wild abandon of Alice slipping through the rabbit hole. Adamson took on bronze sculpture in the 1980s, creating his own foundry in 1990 and moving into stone sculpture by the end of that decade. Working with a chainsaw, Adamson creates intricately detailed large wood pieces as well as ice sculptures.
Ron Moore of Moore, Idaho, who attended the show for the first time last year will also be back with a variety of western themes. Also returning are Leela Day from Granite Falls, Tom Morrison from Deer Park and David Craig of Eatonville whose work includes beautiful Native American portraits.
Local artists include Cheryl Grunlose from Coulee Dam and Don Knutt from Coulee City; Brewster's Tina Reeve Tharp; Okanogan's Barbara Conner-Reed and Suzette Cheshier; internationally-known artist, Georgia Orr Tongel, of Omak; Omak’s Patty Helberg, Nelda Patison, Sarah Stone, Linda Vance, and Sandra Walters; Bruce Townsend-Cook and Shayla Wiggins from Riverside; and Judith Elven and George L. Traicheff from Oroville.
The show is located at the Omak Elks Lodge, 110 S. Ash St. Aug. 9-12. A champagne reception and art auction will be Saturday from 2-5 p.m. The live auction begins at 2:30 p.m. with artist and auctioneer George Traicheff.
“Everybody loves him, he is a character,” said Karyl Hubbard publicity chairman with the Okanogan County Artists. “All of the artists voluntarily put a piece in the auction, with the proceeds supporting the art association. All the events are free and open to the public, and the Elks Lodge is air conditioned.”