William E. Elston is a professional artist and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. He has exhibited for over 40 years, and has works in numerous public and private collections, both in the region and internationally. He is best known for urban and rural landscape images.
This humble still life began as a large figure subject, during the time that I was living in New York City. The model was a woman who danced with the Twyla Tharp Dance Company. She was also the wife of a friend, although they were shortly divorced. She was a restless model, and often missed sessions. When she did pose she became easily distracted and bored, and would think of any excuse to get out of it. Finally out of frustration, I decided to cut my losses and crop out the only area of the painting that got any consistent attention.
I didn’t have a camera at the time, or I might have been able to finish the figure composition with photo references. Unfortunately my camera had been stolen in Boston, in a break-in at Curt Hanson’s Back Bay apartment. I didn’t acquire another camera until I moved back to Spokane in the early 1980s.
Every painting is a confluence of desire and circumstance. One can never quite march one’s vision into the realm of our conditional world, without encountering unexpected and bitter sacrifice. Sometimes it’s a failure of technique in the face of spectacular terrestrial phenomena, sometimes it’s just a model with a flakey attitude. Although this painting was just background ephemera in a corner of the original composition, I think it makes a nice statement on its own.
The painting is from the collection of my old friends Michael Moore and Libby Kopczynski.
This is the installation of my current exhibition at Dodson’s Fine Jewelers, in Spokane, WA. I regret that my photographs do not do the installation justice, but it was the best that I could do under the circumstances.
The exhibition will be up until December 2. Dodson’s is located at 516 West Riverside Avenue. Their hours are Tuesday through Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm.
I’m getting ready for my upcoming exhibition at Dodson’s Fine Jewelers, in Spokane WA. The show, “Here, There and Everywhere,” opens November 3, with reception at 5 – 8 PM, and will continue until December 2.
The exhibition includes Spokane subjects, as well as paintings done at the Columbia River Gorge, and Western Washington.
Dodson’s hours are Tuesday – Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM, and Saturday from !0 AM to 5 PM. Dodson’s is located at 516 West Riverside Ave, Spokane, WA 99201
At the suggestion of my student Sarah Anderson, we’ve been painting at Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm, in Bellevue, WA. It’s a beautiful spot, with interesting views of the lake and the farm itself. There is also a lot of wildlife, especially of the avian variety. We saw wood ducks, a hawk that swooped by so fast that it could not be identified, and a great blue heron that parked its noble figure not far from where we were painting. It’s a wonderful suburban oasis, and full of interesting compositions.
I spent 4 days participating in the Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2017 event at Maryhill Museum, on the Columbia River Gorge. It was a grueling affair, with temperatures as high as 110 degrees. There were 42 artists involved, and the event culminated in a month-long exhibition at Maryhill Museum, where it will hang until August 27th.
Because of the excessive heat, along with the parameters of the competition, the event became a bit of an endurance test. One must create a minimum of 4 paintings in 4 days. Since the 4th day is devoted to framing, the inevitable touchup and delivery to the museum, there are really only three days to do the paintings. For me that meant doing 4 alla prima studies as quickly as possible so that I could go find a cold beer. I was joined by my friend John Laney, and on one occasion we found the heat so oppressive that we opted for the beer without the painting as prelude.
At the outset of the event there was a post on facebook that addressed a controversy re. what is truly plein air. Must it be done in total on site, or can one work on it in the studio? If worked in the studio, what percentage is permissible? I always look to the old masters for answers to these questions, and I find that the men who virtually invented the art of painting en plein air did not fetishize the process, but did what they felt the painting demanded. They painted outdoors, finished indoors, used photo references at times, and did all in a spirit of lively experimentation. They did not valorize process over results. Posting these mundane observations got me blocked by one purist amongst the ‘pleinairistas,’ but also collected some ‘likes’ as well.
The real value of these events is the opportunity to network with other artists. I often wonder if we couldn’t get beyond the need to turn these gatherings into a competitive blood sport, they might resemble the convivial gatherings of the old art colonies that populated Europe and America at the turn of the last century. I enjoyed seeing some old friends, Cathleen Rehfeld Meyers, Celeste Bergen, etc., and meeting some new ones, Thomas Kitts, Aaron Johnson, Bhavani Krishnan and Matt Sterbenz.
Many years ago, when my mother was still alive, she asked me to do a painting of lightning over Spirit Lake, Idaho. Spirit Lake is where I was born, and where my family had lived for the first seven years of my life. My parents had a long history in that small town. Lightning storms over the lake were tremendous and thrilling occurrences for a young child, and I can remember them well. This painting was the result of her request, and was conjured up from my memory.