Tag Archives: northwest

Thirty minutes to paint

Quick draw events are fun, frightening, sometimes furiously fast and often rewarding!  Many are an hour or two in length which is not a lot of time to execute a painting but easier compared to the 30 minute events.  In a 30 minute event there is no time to ponder.  You need to have pondered and made choices in the preparation stage!  You need a limited palette and a distinct plan of action when the horn blows to begin your work.

So goes the story of the popular quick draw at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale sponsored by the WaterWorks Art Museum held every May as part of the world famous Bucking Horse Sale that brings thousands of spectators to the town of Miles City.  Only a few (25 or less) artists participate in the Riverside Park QD at the culmination of the annual parade.  The QD is sandwiched in between the parade and the Grand Entry of the sale and horse races and once the 30 minute draw is complete, the artists have 10 minutes to get their piece framed and the live auction of art begins.  It’s fast and furious and the crowd is filled with art collectors and spectators.  The QD is strategically timed to be certain those spectators can get to all the BHS activities and maximize the crowd attendance for the auction that is a benefit to the WaterWorks Museum and Art Center.

This year I lived on the dangerous side…I decided to paint a larger than normal piece, 26×12 vertical pastel.  (Most works are less than 16 inches square.)  I prepped my paper by gluing it to a foam core board for stability, then selected a very limited palette of pastel sticks.  I planned a painting of buffalo from a photo I shot on my way to MT via Yellowstone Park.  The day before the event, the preparatory chores were done. (I could have saved a little stress by doing this 3-4 days earlier!).  I did numerous pencil sketches arranging my composition, as the photo was a horizontal format and I was painting it as a vertical.  In my sketchbook I made lines of quadrants and adjusted the subject to best fit the format of the proposed painting.  I “roughed-in” focal points and large shapes to make what I believed to be a good composition.   I put all my supplies – selected pastels, 91% alcohol, sponge brush, Workable fixative, wet wipes, paper towels, gloves and framing equipment in my backpack.  I had a plan and felt I could make it happen, but knew I would have no time to spare.  Before the event started I found a place to paint…in the park’s gazebo  where there was some protection from some gusty winds (not helpful when painting is a tall piece!) and a place to sit if one wanted to before and during the event.  And I was able to tone my painting  with one color – a mix of dry pigment and alcohol before the QD began.  Doing an underpainting like this assists one in pastel application by speeding up the process.

The QD begins with the sound of an air horn…now it’s time for autopilot.  Your colors are laid out and you instinctively apply them, not second guessing your choice.  Large masses are painted carefully noting that  the values are where you want them.  When someone says “you have 15 minutes left, you want to be at least half way thru your painting.)  I am, but there is no option to make changes.  I stick to my plan.  Once the landscape is satisfactory to my eye, I draw in and paint the buffalo.   As I put the final touches in the most distant animal, the horn blows signifying the end of the QD.  Hands go up (no more pastel to the paper), I am satisfied, pleased to have finished what I had planned and the framing begins.  I had hoped to get my piece in the auction so it would be auctioned somewhere in the middle, but I needed all the time allotted to get the framing accomplished, so the painting was in the last spot on the auction docket.  Not my favorite spot to be, but as it turned out the auction was  a surprise.  One know there is not always a predictable outcome to auctions and this one was not an exception.  Early pieces were sold  from $200-500. Then one sold for about $800 and another for $1700.  I saw a couple of pieces of work of popular artists sell for less than I have seen before.  Now I begin to have some anxiety.  It’s now the time for my piece to go.  I hold the painting up and the auction starts.  Bids start immediately and I hand the work to one of the guys on the platform to show.  Bids continue to be raised and my anxiety lessens.  The auctioneer worked his way to $1500 +.  I am relieved and happy to have completed a sought after piece of art and for sharing the sale with the museum.

So, when the opportunity arises to compete in a quick draw, do it.  The key is preparation and planning.  Then execute the painting in a confident manner, not second guessing palette and composition.  If you are an art collector and someone who appreciates the arts and the process…know what happens for these works to come to be!





Gallery Representation – thank you!

I am honored to be able to show my work in some of the best galleries in the west.  These originals can be seen in Yachats, OR at Earthworks Gallery, The American Art Company in Tacoma, Wa, Dodson’s in Spokane, WA, Pendleton Art and Frame in Pendleton, OR, Valley Bronze in Joseph, OR, Caswell Bronze in Troutdale, OR, Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, WA, Eagle Art Gallery in Eagle, ID, The Depot in Red Lodge, Mt and Moccasin Mountain Art in Lewistown, MT.

I am very pleased to work with these galleries who in my opinion, represent their artist well.  That is so important to an artist to have a gallery or galleries that  promote your work and really try to sell the art pieces.  And ones that pay promptly, according to your agreement, when works sell.

When you are in these towns and cities, please visit these fine businesses and be prepared to be treated well as a customer too!



Pastel Dust…Quick Draw/Quick Finish | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog

Pastel Dust…Quick Draw/Quick Finish | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog.

You get anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 or more hours to complete a piece of art.  It is adrenalin producing, energy charged time for the artist and a smorgasbord of art options for the collector.  Lots of art centers and other art venues host these as part of their fund raising activities.  I love them.  I like the challenge and I like the interaction with the collectors!  The quick draw usually indicates that the piece of art with be completed in total during the given time frame.  The Quick finish is just that…a piece of art is started before the event and then just finished at the event.  Sometimes artists will complete the entire work during the quick finish, however.


A favorite, challenging quick Draw is the event held in Miles City, MT. where the artist has the challenge of completing a piece of art on 30 minutes that is then auctioned in a live auction in a downtown city park.  Another is a more leisure 1 1/2 hour QD at the Festival of Arts at the Joseph, OR that is held in their community center amidst all the art from the festival and with live music and a silent auction of the newly created work.  Added to these two great events is a new fave…the Art in the Beartooths to support the Carbon County Art Guild.  I was invited to participate in this event this July 11 and it proved to be a grand time.   We painted  anywhere on the property of the center from 9-2.  Your choice of a start from the scratch approach or applying the finishing touches To an already started painting .   I decided to paint from beginning to end and with abundant time, it was pretty stress free.  This venue, being in the destination spot of Red Lodge, MT is a gem.  The setting, in the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains, is inspirational in of itself.  The staff was delightful to work with and were most attentive to artists’ needs.  The QF culminated with a benefit dinner and live auction under a big tent in the park beside the art center.


My creation was done in pastel…I think the only pastel at the event.  I decided on painting some favorite things…Creekside willows in the early spring when they are this incredible orange color, still snow on the ground in places and streams running free of ice.  I worked about 3 hours on a 24×12 vertical painting that gave me the feeling I wanted to project.  I had plenty of time to visit wth old friends, students of mine and new acquaintances.  As a result, we are looking at a workshop three next fall (2016) to coincide with the opening of my solo show there opening September 2.

And “March Willow” sold well.


Next plein air painting in the Columbia Gorge Plein Air event AUGUST 3-7 in Hood River, OR




Pastel Dust in Landscape

No b lack Sheep in this Family

What makes a painting happen?  In my world it starts with something that triggers my interest.  Painting happens nearly every day…at least some sort of sketching or drawing if not a painting.  If I am the passenger on a car trip, I might be sketching.  I have my iPhone or camera handy also when driving to record – not a specific scene to paint, but a chance to shoot a reference photo of something for a future painting…I am always looking…

So Saturday I had to deliver some work to Vintage Vine in Roslyn for the next show that opens the first part of July.  I decided to make a day of it and spend it scouting around the Cle Elum and Roslyn area for painting spots for the upcoming Fresh Air Festival paint out event July 14-20.  I have the opportunity to teach a workshop in pastel (July 17-19) and also do a demo (Monday July 16) as part of the event, so finding some good spots to take artists to paint and also spots for my own work was on my list of things to do.  We drove the streets and backroads and found some good spots with a variety of scene.  I shot a lot of images and enjoyed watching the weather change from bright and sunny to a dark clouded rain storm.  But  – leaving home early, about 630 a.m., driving the Walla Walla valley had the most impact on my eyes…and it reminded me why it is so worthwhile to get up early and go out and paint.  The trees that follow the river and the fields next to them planted with wheat or peas or potatoes or onions were cool greens of various values and the early sun cast a soft light on the terrain.  The distant hills were a soft lavender, a bit hazy in the early morning.  There were many opportunities for a great, tonal painting in the peacefulness that presented in the landscape.  I shot some photos, but none render the actual beauty seen with the human eye…it’s why we paint en plein air!  So paint when you can from life…it makes a difference!

Pastel dust in January…Resolutions

Happy New  Year!

A group of artists in SE WA proposed daily painting for the first month of the new year.  I’m in, I declared.  I will paint each day…maybe not a painting a day, but just painting or doing some form of art each day for the month.  So far I am on track.

A friend of mine made a New Year resolution to do 54 new things this  year…one something new each week.  that’s a good one, I think…a goal to keep one thinking and being challenged.  I’m in.   I don’t have a list of new things to do already made  up, but will work on that. Week one…maybe testing a new dining spot.  I do have some things I want to do and one is print making without the printing press…more on that later.   Maybe I will post my list…part of it perhaps…

I have a couple of pastel paintings in the works as well as a couple of oils.  I love the way oils work – and I used to paint always in oil – but it is a challenge after  being immersed in pastel dust for so long.  A challenge, yes.  I have made the commitment to show work at the Western Masters Art Show in March in Great Falls, MT and I want to have both oil and pastel work available.  It will happen.  Persevere!  This will be an interesting event.  It is March 14-17 with a live auction and two Quick Finish Draws as well as each artist had a room in which to show your art and work…hotel rooms, stripped of the usual furnishings.  It all happens at the Heritage Inn in Great Falls.  So if you are in the area…we are in Room 151.  “Forgotten” was the chosen piece for the live auction.

I am excited to take part in the Western Masters Show…(that’s a new thing for March 🙂 by the way!)  So, I am incorporating some more western theme into my landscapes…cows, deer, antelope, etc.   I just finished a couple of pastels and two oils with cows in art.  I think it works.                                            

I hope you artists take the challenge and try new things; maybe not 54…but try something new and explore new options with products and techniques.  It keeps us fresh!  Happy painting…

More pastel dust

Painting is a passion for certain.  I can paint any time – when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am perturbed…it doesn’t matter.  What matters is, regardless of how I am feeling going into my work space, once I am there, I am grounded and ready to paint.  I rarely get painters block and am unable to produce..  I have learned when I start struggling with a painting, I put it aside and either start something else or go do some crafty project that keeps me creative, but in a totally different vein.

This is the month of “Art-a-Day” with the 509 Art Group.  I am staying on task with that, doing something artlike each day; some days more than one.  some days it is a small painting, a creative art card, a collage or a backdrop for the Snow White production.

I have made several trips to the Seattle area and have several more to go with the Northwest Pastel Society Group.  5 hours driving each way lets me see I-82 and I-90 byways in many different settings.  There are so many changes depending on the time of day, the weather, etc that every trip is different.  thankfully…  Last week coming back to Walla Walla, I noticed the willow trees along the various rivers are starting to get that vivid orange that is just a dynamite color.  What a contrast to a couple of weeks earlier when nearly everything was some shade of white!  Moral of the story – always carry your camera because the same scene can change drastically depending on time, temperature, weather, etc.

This painting is from a spot north of Walla Walla where the wheat fields go on forever, it seems.  there are beautiful sunsets throughout the year and I wanted to capture one in a panoramic view…the focus is the sky; the field is tilled, waiting for its next planting.  Fields and sky are some of the beauty in this valley.  I love the fields and they go on and on through pretty rough terrain and up the gentle slopes of the Blues.   When you run out wheat fields  you find old fields that have been put into the CRP project and let be in native grasses.  I am sure the wildlife love these fields, but it seems they (the fields) always look old and tired as the grasses seem to dry quickly and turn yellow and gray.  The planted fields go through very diverse changes over the year in color and texture.  During the winter the fields have been seeded with winter wheat mostly and you immediately know which ones are because they are a bright, near Kelly green in January!  The fields that are rich, dark brown in color are waiting for their planting in early spring for spring wheat, oats, maybe barley or peas, etc.

A good reason to carry a camera.  This shot was done within the city limits of Spokane.  I have painted a variation of this before and love the scene.  I have doing some 6×6 and 4×6 images specifically for a couple of galleries who have requested small works and felt this one deserved a square format which I like to paint.  But the point is…you just never know when and where you might spy that scene that takes your breath away and that’s when you want your camera to record some semblance of that moment!

I just finished the backdrops for the Snow White production.  It will be fun to see those images projected for various scenes of the dance production.  I won’t post those images until after the show just to help keep with the mystery of the production!

I have to say, with the wide use of social media, there is so much more exposure to great art than ever before!  The art blogs that I follow are fabulous to say nothing of the artist’s pages and links on Facebook.  Sandy Askey-Adams, a painter from the east coast hosts several Facebook pages that have really great discussion boards and artists can post images of their work.  Also there are many opportunities to  enter online shows.   Some charge an entry fee, some don’t.   Some have great awards.  It is just a whole new deal for artists and it is pretty exciting!  There are sites that are virtual art galleries.   Socurio.com is one.  There is a broad variety of style and medium.  And there is much more…for another time perhaps….

happy painting….

Pastel Dust

This time of year I don’t get a lot of painting done as a rule. There is just so much going on with the holidays, that it is not productive for me to be trying to work on paintings as well as holiday things.
But, because we travel to visit kids, I have down time in the car to read and plan and think and scheme…I have a love for native American artifact – the weavings, the pottery, the art, etc and I like architecture as well. So I see this magazine called “American Bungalow” and probably what attracted me to it was  the cover on which there is this Mission style bed and a rocker with native blankets tossed on them in the typical bright reds, navy, ecru colors. The lamp by the bed is an art style – Frank Lloyd Wright – and a landscape painting hanging over the bed.
The magazine had beautiful photos in it of bungalows (of course!), gardens, art and more. There are lots of ads in the magazine – interesting ones of artisans.
The magazine made me think of things I want to do and paint. Some of these things are: 

    I want to paint the blue doors of adobe homes, the colors of the southwest, the rugs, the pottery. I want to go to the exhibit at the Whatcom Museum in Belllingham, WA of the “Art and Craft Movement in the Pacific Northwest” (thru May 2011). I want to of course complete my series of the 50 off the 90; take advantage of the plein air event the Northwest Pastel Society will host on Whidbey Island the end of July and paint some of the beauty of that island in and around Camp Casey;  as well as that of Albuquerque, the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale Quick Draw and more.  I could go on and on…
I like to pick up interesting appearing magazines such as this because they have some unusual ideas of how to show art. As per a photo, it is not necessary to hang all your 2-D work on the wall…it’s ok to put some pieces (even overlapping a little) on a side board or buffet in a dining room with some interesting 3-D pieces. One photo showed such a collection of small to large graphite drawings, all framed and propped on the buffet with some beautiful crystal pieces. It’s about a collection, I think and even tho the paintings were different in subject, they held a commonality in medium.
Just some rambling of some of my favorite things…Frank Lloyd Wright inspired design, bungalows, art and fixtures made from iron, native American rugs, blankets, and pottery, Art Deco pottery, adobe architecture, Fiestaware, black and white photography, and… pastels!
happy painting…

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