"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

ARTISTS UPDATE: Creators keep on creating

By on December 24, 2018 in Arts with 0 Comments

By Susan Lagsdin

Every January, we riffle through our files to find a few previously-highlighted artists who will share with our readers recent life developments and insights on their work. In 2019, our picks from the past demonstrate a range of changes that have enriched their lives.

Painter Marti Lyttle.

MARTI LYTTLE: Good time in the studio

Almost four years ago when you first read about her in The Good Life, Wenatchee painter Marti Lyttle, influenced by a bout of cancer and realistic dreams of a woman at an easel, had retired from psychotherapy and finally followed her lifelong urge to create art.

Connecting informally and in classes with other local artists, Marti exhibits work at Two Rivers Gallery and Mela as well as venues on the west side and assists with Pybus Market’s art activities. She said she continues to be challenged, as are many artists, with the necessities of self-promotion and online marketing, but she’s vowed to continue work on that aspect of her art.

That 2015 article focused on her “regional landscape paintings …sage hills, river, meadows and cliffs re-translated in her soft impressionistic style: rich with color, glowing with light.” Marti said then, “I’m ready to go more abstract for a while, try some mixed media; I’ve got to take a little break from representational art.”

The little break was more of a continuum than a cutting off.

She recently said, “I’m accepting the fact that my ‘impressionist’ Muse loves to paint scenes that evoke a sense of calm serenity and invite a narrative… My abstract Muse loves to experiment with art techniques, different media and design elements. These two Muses have made peace with each other and we’re all having a good time in the studio!”

They’re all having such a good time that Marti was chosen to create the 2019 Centennial Apple Blossom poster, which shows a  springtime view of orchards rich with serene colors and glowing with light.

Videographer and businessman Jeff Ostenson.

JEFF OSTENSON: Aim for an Oscar

Jeff Ostenson of North 40 Productions hopes to live in Wenatchee for the rest of his life and help keep his city strong via commitment to the PAC, GWATA, The Community Foundation, Our Valley Our Future, various boards, and investing in the downtown.

Setting high goals for Wenatchee is coupled with setting high goals in his career. “Why not aim for an Oscar? Why would you aim any lower?” he said.

“We all love our art, and we’re passionate about it — that’s a given. But these past few years I’ve concentrated on us becoming really excellent at craft.”

For him and his crew that means investment in top-flight equipment and setting tough standards for efficiency and skill level, fueled by education. “We go to the conferences and take classes and clinics, we watch videos all the time and critique them.”

Jeff’s vision isn’t new but renewed. Five years ago, in his The Good Life profile he celebrated the team’s diversity of artistic expression, and since then he’s worked at melding North 40 into an industry force. We described, “A group united in a common purpose and pooling ideas… it’s a vital part of reaching a goal… each member of the staff knows to firmly defend the integrity of their own area — audio, image, editing, graphics — but simultaneously is prepared to compromise.”

Every project makes the whole team better, and Jeff thinks better inevitably begets more captivating projects. The company currently produces 30 to 40 videos a year, highlighted by large scale, widely viewed films like Lifted, Northwest Treaty Tribes, and Era of Megafire, and Jeff’s office wall this month is splashed with multicolored storyboard pages for their coveted upcoming dream project: The Centennial Apple Blossom film.

Bluegrass musician and festival organizer Marie Vecchio.

MARIE VECCHIO: each year gets better

Marie Vecchio laughed happily at the question “What’s new?” Not much, she declared.

Since 2012, life in her Blewett Pass cabin continues serene and beautiful all four seasons, with close-up bear and cougar sightings lending excitement. She’s still serving diners at McGlinn’s, still playing the bluegrass fiddle for pleasure (“As long as I get better than I was the year before, I’m OK.”)

Marie also starts her 18th year as Executive Director of Cashmere Community Concerts, which hosts local concerts as well as the region’s only big bluegrass festival every summer.

Six years ago, we wrote, “The culminating event that draws people from all over the Northwest is the festival every third weekend in June at the county fairgrounds… it stays relaxed and friendly, with a reunion vibe. All day long there’s music in the hall, on the lawn, wherever two or more are gathered together…”

The festival (June 14-16 this year) continues to grow, attracting well-known performers from around the country.

Marie remembered, “When we started in 2003, we were so excited to have someone from Spokane accept an invitation to play.” The festival has come of age, made a name for itself. “Now, I just sit down with the Board and ask, ‘Who do you want?’”

Marie describes one big change in the organization that makes good sense: the grueling schedule of nine bluegrass concerts a year at the Riverside Center has been streamlined to two every fall and two every spring.

The year-round pressure on organizers is relieved, and Marie said, “We still get really good crowds, still charge only $3 admission — nothing has changed except for the better.”

Painter Dean Rainey.

DEAN RAINEY: big work gets bigger

Dean Rainey has made one basic change in his chosen art form.

His favorite subjects still include wildlife, Western history and wide-open landscapes, but he’s disciplined himself to work on increasingly larger canvases, explaining, “It’s really a challenge to paint big, and it keeps me focused on one project for a long time.”

A painting of Denali is 14 inches high but stretches to five feet long, and currently on his easel is a two-foot by four-foot portrait of a Montana cowboy.

Dean has maintained the discipline of copious research. The 2016 article cited “a library of floor-to ceiling-bookshelves full of source material. Using photographs from his files as a starting point, with acrylic on canvas he’ll add elements in his home studio. He said especially when he’s depicting an animal, he goes to his textual sources for anatomical accuracy.”

Dean pointed to another large painting of a leaping deer. “A fellow came in and told me if that was really Rainier in the background, it had to be a black tailed deer, not a white-tail. That concerned me, so I looked it up.” He added with satisfaction, “Turns out I was right.”

Dean is used to toting his canvases via motorhome to regional shows.

In 2018, however, he stayed closer to home, renting a small retail spot in the downtown center of Wenatchee just for the holiday season. His early career in retail display served him and his friends well: Terry Johnson’s pottery and Larry Gay’s bronze sculptures were attractively displayed on low tables, and the walls were filled with Dean’s evocative Western-themed paintings.

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