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Amy VanGaasbeck sets down her own brush to help her student blend paints in a mission to make the perfect shade of blue for a pond.

“A little more blue, and a little more black,” she says, sifting through the box of paint tubes to find the right hues. Her student — who just happens to be her mom, Marilyn Sutton — squeezes a dot of paint on the palette and swirls colors to make a deep blue.

VanGaasbeck can be found here, at Crossroads Carnegie Art Center, every Tuesday evening for the “Exploring Oil Painting” class she began offering last September. It meets 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and students age 15 or older can join at any time. The supply list is available at Crossroads. The cost is $13.75 per session for Crossroads members, or $15 for nonmembers. Students who buy four sessions will get a fifth for free. Annual memberships to Crossroads are $20 student or senior, $35 individual and $50 family.

It’s fitting that VanGaasbeck’s mom is one of the regulars at this weekly class — she was the one, after all, who first encouraged her daughter to paint. VanGaasbeck was 10 at the time.

“I absolutely hated painting,” she said. But that’s not the case anymore. “My intention is to be a professional artist,” she said.

And with that, she wants to share her knowledge. Crossroads didn’t have a regular oil painting class, so VanGaasbeck saw her opportunity.

She welcomes students of all skill levels. “I can take them from the beginning, and it doesn’t have to be perfect,” she said.

For beginners, she suggests first painting a basic still life. Even a single piece of fruit, she said, offers the opportunity to practice with different values of the same color. “You can learn a lot from one piece of fruit,” she said.

She prefers students bring their own references, such as photos of an image they’d like to paint. Students work at their own pace.

“It’s not a rigid class format, but we hit the concepts. And I give individual instruction,” she said.

VanGaasbeck brings her own in-progress painting to the class as well, and can use her canvas to demonstrate certain techniques. Right now she’s working on a series of paintings featuring details of cars — her goal is to do 12 this year.

Oil painting, she said, can seem intimidating — she felt that way too, at first. “After I figured out it was just paint, it got easier,” she said. “Oils are so much more forgiving — that’s why I like them.”

Her class isn’t just about painting — an image must first be drawn onto the canvas. “The quality of your painting depends on the quality of your drawing,” she said. A grid can be helpful, she said. “You can learn it step-by-step and realize you can do this. It’s very empowering,” she said. “It just takes a willingness to learn.”

-Lisa Britton


BHS Advanced Art Students Painting Portraits Of Ethiopian Students, by Lisa Britton

Mikaylah Treanor dabs paint on the canvas, gently mixing shades of brown until she creates the perfect hue.

She glances at the photo beside her, then back at the canvas where a child’s face is taking shape.

“It’s exciting, but I’m nervous what they’ll think of it,” says Treanor, 15. “It’s frustrating, trying to get the color right.”

Treanor and her fellow students in advanced art at Baker High School are painting portraits of children from Ethiopia, who will receive these paintings as a gift in the next month.

The program, says teacher Kristen Anderson, is called the Memory Project.

According to the website, the Memory Project is a nonprofit organization that “invites art teachers and their students to create portraits for youth around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents, and extreme poverty.” 

Since 2004, the project has created more than 80,000 portraits for children in 35 countries.

Information on the website goes on to explain that the portraits “help children feel valued and important” and give art students “an opportunity to creatively practice kindness and global awareness.”

When Anderson found out about the program, she asked her advanced art students if anyone wanted to participate.

“These kids all said ‘I want to do it,’” she said.

This project fits into the portrait-painting session Anderson includes in her advanced art class every year. Local artist Amy VanGaasbeck is the guest artist who helps lead the students through the steps of oil painting.

After expressing interest in the Memory Project, Anderson received two photos of the children — one to use for the painting, and one to send back along with a photo of the student artist.

She said the portraits could be completed in any medium, but couldn’t be on a typical wooden-framed canvas.

Instead, the students are using sheets of canvas, which the children can tape to their walls.

Anderson said the organizers of the Memory Project record the child’s reaction when he or she receives the portrait.


Artist Q&A Drawing A Picture

This week Go! interviews Baker City artist Amy VanGaasbeck.

Go!: When did you discover art?

VanGaasbeck: I come from an artistic family, so I was always surrounded with artistic support.  I began drawing at the age of 3. I constantly had a stack of paper or drawing pad with me. I drew every chance I could get — in church, in school, in the doctor’s office, wherever I was.

Go!: Who has been your biggest influence? 

VanGaasbeck: I really enjoy the art of Maxfield Parrish and Alphonse Mucha, and illustrators Charles Dana Gibson and N.C. Wyeth, although they may not directly influence my art.

Go!: What is your favorite
medium and favorite subject? 

VanGaasbeck: Oil painting is definitely my favorite, although starting out I hated it, just because it was different than what I was used to, and it took patience to master it. My second favorite medium is charcoal. I used to use graphite, but charcoal creates a broader range of values.

As far as subjects go, that’s difficult. I tend to get bored sticking with just one subject for too long, so I switch to different things all the time, including still life, outer space, portraits, horses and cars. I have so many things I want to try, sometimes it’s hard to focus on one genre. I enjoy portraits, creating an accurate likeness and capturing the spirit of the person. However, right now, I am working on a series of classic cars, which I am having fun painting. They are extremely challenging and take about three times longer than my other paintings.


BAKER CITY — Nancy Coffelt, a fine artist since the 1980s, challenged herself to create art without the expensive supplies, so she turned paper grocery bags into colorful works of mosaic art with strips of paper and a homemade paste of flour and water.

“I wanted to do something that didn’t cost anything,” she says.

Lindsay Whitney always appreciated art but didn’t really try her own hand at creating it until she started tattooing.

Now, after working with artists in Boise, Idaho, and La Grande, Whitney has returned to her hometown to open a business where she turns intricate drawings into ink masterpieces.

Amy Van Gaasbeck started painting in elementary school but began pursuing it as a career five years ago.

She mainly paints with oils, but she didn’t start with that medium.

“My mother made me try oils against my will. I absolutely hated it,” she says. “My mom was pushing me to expand my knowledge and skills.”

And now she’s challenging herself by learning how to draw caricatures — drawings that accentuate a person’s features in a comic way.

These three artists — Coffelt, Whitney and Van Gaasbeck — will showcase their very different artistic styles during the Open Studio Tour Saturday and Sunday.

The tour is a chance to peek inside an artists’ space, to see where paintbrush meets canvas, clay is molded into a piece of art or a drawing becomes a colorful tattoo.

At least 10 artists have joined the studio tour in Baker City. It is self-guided, and maps will be available during the First Friday art shows at downtown galleries, and at Short Term Gallery and Peterson’s Gallery on Saturday and Sunday.

The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, although some artists will only be open special hours, which will be noted on the tour map.

Some artists will open their home studios for the tour, while others will demonstrate at other spaces, including Short Term Gallery.

The participating artists are:

• Brian Vegter — paintings

•Corrine Vegter — modern jewelry design in steel, silver and bronze

• Amy Van Gaasbeck — paintings, drawings

• Lindsay Whitney — tattoo artist

• Nancy Coffelt — illustration, graphics, oil pastels

• Becky Mancino Litke — watercolors  and pastels

• Tom Novak — muralist

• Sara K Cothren — multi-media, textiles, paper

• Mary Sue Rightmire — pottery

• Lynn Proudfoot — paintings

Stops may include a tour of the studio, and some artists will be working so visitors can see their creative process.

“People can expect to see me working,” Whitney said.

Another artist will set up her easel in the  Wisdom House Vacation and Event Venue, 2035 Second St.

Sherri Linnemeyer will be demonstrating her watercolor techniques from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday as part of the Open Studio Tour. Many of Linnemeyer’s paintings decorate the walls of the Wisdom House, one of the oldest in Baker City that was renovated earlier this year.


Baker High School Advanced Art Students Hone Their Skills

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

First came a grid, then a sketch, then paint to create shadows and slowly a face takes shape — Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne and other famous faces.

This month, local artist Amy VanGaasbeck is working on painting portraits with the advanced art class at Baker High School over a four-week period.


Art instructor Kristen Anderson said fundraisers like the recent pottery sale during First Friday help bring guest artists into the classroom to introduce different techniques to the students.

To begin, the 15 students created a “washed canvas” using a black paint mixture that creates a light gray tone. Next came the grid, drawn on both the reference photo and the canvas.

“It took a week just to draw the grid,” Anderson said.

(Art class is less than 50 minutes long each day.) 


Next the students worked to create their base portrait and each session focused on a different area — skin, eyes, nose, mouth, hair and clothing.

See more in Friday's issue of the Baker City Herald. 



An artist fulfills her dream


By Lisa Britton


For the Baker City Herald

This is a working gallery — art decorates the walls, of course, but owner Amy VanGaasbeck can also be found creating art in the front window.

The Dancing Elephant Gallery opened Oct. 1 at 2034 Main St. in Baker City.

It’s been a dream long in the making.

“I’ve been an artist since I was 3, and always wanted a gallery,” said VanGaasbeck, who grew up in Baker City.

She works in charcoal, oil, acrylics “and in the last couple years I’ve learned to sculpt.” She’s working on her associate’s degree through the online Academy of Art University.

The path of opening her gallery was bittersweet.

Several years ago, her sister, Cathy Rodli, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer.

“They said there was no cure and the rate for survival was two to four years,” Amy says.

One day, while Cathy recovered from a major surgery, Amy talked about her dream of opening an art gallery.

At this point, Cathy decided she wouldn’t return to her job at The Pill Box.

“She looked at me and said ‘Can I learn to do mat cutting and be part of your gallery?’”

Of course, Amy told her.

Cathy died May 17, 2011. She was 44.

“She never got to see my gallery,” Amy says. “Her death got me thinking — what if it’s always in the future?”

So she went to work on her dream, along with her husband, Andy, and her mom, Marilyn Sutton.

But Cathy is still part of this adventure — she loved to dance and she collected elephants.

Thus, The Dancing Elephant Gallery.

“The way we made her part of the gallery was to name it after her. I know she’d be happy with it,” Amy says.

The Dancing Elephant Gallery has a bit of everything — fine art, mosaics, textiles, metal work — even dioramas featuring the tiniest kitchen scenes you’ll ever see.

“I have over 30 artists represented,” Amy says.

She also features handcrafted gift items.

“Stuff that wouldn’t normally fit in an art gallery, but it’s still handcrafted and high quality.”

For November, the gallery will have a show titled “Autumn in Eastern Oregon,” a collaboration of several artists. Also, work by Carri Sue Anderson will continue to be featured.

Also at the gallery

The gallery is also a site for Operation Christmas Child, an outreach of Samaritan’s Purse. 

Donations will be assembled into shoeboxes and sent to children in need all over the world. Items are accepted until Nov. 12.



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