A few years ago, Amanda Houston escaped the world of big corporations and began dabbling in the world of pastel painting.
That dabbling has turned into a full-fledged career as an artist. She’s represented in seven galleries in Oregon and Washington, participates in many art shows and prestigious West Coast festivals each year, has her work displayed in hospitals and offices, and is producing a new line of fine art posters destined for sale in big-box stores across the country.
“I’m still juggling,” said Houston, 46, in her studio aerie on a hill just south of Cornelius. Painting, she said, gives her time to be there for her husband and two elementary school-aged sons, to help with her husband’s business, to remodel yet another house, learn Spanish, travel and teach. She also designs websites and consults with Oregon wineries — when she has a few spare minutes.
“I’m not a daily painter,” she said. “I wish I was. But I am prolific.”
With shows pending, Houston keeps track of her work on her studio whiteboard and often works late into the night to meet deadlines. She had five shows in November alone and must complete 40 paintings by June 1. “I paint for a particular show or event,” she explained.
Houston’s “Jackson Bottom Mist” was the first work chosen for the city of Hillsboro’s Public Art Collection.The pastel painting was created outdoors, en plein air, overlooking Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.
Hillsboro public arts
“The contest was right in my backyard,” Houston said of the public art competition. “I had to submit something.”
Friends advised her to submit a view of the rolling hills surrounding Hillsboro, so she did, but the judges passed over that in favor of the Jackson Bottom scene.
The work has already been archivally copied and framed, and was presented by Mayor Jerry Willey on a recent economic development visit to Fukuroi, Japan, Hillsboro’s sister city.
“I’m always drawn to the moment when the light is most dramatic, often at the edges of our days, and how the relationships of color, composition and texture within each scene speak of a calmer, simpler place in my life,” Houston said.
The artist mats and frames each work to her own demanding specifications and recently took up painting her soft, signature artwork on recycled copper, marveling in its warm glow through the pastel medium.
“I’ve never lacked for inspiration,” said Houston, who once worked as an apparel designer and director for global apparel businesses. She occasionally hosts up to 25 students in her spacious studio, with its wide views of the Cascades and the Coast Range, as well as the farms and fields of Washington County’s rural spaces.
“I can’t complain,” she said. “I do my own work on my own time and can spend time with my kids. I couldn’t do that with a job in a corporation.”
— JoAnn Boatwright
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