Oregon artist Amanda houston finds her creative voice through her love of clouds and dramatic skies.
By Robert K. Carsten
6/26/19: I was honored to be awarded my Master’s Circle Award from the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) at the convention in Alberquerque, NM last month. Here’s a picture of me with Richard McKinley, Pres. of IAPS.
12/7/18: I am honored and humbled to be awarded an Honorable Mention award this past weekend at the Plein Air Washington Artists show for my piece, “Cottonwood in Cow Pastures.” I had such fun painting this piece from Tillamook, OR among the cottonwood groves there. It felt like George Inness was right there next to me. It was magical. Four of my pieces were accepted into this group show.
You can see the my piece, along with many other fabulous paintings at “The Journey,” Presented by Plein Art Washington Artists. The show runs from December 1st – January 16th at the American Art Company, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, WA.
8/31/18: She’s on a roll. After announcing an Honorable Mention award this winter at the National Pastel 100 Competition (honoring the best 100 pastels of the year), Amanda won the Award of Excellence, one of the top five awards among the world’s elite pastelists, at the 32nd IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies ) Exhibition in Tacoma, WA for “Out of Yellowstone” in April and just this month grabbed the 2nd Place Award in the 32nd NWPS International Open Exhibition for “Country Stream.”
Amanda with her Award of Excellence, one of the top five awards among the world’s elite pastelists. At the 32nd IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies ) Exhibition in Tacoma, WA for “Out of Yellowstone” in April.
Amanda’s 2nd place award in the 32nd NWPS International Open Exhibition in Tacoma, WA for “Country Stream” on March 2018.
A few days after my show opening at Cole Gallery in Edmonds, WA an author, Maria Ruth, encountered me by chance during a lunch break from a workshop at the gallery. She was doing a book signing and reading next door at the bookstore of her new book, A Sideways Look at Clouds. We had a wonderful exchange of how fascinated we both are, that we all really are, with clouds, and what they mean in our lives. Check out her recent blog post…and more importantly her book. It just might make you look up more…
Check out this post featuring Amanda Houston written by A Sideways Look At Clouds author, Maria Mudd Ruth:
Last Saturday, the clouds marched into Edmonds, Washington. The Edmonds Bookshop hosted me for a noon-time presentation on my book, A Sideways Look at Clouds. I arrived a bit early at this wonderful independent bookstore, browsed for a bit, and one of the bookstore staff members lead me next door to the Cole Gallery. As if there weren’t enough clouds in the sky or in my book…here was a gallery full of clouds, part of an exhibit entitled “Color, Light, and Atmosphere–Luminous Landscapes” featuring the works of Amanda Houston and David Marty.
I was thrilled to have so many paintings in one big room, rather than have to chase down the clouds in paintings displayed in multi-storied, multi-roomed art museums. No one would disagree with me that most of the paintings on display were of clouds, even though the exhibit was described as, “Stunning skies, glowing sunsets, quiet lakes and sunlit forests are part of the varied subjects in our latest show featuring a beautiful collection of landscape paintings…”
What? We know what makes the sky stunning. Clouds. We know what makes the difference between a ho-hum sunset and a spectacular one. Clouds. We know what often makes a landscape painting luminous. Clouds. As I’ve said here and elsewhere, we should really call them cloudscapes and cloudsets.
Terminology aside, Amanda Houston really gets the clouds. By chance, this Willamette Valley artist was in the Cole Gallery when I stopped in last Saturday, so I got the pleasure of meeting her and hearing about her fascinating with clouds in the Pacific Northwest.
Just look at this stunning oil painting (36 x 48) called “Breaking Through.” There’s the dark clouds in the distance looking somewhat stable and then there are the brighter, peach-hued close-up clouds that are doing something more dynamic.
Upon closer inspection, it looks like the clouds have been swept. This is exactly the look of clouds that are trailing precipitation–known as virga–as they deteriorate after a storm. Virgo evaporates in the atmosphere and never reaches the ground.
Look even closer at the artists brush strokes and you’ll see–or feel, really–that she has captured the crazy energy of these clouds. Energy as lines and energy as color. Look how many colors she has included in her clouds. If you saw this detail of “Breaking Through” you might not guess that you’re seeing a cloud. They should be white or gray or pink you might say. Well, sometimes they are but the more you look (and this is the goal of my book, after all) the more you will see that clouds capture all the colors of the rainbow.
And that Amanda Houston has captured one of the many spectacular moments in the life of a cloud. She has matched the intensity of this skycape with and intensity of her artistic vision.
So…if you find yourself in charming downtown Edmonds, Washington, be sure to stop by Edmonds Bookshop (they have signed copies of A Sideways Look at Clouds) and the Cole Gallery next door. “Color, Light, and Atmosphere–Luminous Landscapes” is on exhibit until February 12.
Here’s the completed painting, on display at Cole Gallery in Edmonds, WA.
NW Pastel Society Mixed Media Show, 2017
2nd Place Award, Feathered Flight 24×30 Pastel
31st NW Pastel Society International Open Exhibition, 2017
Jurors Award, Poetic Reflections 12×24 Pastel
Pastel 100 Award, 2017
Washington County Plein Air, Sept. 2017
American Women Artists, Awarded Signature Status
This story was featured in the August 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art August 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
Pastel painter Amanda Houston dances along the line between realism and abstraction, between her left brain and her right brain. On one side, her portraits of birds on copper plates include each species’ distinct markings and fine details that are lauded by birders across the country. On the other side, her landscapes show a looser hand and a fondness for vibrant, golden-hour colors. “I find I am inspired by the edges of our day, the morning and evening lights that cast shadows and give me that peaceful feeling,” Houston says.
After a long career in the corporate arena, Houston settled down to begin her family. She took local painting classes and began painting full time after retiring from her job at age 40. In her creative process, she finds a balance between the analytical and emotional. “Most realist painters are painting with the left side of the brain, so it’s very comfortable,” she says. “To stop analyzing and thinking and to just let it flow becomes a daily exercise for me.” Houston says she believes her lifelong journey is to loosen up her work.
Houston finds endless inspiration in the backdrop of everyday life. “It can be the most mundane road in the middle of nowhere, and the light can hit it just right and it’s beautiful,” she says. Houston’s work can be seen at Scott Milo Gallery, Anacortes, WA; American Art Company, Tacoma, WA; Clearwater Gallery, Sisters, OR; Cole Gallery, Edmonds, WA; Valley Art Gallery, Forest Grove, OR; Attic Gallery, Camas, WA; and www.amandahouston.com. —Mackenzie McCreary
In addition to working with galleries and private residential clients, I also work in commercial spaces through Art Curators, Art Brokers, Interior Designs or through my own design consulting practice. My work is primarily in the hospitality industry including hospitals, clinics, assisted living complexes and hotels.
I am currently working on a 4 year project outfitting 68 glorious rooms at the European styled Hotel Bellwether Lighthouse and Grill in Bellingham, WA.
Recent images of the finished suites:
Sister’s County Fair 2016
Best Pastel for “Evening Gathering”
2016 Willamette Valley Lavender Festival, Newberg OR
Plein Air Competition
2nd Place Winner in Professional Category
Northwest Pastel Society International Show 2016, Tacoma, WA
The Northwest Pastel Society 30th International Exhibition
Winner of Juror’s Award for Vinyasa Flowing Tree
Northwest Pastel Society 29th Members Show 2015, Tacoma, WA
Winner of Director’s Award
Northwest Plein Air Competition 2015
2nd Place Winner in Landscape Category
Regional Arts Commission Award in Public Art 2015
Two time winner of City Hillsboro Public Art Purchase
Sausalito Art Festival 2014
1st Place winner of Drawing Category
Northwest Pastel Society Member’s Show
Best of Show
This week we are interviewing Amanda Houston in our continuing series on our gallery artists. We hope that as you get to know the artists, their art pieces will take on an additional dimension for you. By Cole Gallery
Q: When did you start painting?
A: While I never painted fine art until I was 39, I have a degree in Apparel Design and Textile Design, so drawing isn’t new. I found in those roles in the corporate world I was drawing and creating less and less. It wasn’t until I took a voluntary severance from Nike (my last corporate job) that I started to take a pastel class and an oil painting class. In both classes, I sold pieces to fellow students, which made me wonder if I should not wait till I was 65 to start. So I started a family and started to paint at the same time.
Q: What are your favorite mediums to work with?
A: While I paint in oil, my love and my first choice of any medium is pastel. It is the perfect combination of drawing and painting at the same time and I love the speed, the forgiveness and the ease of putting it down and picking it back up again a month later that oils don’t give me. While I long to paint in oil more, the majority of my work is still in pastel.
Q: What do you want people to get from viewing your work.
A: I think most people find my work to be peaceful and calming in an uplifting, motivating way. My pieces tend to capture the stillness with energy and life.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: I don’t have to go far for inspiration. I live amongst farmers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, amidst rolling hills of vineyards and farmland and near lots of wetlands. I am fortunate that I don’t need to leave my property to find inspiration. As a landscape artist drawn by the beauty that surrounds me, I savor the days when the light seems magical, often at the edges of our day, at sunrise and sunset in the turn of seasons when the fog and mist make an ordinary turn in the road felt mystical.
Q: What artists are you inspired by?
A: The contemporary artists I am inspired by would have to include many local Oregon artists such as Richard McKinley, Marla Baggetta, Ramona Youngquist. Other contemporary painters that inspire me include Brent Cottonwood, Nancy Bush, Elizabeth Ganji. As for the masters, the French and Californian impressionists are among my favorites.
Q: What is a recent work that you have produced?
A: I have to say I am onto something with my pastel paintings on copper because I can hardly keep up with the demand. I wanted to innovate in the medium and try pastel on metal and I wanted to create a “sustainable” collection that would meet a new price point need in the recession. They are fresh and contemporary in the way I frame them, I recycle the copper from metal yard scraps and most retail for under $400. I also enjoyed painting the large bright wetland in oil.
Q: What else do you do besides create art?
A: I find art comes into my life in waves and stages. When I’m prepping for a show, I put my blinders on and the dishes pile up. And then I get back to “the rest of my life,” which is so full even without the art. My husband and I have been remodeling an old historic hunting lodge on a 30 acre farm just 40 minutes west of Portland amidst farmers and vineyards where we raise grass fed beef and farm fresh eggs with a lovable black lab and two newly acquired black kittens. We also are remodeling a vacation home in the San Juans and for the past 3 years, construction has been the focus of our DIY lifestyle.
When I’m not sketching out a new room or designing a new bathroom (we have 7 we are doing!) I love being outside. I’m an avid gardener and from April through November, I have my hands in the dirt either tending and harvesting our vegetable garden our one of my ongoing perennial gardens.
I love to cycle (almost as much a painting) and am fortunate to go out my back door to world class rolling hills or endless countryside. As an old competitive triathlete, I will always make time daily to get some exercise, either on the saddle, in the pool or at a yoga studio.
I love to cook and entertain but what comes before anything else is my growing family that keeps me busy with sports, music or lego-roboitcs and lots of after school volunteer activities.
I’m also on the board at a local gallery trying to make a difference. I help my husband market our commercial and residential development business in Portland and do some business consulting on the side. Needless to say, we wouldn’t watch TV even if we had cable.
Q: How do you think Cole Gallery differs from other galleries?
A: Denise is what every artist wants in a gallery director: someone who goes the extra mile to plan, market, and sell our art. Someone who doesn’t just have a monthly show, but pulls out all the stops to have a monthly “event” with catered food, live music and a raffle. She’s classy but not pretentious. She advertises in local and national media and is savvy with all her online marketing. Most of all, she’s present, involved with all her artists, is a wonderful communicator. It has been an honor to be represented by her.
Find the original post here.
2014 Northwest Pastel Society Award Winner
Northwest Pastel Society was created to promote, encourage and foster creative pastel painting. It was established to promote and encourage pastel artists in their artistic growth and success, to promote instructive activities and exhibiting opportunities for the benefit of pastel artists, to promote a fellowship of pastel artists and to also raise public awareness about pastels.
A few words from the artist…
“Not a week after the Sausalito Art Festival win I heard I won Best of Show at the NWPS Annual Members Show with this loose more abstracted piece.”