Monday, April 25, 2011

The Ride Home

A Painting - "The Ride Home" - weeks (and also years) in the making...

After years of moving about, never staying in one home more than a few years, I am thrilled to call Corvallis home. Getting here, however, was a curious personal and professional journey.

My mother actually introduced me to the world of arts & craft fairs, doing a couple local shows during those pre-holiday winter months and sharing her creativity with the community. When I was older and just starting out with a family myself, I would often help her out (she gets lines of people at her booth) and peruse the artists at show while I was there, thinking of my college days and my training as a painter. It was at one of these shows I noticed an artist, Brett Varney, who back then, was from the Bellingham, Washington area. I loved his unique method of using oil pastels with black paper as his base and translating nature and landscapes into fluidly whimsical designs. I had been out of art school for several years, and was working in the unrelated field of information systems, assuming that my art would be waiting for me in those retirement years, many years down the road. I was also living in Bellingham at the time, and as my interest in art was rekindled, began to follow this artist who also led me to another Bellingham artist, Ben Mann (with whom I had my first large gallery show). My interactions with these two vibrant and talented artists inspired me, and eventually led me down this wonderful path of being a full time artist, along with a very supportive husband.

Over time, and after a few successful shows, I finally decided to launch my new art career full time. My husband and I had already downsized our lives (and house), moving to Sedro-Woolley from Bellingham so that we could afford a single income lifestyle with my husband home raising the kids and pursuing his interest in writing. Needless to say, it was quite a leap of faith. But in this freelance lifestyle, we also knew we had found our opportunity to move one more time, choosing a more permanent place to live and raise our kids.

As I started working the show circuit, I once again looked to Brett for advice on shows to try. He quickly steered me to a lovely festival in a peaceful college town in Oregon. This festival, of course, was called the Corvallis Fall Festival. He also told me how a very nice director, Cynthia Spencer, helped him in his quest to move to Canada by providing confirmation of his art profession, and how he had been a poster artist for the festival too. I was intrigued. At the same time, my husband and I already had narrowed our search for a new home to Oregon. Growing up in the Puget Sound region of Washington I spent nearly every summer of my childhood camping on the Oregon Coast and loving every minute of it. And even though my sun loving husband from Eastern Washington preferred to go further South, we agreed that we didn't want to move too far from family and Grandparents. So, we spent the next two summers traveling through Oregon and looking for a good fit. I also signed up for my first Corvallis Fall Festival in 2007, hoping to get better acquainted with this community.

The Fall Festival weekend started well with good weather and a beautiful set-up in such a lovely park (nothing better than grass between the toes during an outdoor show). I was so pleased with all the talent represented at the show. I looked forward to a weekend of showing my art and getting to know the people. At the time, my daughter was still a year away from starting school, and my son was in 3rd grade. I quizzed people in my booth on the local schools, dance programs, library, swimming programs, arts support, and repeatedly asked their opinion of their community. What I got back was a resounding - we LOVE Corvallis. Even people who had moved away loved telling about the community and why they came back for Fall Festival.

Needless to say, the following year my family moved to Corvallis and we couldn't be happier with our choice. What I thought was only a distant dream has now become a reality - living where we want to live, and pursuing art as my career. I feel as if my life has come full circle, bringing me back to all the things I love and giving me the opportunity to share that love with my family, my community, and in my art.

Corvallis is now our home, where you will often find me around town walking our white Shepherd, volunteering at Adams Elementary, painting "en plein air" on one of the many trails, looking for a good book at the library, having coffee with a friend, watching my daughter's swim team practice at Osborne Aquatic Center and cheering my son and husband as they run in one of the many local races. My painting, "The Ride Home" is my celebration of this experience, and my offer of thanks to a community that has so enriched my life and that of my family.

I am thrilled and honored that my painting will be used as the Corvallis Fall Festival poster art for 2011. Since Brett first shared his Fall Festival stories with me, I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to join him in the ranks of such talented Fall Festival artists. My most sincere thanks go out to the festival committee and to those kind artists who helped me find my way!

"The Ride Home"
Acrylic on Canvas
20 x 30 x 1.5 inches


Pam said...

What a wonderful read--this starts my day off in an optimistic mood! Thanks Jennifer, for sharing your dream-come-true story! Totally motivating!

Scott Lommers said...

Yay Corvallis!

Ruth Armitage said...

I love Corvallis too :) Some of my best memories are of studying at OSU... Congrats on being chosen as the poster artist! Couldn't happen to a nicer person Jennifer!

Mirjana Cesar said...

Your story is so inspiring. I visited a friend in Portland, Oregon few years back. She took me to the coast and Mt Hood, and I loved it. The nature and the landscapes reminded me of my native Croatia.
I live in Florida, and except warm climate, can't say that I really like it.

Jennifer Lommers said...

Thank you everyone!

And Mirjana, my great-grandparents were from Croatia. Many of their friends and family came to the Northwest for that reason. I hope to visit there someday...

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