Watercolorist Don Weller turns to oils in Montgomery-Lee exhibit
Don Weller book signing and painting demonstration with Greg Wilson
5-8 p.m. on Friday, June 28
Montgomery-Lee Fine Art, 608 Main St.
Also: Artist reception for Don Weller and Greg Wilson exhibit
6-9 p.m. on Friday, July 5
Montgomery-Lee Fine Art, 608 Main St.
Don Weller, a Peoa-based painter who is known for his Western watercolor scenes, has embarked on a new artistic endeavor in oil painting.
“I started experimenting with oils less than a year ago, and I like the way things have turned out,” he said.
In addition, Weller published a new book, “Tracks, a Visual Memoir,” in March.
The book documents Weller’s youth in the Pacific Northwest, his early career as an illustrator and graphic designer in New York and Los Angeles, and his life as a cutting horse competitor and painter.
To celebrate both of these newer phases in his artistic life, Weller will do a book signing from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, June 28, at Montgomery-Lee Fine Art, 608 Main St. Weller will be joined by fellow visual artist Greg Wilson (see accompanying story), and do painting demonstrations.
The gallery will also host an artist reception for Weller and Wilson from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, July 5.
Weller selected 27 paintings for the exhibit.
“They are mostly cowboys, horses or cowboys and horses,” he said. “I also have a couple of cows, but I don’t think they’ll hang them all, because some are pretty big.”
The majority of the paintings are oils, but Weller also added a few acrylic works.
Weller painted the acrylics nearly 10 years ago, and they caught the eye of Jennifer Fargo, director of Montgomery-Lee Fine Art.
Although Weller likes the acrylics, he is more interested in the oils.
“The oils make a richer surface than the acrylics,” he said. “You don’t notice the surface from a distance, but when you get close, you can see it’s textural.”
Surface texture is important to Weller.
“Watercolors are always flat, but appear to be textured,” he said. “With oil, there is always some kind of texture going on, and if I go back and back to an oil, I can build the texture up. When I do that, the colors can get pretty rich.”
When potential buyers look closely at one of Weller’s oils, they see how the artist has layered colors on top of other colors.
“For example, the background of a painting can be a blue sky, but it can include some red from a wash that I had let drip down,” Weller said. “On top of that red, I can add some greenish-blue color with a few brush strokes, and then I’ll add some more blue on top. So the finished background is blue, but includes flickers of greenish blue and flickers of red.“
Layering the paint was only one challenge Weller faced when he shifted from watercolors to oils, the other being his creative process.
“When I do watercolors, I have to completely plan what I’m going to do very carefully,” he said. “I have to draw what I want to do with pencil, and then apply the paint and erase the lines as I go.”
The catch with watercolors is things need to go as planned, or the work can’t be sold.
“If you make a mistake, you’re pretty much done,” he said.
That’s not the case with oils, according to Weller, who received an honorary doctorate last month from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
“When I work with oils, I can make a tiny sketch of what I want, and then plow into it,” he said.
As I do that, the painting evolves.”
The evolution is a good thing, Weller said.
“The thing with oils is they usually start off pretty ugly,” he said with a laugh.
That’s because with every oil painting he does, Weller needs to prime the canvas with gesso, which allows the oil paints to stick to the canvas.
“Sometimes the gesso is colored, but usually it’s white,” he said. “Sometimes I rub the oils in the gesso and go from there.”
Because oil paints can take a few days to dry, Weller can try to fix any mistakes he may have made.
“Sometimes I can go back and scrape off a layer of color and put on a different color,” he said. “Then there are times when I think a work is done, but something bugs me about it. So I’ll go back into it a few days later and try to fix what is bothering me.”
While Weller enjoyed the trial and error of adjusting from watercolors to oils, he always knew the essence of any painting comes down to composition, value, color and subject, he said.
“With both mediums, depending on the colors, I can control how the viewer will look at a painting,” he said.
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