(Snowy Sunrise by Rebecca Baldwin)
Rebecca Baldwin loves to hike in the high Cascades, frequently toting her camera. She stops occasionally to snap a shot of a crooked juniper tree, blooming wildflowers or a tumbling creek. These will become the inspiration for her landscape paintings, although they may not entirely resemble the original scenes. The skies will flame with the bright orange and pink of a desert twilight, tree branches loom starkly black in the foreground, and wildflowers may dot the creek bank, whose ripples reflect the sunset. This is how the artist transforms an ordinary photo into a brilliant vista. Baldwin’s landscapes will be showcased at Red Chair Gallery in December.
Blazing color has always been Baldwin’s palette, although she did not always paint landscapes. She started her art career at Portland’s Saturday Market in the 1980s, selling brightly colored drawings and paintings of whimsical animals. She augmented this by creating tee shirt art. Her most popular designs were coffee-related, sold by the burgeoning number of coffee stands popping up everywhere. One design in particular, Drink Your Java. It’s a Jungle Out There became a nationwide best seller.
After six years at the Portland market, Baldwin began entering juried art fairs all over the West Coast, New Mexico and Arizona. She gained experience in the business of displaying and selling art and talking to customers about what type of art they liked. But after 25 years of hauling her displays long distances, she decided to move on.
She moved to Central Oregon in 1993 and now paints from her studio on the edge of the Deschutes National Forest. A passionate outdoor enthusiast, she enjoys hiking, biking, camping and skiing and has changed her art focus to landscape painting in oil or acrylic. “It’s kind of a cliché for a painter to say ‘I paint landscapes because I love nature,’ but it’s true,” she says. “A good landscape painter has to have a real connection with nature in order to paint from the heart,” she explains. “I feel I’ve always had that connection, but the challenge is to express it with art.” Besides the high Cascades, some of her favorite local places to paint are the Oregon desert and the red rock country of the Southwest.
Currently, many of Baldwin’s landscapes feature sinewy trees with striking sunsets or starry skies in the background. “I’m on a tree kick right now,” she says. The next phase in her art will be different. She’s done a few snow scenes lately and is working on vistas of red rock country and Hawaii. These will undoubtedly just be the beginning of exploring many more types of landscapes.