56605 Sitka Drive
Otis, OR 97368
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June Director's Journal

“I was painting last night down by the water,” Scott Gellatly shares during the introduction to his Strategies for Expressive Color in Landscape Painting workshop. “Looking eastward, the whole scene was bathed in this beautiful golden light.”

A mix of new to Sitka and longtime workshop participants gather for a presentation of different color and composition strategies before heading outdoors for an afternoon of Cascade Head plein air painting. Studies made in the field will be used as inspiration for more in depth studio paintings over the next three days.

Scott Gellatly leads a Plein Air demonstration

“As landscape painters, we start with the landscape,” Gellatly offers as a point of departure for exploring the realm between representation and abstraction. “We use our paintings as visual springboards to take us somewhere else – it’s that somewhere else I’m interested in.”

In his own practice, Gellatly often chooses humble settings over grand vistas, finding inspiration in natural areas on the periphery of his daily routine, just beyond a soccer field or tucked behind an office building. “This practice just came out of exploring and asking how does plein air painting fit into my life? …It is important not to treat our plein air paintings as too precious.”

Cascade Head Plein Air Study

“When an instructor is this talented,” an experienced painter in the workshop shares, “there is this temptation to mimic, to want to paint like them. Reflecting on the first day, last night I asked myself, ‘what am I here to learn? What do I want to take away with me and into my own work?’ I feel inspired today.”

“When we were painting outside, I did some drawings, but then, you know me, I found myself writing,” a longtime workshop participant confesses and smiles. “I love how Sitka instructors are so good at meeting each of us where we are,” shares another, “…in our experience levels with different mediums and with our different styles. I love seeing what other people are making. It helps me give myself permission to be more playful.”

Cascade Head Plein Air Study in Progress

“Artists forget that we need to study other artists,” shares a participant who is also a Sitka instructor. “I’m having a regenerative summer here at Sitka, and it’s so healing. Usually, I work in the abstract with palate knives and squeegees. Here I’m painting a landscape! Using a paintbrush! I’m out of my comfort zone, and it’s great.”

Eavesdropping on Gillatly’s color and composition sessions, I am struck by the universality of his insights.

Where have I drawn unintentional horizon lines in my life? If I moved or removed them, how might I shift emphasis and bring focus to what is most important? In the way a recurring color can create flow and candace, moving a viewer’s eyes through a painting, how do I see to create movement in my own work through continuity and harmony? Where might a dab of discord create a welcome spark of surprise?

Coastline Plein Air Study in Progress

Gellatly is a first-time Sitka instructor, and one of the greatest joys in these first weeks of workshop season is seeing so many hands raise when we ask who is visiting Sitka for the first time. The mix of new and familiar faces and friends is part of Sitka’s ‘spark.’

Our 2022 workshop season runs into October, and several workshops have been added since our Spring + Summer Guide was published in February. Visit our online catalog for updated offerings and seat openings. If a workshop you want to take is full, please do join the waitlist. Cancellations are a fact of life as we all work together to keep our community healthy. Sitka offers full refunds for those who need to cancel due to Covid-19.

Whether you are a studio artist with a daily practice, a first-time digital photographer or a writer in painter’s clothing, I hope to see you on our serene, coastal forest campus and in our lighthearted studios this summer. Our conversations always “springboard” me somewhere inspiring and new.

Alison Dennis

Executive Director

A Writer in Painter's Clothing