Dayton artist Steve Henderson believes in painting what he knows: the landscapes around his home, rolling hills and scenes with the Snake River.
His work, which showcases the best of the area around Dayton, will be the face of the town’s upcoming Art Walk, which occurs Saturday. The Art Walk is one piece of Dayton on Tour, an annual one-day event that showcases the town’s historic homes, museums and local artists.
Henderson’s studio, a converted barn next door to his home, is filled with oil-painted canvases showing views of the Snake River, the hills around his home and waves rolling onto the beaches of the Oregon Coast, where Steve and his wife, Carolyn, visit at least once a year.
He often uses his daughter and granddaughter as models, painting them in dresses against a backdrop of sea or flowers.
Before he begins painting, Henderson will visit a location and take hundreds of photos, which he uses for reference back in the studio. Carolyn, who acts as his business manager, says he sometimes hikes dozens of miles to set up his camera at a particularly beautiful lake, which he returns home to paint.
“You have to know it, breathe it, taste it, feel it — otherwise it just doesn’t feel true,” he said.
Henderson works from a palette of about 10 oil paints, mixing everything else by hand to get the bold colors he uses. He focuses on brush strokes and color and said he tries “not to belabor the detail” so his paintings don’t have the hyper-realistic feel of a photograph.
The easel he works on is built by hand, with rocks from around his property used for a counterbalance.
“When I saw how the principle works, I just thought, ‘Well shoot, I have some parts,’” he said.
His work is on display at the Wenaha Gallery on Main Street, headlining this weekend’s Art Walk. His son Jordan, a carver who works with sustainably harvested wood from local loggers, is also featured at the gallery. Participants will get a map of locations along Main Street that feature regional art, and can get a stamp when they visit each location.
“Our Art Walk has become more interactive the last couple years,” said Lael Loyd, the gallery manager. “People really get into it, it’s not just a casual thing.”
Last year, 72 people completed the walk.
Loyd said the gallery has showed Henderson’s work before, and was excited to have him back.
“He does a variety of things, and not many artists do that. Not that many artists are that diversified in the subjects they focus on,” she said.
Though he often focuses on the outdoors, Henderson recently completed a series of three Christmas-themed paintings, which show Santa painting nativity figurines, reading a book to a young girl and helping her place an ornament on a tree. He has donated a print from this series to be given as a prize to one lucky person who completes the Art Walk. Participants can also win a custom-made birdhouse from Papa Jon or a print from local photographer Nick Page.
In addition to the artwork, Dayton on Tour includes tours of historic homes, including three private residences, the Dayton Historic Depot, the Boldman House Museum and Palus Artifact Museum. The newly refurbished Smith Hollow Schoolhouse will also be open for a sneak preview, and the backstage area of the Liberty Theater will be open for tours.
Museums will be open from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. free of charge, and a ticket to tour the private residences can be bought for $10 at the Depot. Many local artists will demonstrate their work in the Depot Courtyard from 1-4 p.m., and buses will shuttle people from downtown to visit Blue Mountain Station, the artisan food park being constructed by the Port of Columbia. Visit historicdayton.com/dayton-on-tour-2 for a complete schedule of events.
For Henderson, the Art Walk will offer a chance to expose more people to his work and the arts community in town.
“I enjoy showing the local people what’s going on here,” he said.
Rachel Alexander can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8363.