We’ve all heard of the artist’s Muse. While some artists credit (or blame) an outside source of inspiration for their work — whether it is one of the classical Greek goddesses or an actual human being — painter Denise Elizabeth Stone of La Grande interacts with a unique, physical muse, consisting of the very materials that she uses.
Stone’s signature medium, batik watercolor, is an intricate process that integrates handmade Asian papers, beeswax, watercolor or gouache, and ink to create what Stone describes as “creative descendants of traditional silk and cotton batik fabrics.”
A gallery artist at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, Denise Elizabeth Stone is the featured Pacific Northwest artist for Art Event, a two-week showcasing of her works that runs through March 31. The gallery is at 219 E. Main St. Call 509-382-2124.
Viewers find Stone’s work to be richly colorful, exuberant and full of texture. Due to the batik watercolor process, which involves painting on the paper, coating it with a paraffin/beeswax mixture, crumpling the paper to crack the wax, ink washing and ironing the wax out, Stone never knows exactly what she will find at the end.
“Paint behaves very differently on the Asian papers,” Stone explains. “Sometimes, it’s almost like painting on tissue paper — the paint spreads out, and it’s hard to control.
“You have to accept that this is a joint creation between you, the paint, and the paper.”
It’s almost as if there were a psychology to the process, which is not an inapt description, given Stone’s career background as a psychotherapist and vocational rehabilitation counselor. Upon moving to Oregon, Stone retired from her day job to pursue art full time, and she credits her experience and training in the world of psychology as definite influences in her art.
“I have taken the long road to full-time art, a scenic route winding through the vistas of science, spiritual studies and psychology,” Stone says. “As a former psychotherapist, I have an abiding interest in the psychological nature of transformation, archetype, and the Divine Feminine.”
Ideas for Stone’s paintings often begin as dreams or sudden revelations, with images of trees, caves, birds, fish or other animals being prominent. While not seeking to convey a specific message of spirituality, Stone aims to express a feeling of sacredness and connectedness, reflecting her tremendous respect and reverence for the natural world. Because the essence of Stone’s art incorporates universal symbolism, viewers find themselves drawn into a story, one that often expresses a common human experience.
Primarily self-taught, Stone has taken classes and workshops in art and finds continued inspiration through her association with the Batik Convergence, a collaboration of four full-time artists who specialize in the batik watercolor medium.
“The BatCons provide constructive critiques, invaluable support, and wild and wacky ideas!” Stone says. “They give me that extra little push to create, to try something new, to stretch in new directions.”
Stone has exhibited her work in shows and exhibitions throughout Oregon and in Washington and has received numerous awards, including second place at the 2013 Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts, a competitively juried exhibition drawing the top artists of the Pacific Northwest. Her first award, at Baker City’s Art at the Crossroads, is her most memorable; it included honorable mention for one painting and People’s Choice for another.
“It just knocked my socks off!” Stone recalls. “I have received different awards since then, but this first one was the biggest thrill because it was so unexpected.”
Stone shows her work online at www.therowdygoddess.com, a name she chose to remind herself to not be afraid to shake things up a bit. Professionally, she uses her full name, Denise Elizabeth Stone, in honor of her grandmother, whose middle name is Elizabeth, and also in honor of her mother, who named her for strong women.
Freelance writer Carolyn Henderson is the co-owner, with her husband, of Steve Henderson Fine Art, and a consultant for Wenaha Gallery of Dayton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.