Seattle Day Trip: The Amazon Spheres

The Spheres on the amazon campus, Seattle
Living fern wall inside the Spheres

I went on a little adventure in downtown Seattle this morning — an exploration of a new architectural wonder, the Spheres.  These three conjoined structures are located on the campus of retail giant Amazon.  Newly opened in January of this year, they are a work space for employees of the company, providing lots of convivial gathering spots and seating in a multi-level, glass conservatory-like atmosphere.  The company allows the general public to visit the Spheres on certain Saturdays.  Advance tickets are required, but there is no cost.

I loved this space!  The diversity of greens, plants, and foliage was amazing.  I could have spent the day comfortably reading a book or visiting with friends in any number of seating spaces — there were rocking chairs and rattan chairs and lounge chairs and metal chairs, small tables and couches.  You could buy a cup of coffee and a doughnut.  Everything was bright and inviting. It was a fun outing.



Painting Irises with a Flat Brush

Irises in Kitty’s garden

Every year I look forward to iris season in the Skagit Valley and schedule a very special day to paint the irises in my friend Kitty’s gardens on Samish Island.  This year when Kitty announced the early blooms were ready, my schedule was too harried and I had to postpone my visit to late May.  I worried I would miss this season’s spectacle.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone up there this late in the iris season, but it turned out that good things happen to those who wait.  Kitty’s irises were absolutely stunning — bountiful and colorful and glorious.

Scenes from Kitty’s garden

I took way too many photos again this year.  The many varieties of iris flaunt their frills and flounces and colors like so many ladies at a fancy ball.  Each individual flower or small grouping called out to be photographed.  I obliged.  I knew I would have quite a big editing and uploading job when I returned home!  But it was worth it.

Just look at those black velvet petals (upper right).

I struggled a bit to find a new perspective, a new point of view, amidst all this clamor.  At one point I lay on the ground looking up — a worm’s eye view — to see the flowers against the blue sky.

Looking up.

This year I was also pleased to play and experiment with painting irises using a flat brush.  I tried to apply some of the practices I started at Tom Hoffmann’s Palouse watercolor workshop — moving toward more abstract shapes.   Here are the results:

The large iris is called the Star Ship Enterprise.


Tulip Time 2018: Day Trip to the Skagit Valley

Considering that people from around the world spend money to fly to the Netherlands to see the tulips in bloom, we who live in Seattle are beyond fortunate to have our own tulip fields an hour’s drive north.  I do so enjoy playing tourist in my own local area.  And I’m happy to report another glorious day taking in the wonders of the Skagit Valley in Spring.

For me, it is well worth getting up very early so that I am in the Skagit Valley for sunrise.  The first light and low-lying fog give an ethereal feel to these first minutes of the day.

Arriving at the Skagit Valley as the day dawns

Other photographers had the same game plan to be in the fields at sunrise.
Sunrise in the tulip field
Fog makes a floating world

Too soon the day brightened and the fog burned off.  Now the tulip fields were ribbons of bright color in the landscape.

My watercolor sketches cannot do justice to this natural beauty.



An Exhibit of My Art in June — Save the Date!

I am delighted to invite you to a show of my art during the month of June.  Mark your calendars!

Local Wonders:
Nature in Watercolor and Ink
by Rosemary Washington

When:  June 1 – 30, 2018.  Artist Reception/Open House on Thursday evening, June 7th, from 5:00-7:00

Where:  Elisabeth C. Miller Library, Center for Urban Horticulture, on the University of Washington campus, 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle

The exhibit will feature selected works in watercolor and ink — mostly plant and animal portraits — inspired by nature in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.  Art works will be on display and for sale* during the Miller Library’s regular open hours.

Please stop by for a visit.

*All sales by cash or check.  A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the UW Miller Library Fund.  Buyers can pick up their art on or after June 30th.



Making Spirits Bright

Merry and bright! Macy’s Star and Christmas tree in downtown Seattle

Today is the Winter Solstice.  In Seattle, we have 8 hours and 25 minutes of daylight on this shortest day of the year, fully 7 hours and 34 minutes fewer than our longest day in June.  And although I always look forward to the holiday lights that brighten this dark season, I do find some respite and renewal in the gifts of darkness and hibernation — slowing down, resting, and even hibernating.  Everything has its season.

Near Pioneer Square, Seattle
Pioneer Square
Westlake Mall, Seattle
Seattle Skyline from Gasworks Park, evening across Lake Union

“To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark.  Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”
— Wendell Berry, “To Know the Dark”

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”
— Theodore Roethke

Handmade Christmas card



Lost in the Details: Andrew Wyeth Exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum

“Christina Olson,” 1947

The Seattle Art Museum is now exhibiting a retrospective of Andrew Wyeth’s work in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth.  Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect includes 110 paintings and drawings spanning the artist’s 75-year career.  It is an amazing show and a tribute to Wyeth’s mastery of detail, accomplished mostly with tempera on hardboard panels.  But he gets exquisite detail from regular watercolors, too, employing a technique using a dry brush.

I loved seeing Wyeth’s paintings in the flesh, up front and personal.  The overall compositions were always outstanding, but each painting also offered up many interesting and meticulously painted details.  I was interested to see how Wyeth painted trees, for example.  The detail, even on his backgrounds, was astonishing.

Detail of larger painting

Wyeth’s art is grounded in a few locales — Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania where he lived his entire life and the coast of Maine where his family summered.  It is inspiring to see the breadth of work that sprung from such few and singular places.  Wyeth’s works evoke a sense of dignity in the ordinary.   He painted beautiful portraits of people in his community, each stroke seemingly made with love.

The details reveal the respectful bond between artist and model.  Such care.

I was hard pressed to pick a favorite from among the paintings and drawings in this exhibition.  I was drawn to the portraits, but Wyeth’s landscapes and still lives were also meticulously wrought and wonderfully evocative of America’s agricultural past.  The details in these compositions rang true to my memories of growing up on a small farm.

And Wyeth was a master of landscapes.  I stood and gazed, lost in the details of the foregrounds, middle grounds, and backgrounds — a rich experience.

“Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect” is on exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum through January 15, 2018.  If you are downtown, it would be well worth a visit.



Three Seattle Art Icons

I haven’t been doing much art lately, so today I will post three pieces I painted this summer when I was out and about in Seattle.  These images are recognizable to any Seattle resident:

Black Sun, sculpture by Isamu Noguchi, in Volunteer Park
Fremont troll, by four local artists: Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead. (It is crushing a real Volkswagen Beetle.)
Hat ‘n’ Boots, formerly a western-themed gas station, moved to Oxbow Park in Georgetown in 2003



Painting the Trees around Green Lake

Green Lake on an August morning

It has been over one month since taking Shari Blaukopf’s watercolor workshop, and since then I’ve been practicing some of her tips for painting trees.  I’m lucky in that I live close to Green Lake Park in Seattle, which has over 160 different kinds of trees according to local tree expert, Arthur Lee Jacobson.  I walk past the lake on my way to work, and I also try to walk around the lake almost daily during the summer, so I’ve been paying some attention to the various tree silhouettes I see.

I’ve written about the trees of Green Lake in other blog posts.  You can view some of them here and here. I don’t think I am done with this Green Lake tree theme yet.  But here is what I’ve painted so far: