Written by Marlene Farrell. Photos by Kevin Farrell.
Once a month in Leavenworth there is an opportunity to break one’s routine and dedicate a couple hours to art. I knew about these Last Tuesday Artists’ Gatherings, but had never attended one. I thought, I’m not a professional artist, so why would I? Then I learned that all are welcome to attend and create. The only structure is an inspiring theme that changes each month.
As a writer, I could use some visual and creative renewal after days and weeks hunched over at a computer screen. And I thought, maybe more people would like to play and experiment with art and should know about these gatherings.
And so on an October Tuesday in the late afternoon, I stood in a parking lot under the gilded sign of Artis. Others, dressed in puffy coats and hats, gathered there in expectation. I greeted Pasha, whom I had met at an open-mic night, and Heather Murphy, my writers’ group friend and the leader of tonight’s fun.
We piled in cars for the short ride up to Ski Hill. This night’s theme was “Drawn to Hiking,” and nature, both in close detail and in sweeping views, would inspire our art. Nine of us, armed with journals, pens and pencils, and a few trekking poles, headed up the main trail to the junction with 4 the Boyz (the new biking trail at Ski Hill). Pausing to regroup, Heather led a warm-up exercise, directing us to draw four overlapping leaves in five minutes. I could feel the imaginative part of my brain stirring. Right now, the four leaves in front of me, came into clear focus, and thoughts of previous and upcoming hours faded away. Five minutes were over too soon. I was left wanting more. Though I was in the company of artistic experts, I didn’t feel critical of my drawing. I knew I was the only one who saw what I saw.
As we hiked on, there was relaxed talk about art and the coming winter, birds and children. We reached the overlook for a longer creative session. These gatherings aren’t meant to be lessons. Heather explained, “There is no teaching; it is all creating.”
Three people sat on the bench, while others leaned against trees or sat in the dry grass. I chose to write, and snuck glances at others’ artistic processes. One woman’s head bobbed up and down, as she transferred the information from her eye to her hand. Some worked in quiet concentration. Others chatted while their hands moved smoothly across the page. We shared a view, in the dusky light, of town, of smoke from burn piles clinging in tendrils to the base of Boundary Butte, and of darkening clouds above Icicle Ridge. But everyone drew and painted through a lens of unique perspective. When we shared our work, spreading journals on the bench, there were drawings in pencil and black ink, and watercolors. Incomplete, they were works in progress. It felt good to share, even my scribbled words. We valued the process more than the product.
Heather and Amanda Gibbs told me how they founded these monthly gatherings. Heather said, “We were working on our Artists Bowls at Empty Bowls in 2011. We acknowledged how good it was to create and share together for a couple of hours. We said ‘Let’s keep it up!’ It was the last Tuesday of January. So we decided to call ourselves the Last Tuesday Artists, and that would help us remember when to meet.”
The concept took off, because they haven’t missed a month, though they intentionally skip November and December due to the holidays. Each year begins anew with “Drawn to Bowls” at the Empty Bowls painting days in January. Attendance ranges from four to fourteen people, but there are over 100 people on the email list. Some participants have traveled from Wenatchee or Plain. Artis supports the group by advertising and also hosting some sessions.
As I learned, it’s not just for professionals. Heather said, “It depends on the subject matter. More serious artists will come for “Drawn to Figures.” Whereas “Drawn to Hiking” might attract fewer professionals and more interested newcomers.” Amanda added, “I think some professional artists hold out for a few they really like, and other people make it most of the time for art and social reasons.” Even kids can come, with an adult. Generally the kids are over 13 years old, but Heather emphasized, “We are easy and inclusive.”
Intimidation due to artistic experience should not keep budding artists away. Amanda said, “We are here to play, make art, and socialize. If that sounds like fun to you, then come and be a part of it. Intimidated? Well, nobody’s been bitten yet so there’s no pain involved.”
- January 26th, 2016 – Drawn To Bowls from 5 to 8:00 pm at Sleeping Lady for the Empty Bowls Festival. Leader is Amanda Gibbs or Heather Murphy.
- February 23rd – Drawn To Figures from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at Artis Studio (model has not be confirmed). Leader is Heather Murphy or Amanda Gibbs for beginning exercise.
- March 29th – Drawn To Abstracts from 6 to 8:00 pm at either Grunewald Guild or Artis Studio. Leader is Adele Caemerer for beginning exercise.