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Paying Homage to the Landscapes of Her Youth
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Wednesday, March 6, 2024
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Pamela Street learned early that art could be a lucrative proposition.

As a youngster, she wanted nothing more than to have a horse, and so she sketched horses all day long in class.

"My dad said he would get me a horse if I would stop drawing horses in school. I got my horse and I stopped drawing them in class," she recounted.

Pamela Street didn't stop sketching, however, and over the years she became a masterful plein air painter, primarily setting her sights on the mountains surrounding Sun Valley where she was born and grew up.

And during Friday's Gallery Walk she will show some of her latest plein air landscapes at Anderson and Anderson Architects above what was formerly Friesen Gallery. Gallery Walk will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 8, at galleries throughout Ketchum.

"I paint mostly mountains and tree because I grew up here and landscapes have shaped my connection to the land and its beauty. I try to show my gratitude for these wild places and I like to paint them in hopes they will move people to preserve them," she said.

Street's father was an amateur painter who used egg tempura paints he made himself.

"He wasn't famous but he was quite artistic. He was the pastry chef for Sun Valley Resort, and I used to help him decorate wedding cakes at the Sun Valley Lodge. All the Sun Valley chefs had the same builder so they helped each other build log homes a mile south of Ketchum on what was called Log Road, or Chef's Row," she recounted.

Street got her start in plein air painting early, thanks to two grade school teachers who were artists and took their students out walking with watercolors to paint outdoors.

The Ketchum they walked through was very different. There were no mansions--just small mining houses sprinkled throughout. Street was able to hop on her horse and ride a quarter mile to a sheep trail that would take her south or north where she could ride in the mountains easily without having encountered any traffic along the way.

There were no modern buildings then. Ketchum resembled a western town with hitchracks behind all the bars for people to tie up their horses. And children were allowed in the bars.

"It was pretty wild and very friendly as everyone knew everyone."

Upon graduating, Street got a fine arts degree at Central Oregon College. But she put her art on hold while she raised her two children. When they went off to college, she found herself with some free time and so started painting again.

She drew and painted with local paint legends Kim Howard and Ralph Harris. She attended a five-day workshop with Robert Moore, who is represented by Kneeland Gallery. She joined the Plein Air Painters of Idaho, and she attended a myriad of other workshops.

"I dove in and went from painting in watercolors to oils because I wanted more color, more texture, more depth," she said. "I've done a lot of workshops with famous painters I admire just to get their take on it. I don't try to paint like them, but I've learned their color mixing techniques, their ideas about the principles of painting, composition, edges. It’s always important to go back to the basics. I learned, for stance, a new way to soften edges. I was reminded to keep the dark darker, provide more contrast.”

Street loves to paint the Sawtooths, the Pioneer Mountains, the Big Wood River, local lakes and the Boulder Mountains, which she said sport incredible colors.

"I was a ski mountain guide for 25 years so I spent a lot of time in the mountains in the forest and I'm drawn to the places I have an emotional connection to."

But she's also painted scenes from travels through France, treks through Nepal and Mongolia, where she served as a chef on a horse trek.

"I wasn't able to paint on location on those trips because when you go on a painting trip you're carrying 25 pounds of gear and you have to stop for long periods of time. But I was able to capture some nice impressions of those countries from my photographs."

Over the years Street has learned that she doesn't have to paint exactly what she sees--even in plein air paintings.

"I've learned to arrange a painting in my mind, to change things around so I get a pleasant composition. I end up painting my impression of what I'm looking at, rather than exactly what I'm looking at."

Street paints throughout the seasons. She tends to finish paintings on site, then take them back to the easel in her studio and examine them to see if she can improve them in some way.

"I'm constantly working on them in between backpacking and biking, hiking and skiing," she said. "Painting outdoors has taught me to see shadows, shades of colors. It teaches you to look hard and see. It's a practice in studying the intricacies that you don't see when you're hiking by or moving. If you stand in one place for hours you think: Where is that light coming from? How many shades of green are there? How can I represent the distance?

"Once you've done that for years," she added, "You're constantly looking for something that moves you, something that's beautiful. And you're hoping you can convey why it moves you to those that see your paintings."

DID YOU KNOW?

Twenty percent of the sales of Pamela Streets art work will go to Thrival Foundation, a local endeavor empowering women and children through the development of self-reliance skills.

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