Image and Word: A Fanciful Journey – Edmonds, Johnson, Yarnell

Donna EdmondsWatercolor Painter, Illustrator
Andy JohnsonProfessor, Poet, Writer
Cheri Lee YarnellCeramicist

Never has an art exhibit celebrating western Pennsylvania’s natural beauty and forest creatures been more welcome than after being sequestered in our homes during COVID-19.  Walk into a world of wonder, imagination, flora and fauna seen through the eyes of a child in the exhibit, Image and Word: A Fanciful Journey, at the Red Brick Gallery and Gift Shop (RBG), 17 Main Street, Foxburg.  The exhibit is on display from Saturday, June 27 through Sunday August 2, 2020 on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 noon to 5:00 PM.

Due to the COVID shutdown, the RBG cancelled its first show and an exhibit of A-C Valley High School art students.  The RBG, an arm of Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts, is reopening compliant with PA state guidelines and with precautions for the health and wellbeing of its patrons and artist personnel. All patrons are required to wear masks upon entering the RBG and to maintain social distancing requirements.  Gloves and hand sanitizers will be available and masks for customers if they do not have them.  Special care will be given to cleaning and sanitizing the building to maintain a safe environment.

Collaboration between three of its cooperative artists is the hallmark of this exhibit, which opens the RBG 2020 season.  Vivid watercolor illustrations of botanical artist Donna Edmonds capture the whimsical excursion of a young boy in the children’s book, “Sid’s Backyard”, written by poet and author Andy Johnson. Ceramic artist Cheri Lee Yarnell incorporates images of plants and animals in her pottery, providing dimensional reality.

Artistic Director Donna Edmonds shared that “One of the very special aspects of the Red Brick Artist Co-op is the opportunity for collaboration with other artists. This project is the product of just such an artistic interplay.  Andy’s story illustrated by my paintings and reflected in Cheri’s fanciful forms is a recipe for fun and delight for all ages!”

The vision and inspiration of western Pennsylvania potter, Cheri Lee Yarnell, is ideally paired with images from “Sid’s Backyard,” in which the narrator – a pet iguana – learns about the world by meeting animals, birds, and insects.  “My work is a complement to this book, as many of my works have images of plants and animals, capturing a sense of wonderment of the natural world around us.”  Yarnell’s pottery is primarily high-fired porcelain or stoneware involving alterations through manipulation and sculpting as she incorporates signature images of amphibians and other endangered and threatened species in her clay work.

“Sid’s Backyard” was born in the RBG when poet, author and professor Andy Johnson stumbled on a collection of Donna Edmond’s artwork.  The book is the second in a series of six that Johnson is writing for each of his grandchildren. He had the basic story written in his head but no idea how to enrich the text and themes with images. “Discovering Donna’s art, I knew it would be perfect for the story because it held the purity and innocence of nature which is paramount to the story.”

Almost the entire book takes place in a dream where the narrator, Sid’s pet iguana, Nacho, escapes into the backyard and has encounters with all sorts of animals. Johnson said, “I give each of these animals a distinct voice and have them tell Nacho what they do.  I have tried to create tension between the innocence of these critters and our human condition.  Along with the rich world of the unconscious, Donna Edmond’s beautiful watercolors remain a constant source of inspiration.”

After retirement from a career as a corporate executive, Donna Edmonds studied Botanical Art and Illustration at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden and has been an instructor there, teaching classes for the Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate Program.  Founder of the Red Brick Gallery artist cooperative, Edmonds stated that, “Although I can be considered an artist, I think I am really an explorer. I am attracted, not so much to the act of painting, as to the subjects that I illustrate. God’s creation enthralls, captivates and awes me by its diversity, complexity and beauty. Painting is my way of engaging and interacting with that breathtaking, fascinating, endlessly complex beauty and in so doing, seeking the face of the Creator.”

Describing the Red Brick Gallery as a catalyst for this project, Andy Johnson said, “The RBG has become a center, a place for artists, writers, and musicians to meet and grow their art. It is also a magnet for artists, art appreciators and collectors to enjoy exhibits in a relaxed and beautiful setting.”

The Red Brick Gallery is located at 17 Main Street in historic Foxburg, PA. Gallery hours are Fridays, 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Sundays, 12 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

About The Artists

Cheri Lee Yarnell

Clay has been a consuming passion throughout my life beginning in the mud play of childhood.  Today my work is both a reflection of my concern for our planet and fellow earthings as well as a celebration of earth and of my spiritual path.

I live in rural northwest Pennsylvania where my husband Paul and I care for elderlies and an assortment of critters.   The sounds and sights of this environment influence my work in clay.  I enjoy weaving these images in a variety of clay vessels.  I am particularly drawn to the plight of amphibians as well as many endangered and threatened species, these have become the signature images in my clay work.

This past year I have been thinking about totemic animals and this has emerged as a series of animal inspired clay rattles, wall pieces and sculptural additions.  I have continued to create my “On the Edge” limited edition series which I initiated in 2014 and which consists of about 30 vessels each year.  For 36 years I have approached each work day with the same delight I find in the night sky and sound of frogs on our pond.  From the playful to the more profound, I intend each vessel to evoke a sense of the beauty and peril of our world.

I create each piece individually, from wedging the clay in preparation to forming each vessel on the potter’s wheel or hand building.  Some pieces receive surface treatment using handmade stamps or the use of crochet or tatting for texture.  Much of the work involves alteration through manipulating and through sculpting.  My work is primarily high fired porcelain or stoneware which receives two firings, one to harden and toughen the clay for further application of color.  Color is achieved through painting or airbrushing with glazes which I have formulated myself from raw glaze material.  My glazes reflect 3 decades of experimentation and most pieces receive multiple application of color through a catering process in order to achieve vibrancy. Each year I create a smaller line of earthenware prices, a low fire clay, these are finished with glazes or smoke fired which is a more primitive process.

My work is represented by several galleries and I participate in a few juried shows each year.  I am a juried member of the Pittsburgh Guild of Craftsmen, have taught ceramics for 25 years, exhibit in a few juried events each year and have published my work in two Lark Books, 500 Teapots and 500 Animals.

 

 

The Red Brick Gallery is located at 17 Main Street in historic Foxburg, PA. Gallery hours are Fridays, 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Sundays, 12 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

 

 

Donna Edmonds 

After retirement from a career as a corporate executive, watercolorist Donna Edmonds studied Botanical Art and Illustration at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden and has been an instructor there, teaching classes for the Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate Program. Her work has been exhibited at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens as well as the Phipps Garden Center in Shadyside and other Pittsburgh venues. She is a member of the Allegheny Highlands Botanical Art Society and The American Society of Botanical Artists. Donna is the founder and Artistic Director of ARCA’s Red Brick Gallery and currently resides with her husband in Parker, PA.

“It’s a gift to share my creative wanderings with others at the Red Brick Gallery and a privilege to participate in an exhibit with other artists whom I respect,” Edmonds said. “I’m delighted to be part of this trio of artists. My fellow exhibitors are indeed gifted artists in their fields and it will, I’m sure, be a most interesting show.   For my part, I spent numerous happy hours on my new watercolors!   I do hope many guests will visit the Red Brick and enjoy this exhibit.”

“Although I can be considered an artist, I think I am really an explorer. I am attracted, not so much to the act of painting, as to the subjects that I illustrate. God’s creation enthralls, captivates, awes me by its diversity, complexity and beauty. Painting is my way of engaging and interacting with that breathtaking, fascinating, endlessly complex beauty and in so doing, seeking the face of the Creator.

My training originated at Phipps Conservatory in the Botanical Art and Illustration Program and lead me to membership in the Allegheny Highlands Botanical Art Society and the American Society of Botanical Artists. A collaboration between Phipps and the Allegheny Highlands Botanical Art Society called the Flora Project, launched my interest in Western Pennsylvania native plants. That interest has since expanded to the local birds and the architecture of their wonderfully and amazingly built nests which are very specifically constructed and vary by each bird species.

I am inspired by the life I see around me – the plants and creatures that I share space with every day – because I can witness them, touch them, get up close to them. My training as a botanical artist serves me well since the goals of botanical art are detail and accuracy. To accomplish this, one must examine closely, dissect, and research the subject. And so, that has become my habit. I’m curious to understand the details – the colors, the structures, the life cycle, and the habitat – of the things I paint. This process causes me to gain incredible bits of knowledge about my subjects. And it causes me to grow in appreciation for the power and intellect of the great and holy God who created it all.

Also, because of this, my process is lengthy. Once I have chosen, examined, and researched, I draw, as often as possible, from live plant specimens or inactive bird nests. However, in the case of birds, I work mostly from photos. I try to capture details and experiment with various aspects and positions ultimately resulting in a final composition. This drawing is then transferred (traced onto) to a new, fresh sheet of 300 lb. hot pressed (a very smooth surface) watercolor paper or, sometimes, to a piece of sheepskin, goatskin, or calfskin parchment or vellum, using a lightbox. The watercolor paper I use is 100% cotton rag, acid free. This, along with high quality, light-fast paints result in longevity equal to oil on canvas. Before applying paint, I experiment with paint colors and mixes in order to match the real subject and produce a realistic result.

Finally, I pick up my brush. I work with a very small, usually #1, round, kolinsky sable brush which allows me to achieve fine detail. Watercolor is a somewhat unforgiving medium. Since the paint is transparent, mistakes cannot generally be covered up or corrected without damaging the surface of the paper. So, the work must progress slowly and carefully, applying many diluted layers to accomplish saturated color. Colors are mixed in two ways. Sometimes the colors are mixed on the palette before application. But color mixes can also be achieved by what is called optical mixing – by layering two or more colors alternately on the paper so that the eye does the mixing as it sees through the “stacked” transparent glazes. For example, alternating glazes of yellow and blue create the effect of green. A complete and complex spectrum of colors can be achieved by simply using a palette of the three primary colors!

Because of the detailed nature of this art form, it takes many hours of painting to complete the piece. But when it is done, the next step for me is to take the original to a fine art printmaker to be digitally scanned. The color-matched scan is used to produce limited edition giclée prints. A giclée print refers to one that is produced in such a manner that it is identical to the original. It is produced on a twelve-color printer to achieve maximum color matching, with fade resistant, archival pigment-based inks on archival substrates – watercolor paper, photo paper or canvas. The process is expensive but it produces an image as close to the original as possible on a fine surface material. It, like the original, will retain color indefinitely with a modicum of care. Most recently, I have reduced my limited editions to 10 or fewer, since my aim is not mass production but simply to enjoy and share the paintings that I am able to produce.

I am ever thankful for the wonder of the creative process since it gives me such pleasure and satisfaction. I am convinced that God reveals Himself through the universe that He created for us to enjoy and discover and that He invites us to pursue a knowledge of Him through the marvels of His creation. Having formed us in His image, like Him, we all have a drive to create.

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.

Proceeds from the sales of my works are donated to Life Choices, providing life affirming choices in Butler, Armstrong and Indiana Counties since 1984.

 

The Red Brick Gallery is located at 17 Main Street in historic Foxburg, PA. Gallery hours are Fridays, 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Sundays, 12 p.m. to 4:00 p.m

Andy Johnson

I am a poet, writer, editor, and teacher of creative writing, philosophy, and theology. My professional career centered on psychotherapy, guidance counseling, and teaching philosophy in college.  I currently lead the “Writer’s Circle” through the Slippery Rock University Institute for Learning in Retirement.  I also, publish and produce spoken word CDs.  I have always been attracted to the combination of creative writing and fine art.  In both high school and college, I founded and edited their first literary arts magazines.  Last Spring, I founded and edited “The Eclectic”

“Writing has been something I could not do for the past sixty years.  Even as a pre-teen I thought all good writing was really a magical code for a hidden reality.  I still do.  I grew up in the family library where I pretended to read by looking at a book’s illustrations and creating stories from my imagination which went along with the art.  Imagine my surprise when I learned real reading.”

My writings have taken many forms from poetry, travel journals, short stories, journalism, eulogies, music reviews, and children’s books. “Sid’s Backyard” is the second children’s book in a series of six books from wife Peggy and  I to our grandchildren.  Donna Edmonds illustrates the beautiful water colors in the book of which I author.  When I discovered her art, I knew it would be perfect for the story “Sid’s Backyard” because it held the purity and innocence of nature which is paramount to the story.  Almost the entire book takes place in a dream where the narrator learns about the world by meeting animals, birds, and insects.  Along with the rich world of the unconscious, Donna Edmond’s watercolors remain a constant source of inspiration.

The narrator of the story is Sid’s pet iguana, Nacho, who escapes into the backyard and has all these encounters with all sorts of animals.  I give each of these animals a distinct voice and have them tell Nacho what they do.  I have tried to create tension between the innocence of these critters and our human condition.  Throughout the book Donna’s art is featured for two reasons: one because it is so good it should be featured, and two, because I want the book to be re-read by families so they can slowly discover their own meanings.  Art first, meaning second…

“Blisstaken” is my poetry/jazz trio and also the name of the CD on display at the RBG. I read my poetry while Terry Steele/sax and Mike Wienand/guitar perform jazz and blues standards and improvisational pieces.

My wife and I are dedicated members and volunteers in ARCA and the Red Brick Gallery where we are in good company with creative artists and stimulating people with unique and shareable skills and interests.

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