Thelma and Louise - without the cliff
Dreamy landscapes and rich plein-air scenes painted outdoors adorn the wall at Clackamas Community College's central gallery. The more than 30 pieces were created by longtime locals Becky Land and Juliet Franklin, painting under the pseudonym JF Warren, in honor of Franklin's husband, Art Warren.
The women said that they've been friends for "since forever" and have a shared professional history as well, having worked together in the transcribing business, doing everything from courtroom transcriptions to dictating at medical appointments for the deaf.
Although both women began painting with seriousness only in the past few years, their journies and styles vary greatly.
Land primarily creates still life and landscape pieces, and although she began painting with watercolors eight years ago, she's found the oils better suit her style.
"I love oil paint, specifically, but I've never really had the space or the time with family, work and pets. It's also hard when you don't have a dedicated space, so I do now," Land said.
Veering toward realism and impressionism, Land's ultimate goal is to master impressionism and to turn her passion for painting into a sustainable, professional endeavor.
Franklin developed an interest in learning to create art while reading Betty Edwards' book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" and going through the book's drawing exercises. From there, she began experimenting and creating as she traveled with her husband.
"She's much more experimental than I am," Land said. "She works in a lot of different mediums — watercolor paints, textures and iridescence and so many wonderful things."
At their premiere, non-art-show exhibit, both women have learned a lot about what it means to exhibit on their own at the CCC gallery.
"We've learned so much, not just about how to exhibit but also about our own work and about what we need to focus on and how to present it, even what substrates to use," Franklin said.
"We've been working for the past six months on a body of work, because I had no paintings ready when we committed. I thought, 'September is so far away! That's so much time,'" Land said.
But with a full-time job in software sales for business systems, Land needed to make time to paint. But since participating in her first art show, the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts in 2014, she realized that she wanted to eventually make painting her full-time job. After this realization, making time and space became a priority.
"We sold our work at the open show, so we thought, 'Hey, maybe we can do this,'" Land said.
"This last six months, at least, has been about preparing for this exhibit," Land said. "Now, with that behind us, we can take the lessons that we've learned and apply them to our artwork, getting more consistent style and presentation."
However, Franklin and Land didn't actively seek out the CCC gallery. After Franklin read about the Tyree gallery showing in January in the Spokesman, she took a picture of the article and sent it off to Land. While checking out the gallery, the women were approached by its coordinator, Joyce Gabriel, who said that she was looking for the next featured artist.
"We were just walking around and enjoying the artwork," Land said. "She was very eager to get emerging artists, not just people who were established and showing galleries. So we said, 'Hey! That sounds like us.'We weren't expecting to exhibit — we didn't feel entirely ready to exhibit — but we jumped in with both feet."
Looking at the filled gallery space, the women present a wide range of pieces. From smaller, more organic pieces composed of mineral-based pigments to larger, detailed paintings embracing traditional oil paint, the women admitted that they felt relief after completing the hanging and that doing it with a longtime friend made the experience all the more rewarding.
"It's fun having a friend that's at a similar stage," Land said. "(Art) can be very solitary, which I like, but if that's all you do and didn't have work outside of it, I think that it could get very isolating. But having a friend to do it with — we call it our Thelma and Louise moment, but without a cliff and a much happier ending, hopefully! It's a lot more fun
to do it with somebody and we're constantly comparing notes and learning different things."
Land said that it's because of her passion for painting that she's accomplished so much and made a list of goals that she intends to complete.
"I get lost in it and I lose time, and I think that it's the only thing that I do where I forget to eat — which says something! — I forget everything, focus and get lost in it. And you hear that from people when they talk about things that they really love and are passionate about. It's a really good sign if they can lose time," Land said.
Franklin said that her art likely won't become a profession for her, but that she's committed to it nevertheless.
"I don't expect to earn a living from this, but my husband joked that this is Plan C for our retirement," Franklin said. "One of the things that I like about it is when you get older you need things to keep your brain active and this is really fun because you can feel your brain growing, because it's all problem solving."
But no matter the stage that they're at in their artistic journeys, both women are committed for the long run and intend to keep growing and refining their works.
"To really be an accomplished painter and not just a copy of photographs... you have to get out there and paint," Franklin said.
"It's amazing the difference," Land said. "And people with a trained eye can tell if it's been painted from a photograph, which isn't a bad thing; but there's a richness from working onsite."
From courtroom transcriptions to plein-air paintings, the pair said that it's been a
process, but worth every minute.
"It's very hard to let go," Franklin said. "But we're trying to make the transition from tiny strokes to painting in big strokes."