The “artistic interpretation” of Yosemite, a place steeped in visual mythology and hewing tradition, is not to be taken or enacted lightly. As a summation of this long standing relationship between park and art, local painter Penny Otwell has said: “Drawing and painting in Yosemite all these years has taught me to see well!” Pages upon pages of graphite, ink and gouache laced paper that turn into canvases caked with oils and acrylics have directly participated in the invention, reinvention and even rejuvenation the ideal of the National Parks. And helping to advance this historical path is Ms. Otwell – who has been painting Yosemite since 1964. Otwell says, “The rhythm found in a “cooled granite flow” is what I’m after in my paintings. Nature’s rhythmic design offers the most interesting shapes for a painter, along with unusual negative space, color, angles, and most important, the very fine light found at higher elevations.”
The exhibition “Mountain Rhythm,” featuring new work by Penny Otwell, is on display at The Ansel Adams Gallery through November 2nd. This show includes en plein air and studio paintings that began as a field sketches which outlined the structure of geologic forms at work in Yosemite National Park. We hope you have an opportunity to visit The Gallery in Yosemite Village to see Penny’s work in person. See Penny Otwell’s current artwork.
Penny Otwell Artist’s Statement
The rhythm and design in the natural world motivates me to paint Yosemite’s granite forms left in the path of ancient glaciers. Since 1964 I have been drawing Yosemite and over 50 years of experience in this remarkable place has had a profound emphasis on my work today.
I am a self-taught painter inspired by Yosemite, but the real joy comes from painting it. I feel a deep connection to this place and a specific curiosity about the landscape. Hiking the trails over the years has given me confidence being outdoors. I “show up” most days to paint. Works are started with drawing or painting “en plein air” either on a linen support or in a field sketchbook. Some paintings are painted entirely outdoors from start to finish.
Being a painter is like being a scientist: the facts are in front of you, the arrangements are endless, conditions, premises, and conclusions all determine each painting. The “what if?” is constantly pulling at my sleeve! Conducting these experiments culminates in a collaboration of materials for a painting style uniquely my own.
What starts outdoors slowly changes into a carefully edited composition with many paint layers. I push back and forth, adding and subtracting with some reality, some abstraction, design, line, rhythm, value, and color. I love my job!