By Ann McCreary
On the brick walls of Rod Weagant’s bright, airy gallery on Glover Street hang landscape paintings of mountains, rivers, buttes and lakes — many of which may be familiar to Methow Valley residents and visitors.
“Paintings for people that love the Methow,” reads a sign on the door of Weagant’s studio and gallery, which he opened earlier this year in downtown Twisp, making it his primary workplace and display space for his plein air oil paintings.
For more than 40 years, Weagant has been working to capture the wonder he feels about the natural world. Much of his work has been done in Alaska, where he worked as Artist in Residence at Denali National Park, taught at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, and lived for a decade in a cabin in the remote community of Haines.
Weagant and his wife, Jane, moved to the Methow Valley in 2011, and Weagant has made the Methow Valley and its surroundings the subject of much of his work since coming here.
Moving to the Methow was a homecoming of sorts for Weagant, who traces family roots back several generations in North Central Washington. “My great, great-grandparents homesteaded on the Waterville plateau in the 1880s,” Weagant said. His great-grandfather was a partner with Thomas “Lord” Blyth, whose investments helped fund construction of the early irrigation projects in the Methow Valley.
“l grew up all over. Cashmere, Brewster, Moses Lake, Colorado, California … but mentally the family home has always been North Central Washington. I learned to swim in Alta Lake in the mid-1950s and spent an entire summer at Black Pine Lake,” Weagant said.
Over the past 30 years, Weagant has had numerous one-man shows at Confluence Gallery in Twisp and his daughter, Rose Weagant Olcott, works at Confluence Gallery as program administrator.
When he moved to the Methow Valley, Weagant set up his studio at his home on the Old Twisp Highway. He was encouraged to open a studio and gallery on Glover Street by Donna Keyser, an artist and sign maker who has her studio in the space next door. “Her idea is to try to change the core of downtown into an art district,” Weagant said.
Capturing true light
Weagant’s workspace is at the back of the gallery. Small 9-by-12-inch studies of scenes he has created in the field line a shelf; a couple of larger works are in process.
Weagant gets outside almost every morning to work for a couple of hours before coming to the studio. He creates his large works from smaller plein air paintings.
The oil paintings done in the field capture the true light and color, something a camera can’t do, Weagant said. “The human eye is a lot more sophisticated than the camera’s eye,” he said. Most people have had the experience of taking a photo of an amazing view, and being disappointed because the image doesn’t truly capture what they saw, he said.
The small paintings are done quickly, “in an hour or less because of the changing light,” Weagant said. “When you’re outside, your whole purpose is to respond to the outside universe.” Those smaller studies are the basis of the larger paintings he will create. He uses the photographs to help with details of the scene.
Paintings in the gallery capture rushing rivers, the stillness of winter landscapes and the grandeur of local mountains. In addition to scenes in and around the Methow Valley, paintings in Weagant’s gallery portray other parts of Washington and the West, including the Grand Coulee area, Oregon and Idaho.
Works by three other artists are also presented in the gallery. Chelan artist Gene Barkley paints in a pointillism style, applying small strokes or dots of color to a surface so that from a distance they blend together. Jan Cook Mack of Wenatchee creates oil paintings of valley landscapes, orchards, fruit and wilderness scenes. The gallery also includes sculptures by Okanogan artist Dan Brown.
A large fabric wall hanging created by Jane Weagant, a quilter, is also on display. Weagant’s studio and gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday, and by request.