High desert to high tide: Artist Talk event showcases Oregon landscape 

Published by Jace Boyd on

Woman stands in the UCC art studio. She is  facing the left wearing a light brown jacket. Her arms are  casually clasped behind her. A small group, with some standing and some sitting, face forward.
Bets Cole, Oregon landscape painter, students and local artists, earnestly listen to Tiffany Hokason, art director, as she asks Cole about art processes. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

This month The Art Gallery at Umpqua Community College presents “High Desert to High Tide.” This exhibition features 15 watercolor and acrylic paintings by Oregon artist, Bets Cole. This plein air series paints Oregon’s diverse landscapes.  The show will be on display at UCC inside The Art Gallery at the Whipple Fine Arts Center from April 1 through May 1. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

An aerial view of a group of people sitting down in a discussion. They are wearing casual clothes as they talk in the art studio.
Bets Cole, Oregon landscape painter, and attendees, Q&A with Cole local artist ask about artist block how she deals with it, and what inspires her to create art. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

As an exhibiting artist for over 30 years, Cole has successfully sold and shown her artwork nationwide. She is originally from New Jersey but moved to Oregon much like other artists because of the beautiful scenery here. Cole earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Oregon. She is known for her dramatic large-scale charcoal drawings and her colorful watercolor, acrylic and gouache paintings. She currently paints full-time in the plein air tradition or painting in the open, traveling to locations throughout the United States and Europe. 

Woman stands in an art studio with a painting on either side of the wall behind her. She is holding a paper in her hand and pointing into the audience as she speaks. She is wearing a white shirt, a light brown jacket and matching pants.
Bets Cole, Oregon landscape painter, excitedly discusses fellow artists who have been inspired by the beauty of the landscapes of Oregon and her mentor Nelson Sandgreen who was a great source of inspiration for her. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Her art consists of many layers of paint and charcoal applied at different times, sometimes years elapsing before the painting or drawing is finished. To Cole, her art represents the unique adaptation of plein air painting within nature’s elements, requiring her to find the perfect time to paint while working with weather conditions such as overcast shadows and light changes. In her paintings, time is a collection of different moments in time, not a single one. 

Cole says that one of the most important things for her as an artist isn’t looking for perfection but turning mistakes that were originally thought of as devastating  into happy accidents. “The reason they are on the wall is because they are a favorite. I have many paintings in storage that are not my favorite… yet,” Cole says. 

The artist says that she never has artist’s block because, once she has set up shop to paint, she immediately gets the thrill of inspiration. Cole has two sets of artist supplies, one that stays at her home and one that is in her truck. If inspiration strikes, wherever she is she can stop and take time to paint.  

A woman stands farther back with her arms clasped calmly behind her with an smile. In front of her facing to the right is a woman whose hands are in front of her. They are in the art studio with two pictures mounted on the wall on the left of them.
Bets Cole, Oregon landscape painter and Tiffany Hokason, art director, passionately discuss the process of showing an art collection. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

One of her best practices is just starting on her art whether she has ten minutes or ten hours. . “Any time you have, use that time to create your own safe space,” Cole says. 

Tiffany Hokanson, the director of the art gallery at UCC, worked together with Cole to ensure that there was enough artwork for this showing, planning weeks in advance so that the artist knew the space well enough while trusting the art director to purposely place her paintings in an attractive way. Hokanson did not place the paintings in chronological order nor group them by similarities but by what she predicted would catch the viewers’ eyes.

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