Illustrating a point: Painting in artist's blood


WALLA WALLA -- When she was growing up in Montana, Bonnie Zahn Griffith was surrounded by art.

"My mom was an illustrator, my uncle was an illustrator, and my dad was a musician," she said. "I always had encouragement."

All of that encouragement has paid off for Griffith, who has gone on to win numerous accolades for her artwork. Some of her paintings are currently on exhibit around the region.

The Walla Walla resident also has a show of impressionistic pastel landscapes hanging in the Fenton/Stahl Gallery through mid-September.

"They're all landscapes from the West," she said, "whether its the Northwest or the Southwest, and it's about color."

In particular, Griffith is interested in highlighting color in unexpected ways, bringing out hues that wouldn't ordinarily stick out in a scene.

"A lot of the work has purples and shades of lavender in it, and it's really dramatic," she said.

That dramatic use of color accentuates the strong sense of place Griffith exhibits in her work.

Griffith most prefers painting "en plein air," a french term meaning "in the open air," most often used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

"When you're doing plein air, you're out there," she said. "You're seeing it live. It's a live performance."

According to Griffith, that live perspective is an important part of her plein air works.

"It's not only the land mass, and what's in the land, it's also about what the atmosphere looks like," she said.

In addition to capturing the atmosphere, Griffith wants to encourage viewers to engage with the painting.

"I like to paint stuff that has something that leads you into it, whether it's a road, or train tracks," she said.

"Something that makes you feel like you could walk into that painting, and make it your own space for a time."

But more than making the painting a home for the viewer, Griffith also wants to provoke interest in the viewer.

"It's about putting a question in somebody's mind, she says. "I want the stuff to make people think about why it looks like that."

If you go

Fenton/Stahl Gallery, 11 S. Spokane St.

Walla Wallan Bonnie Zahn Griffith's landscapes are on exhibit from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.

For more information on Griffith and her work, visit


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