Last winter, Lebanon artist Alisha Whitman was looking for a creative project for her two oldest daughters, Jenelle, 14, and Meredith, 12.
Whitman homeschools her five children and wanted to find a way to combine science and art instruction in one assignment. Her idea was to create art which focused on endangered species in Oregon.
The results of her idea are now hanging in the Corinne Woodman Gallery at The Arts Center, 700 SW Madison Ave., Corvallis. The pieces will be on display through Aug. 24.
“I knew that they accepted proposals for the Corinne Woodman Gallery,” Whitman said. “So I put together a proposal and it was approved. We then had about nine months to put it together.”
Whitman, who earned her degree in arts education from Brigham Young University, is an established artist and works primarily with watercolors. Her work has been shown at the Bush Barn Art Center in Salem, at the Voices Gallery in Corvallis, and at the Lawrence Gallery locations in both Sheridan and Salishan.
Whitman is also entered in this year’s Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition.
For the project with her daughters, Whitman wanted to work in a way where they were learning together, instead of her serving as their instructor. She chose to create a number of mono-prints. This is a three-step process of drawing, printing and then watercoloring each piece. Each piece is unique and not replicable.
Each of them took turns with the various steps so they could become familiar with every stage in the process. They took as their subjects the state’s endangered and threatened species.
“There are six larger prints that are quite technically difficult. We learned the mono-print process together,” Whitman said. “As a parent it was fulfilling to see them stick with something that wasn’t always easy. They were proud of themselves for being finished.”
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In the first years after completing her art degree, Whitman spent most of her energy on her family. She and her husband, Cooper, had five children, with Lucy, Grace and Isaac joining the oldest two daughters.
They are both Oregon natives, but moved the family to North Dakota for several years when Cooper Whitman was offered the opportunity to serve as the head of the Chamber of Commerce in Dickinson. After their return to Oregon three years ago, she was able to put more focus on her artistic interests.
She received encouragement from an artist who was a friend of her mother. The friend saw some of Whitman’s work and was impressed.
“It was the first time someone who had a career as an artist gave me that kind of encouragement, so I gave it a try,” Whitman said.
She was accepted at the very first gallery at which she applied, leading to the Lawrence Gallery shows. The process isn’t always that easy.
“Rejection is part of the life,” Whitman said.
Despite the occasional disappointment, Whitman has come a long way in a relatively short time. In September, she will be the featured artist at The Voices gallery and it will be her work on display during that month's Corvallis Arts Walk.
“It’s really exciting. It’s intimidating when you are just starting out and feel like you don’t know anything. It’s nice when you are accepted,” Whitman said.