The Bakke Gallery

Artistic Endeavors by Washington State artist Karen Bakke

HolyMoly! Another Year Gone By

2017... My first year as president of Plein Air Washington Artists. My first invitational competition. My first non-group exhibit in a gallery, along with representation. My first award in a show. Every step of the way has been unbelievably phenomenal.

I was thrilled when my 8x10 plein air, "Ladder Creek Falls" won the poster award for the "Beauty of the Northwest" show in Edmonds! It came with a ribbon and a monetary prize. There were so many stunning entries that I was completely honored. The painting was sold there, as well. Last February, I was one of five exhibiting for the month at the Scott Milo Gallery in Anacortes. You may now find me being represented on the website! Last year, I travelled quite a bit around Washington State with the PAWA group and had so much fun every step of the way! Some were places I had never been. Another year of firsts!

The competition I was in was, in a word, intense. First, was a submission of fine art. Once accepted, I was then eligible to participate in the plein air competition and show. Upon arrival, we hung our initial fine art pieces in one spot, then were able to add a silent auction piece in an additional room. For two days, before the Gala started, we had the plein air competition in which I sold one out of three that I painted to a wonderful volunteer who came in from out-of-state to help with the shows. There was a beautiful story that came along with the purchase. One that I will never forget. My, how life has its amazing twists and turns. There's more - we then had a "quick paint" in the main gallery in which those who were brave enough to do it, finished a painting, either from a photo or still-life in 1 1/2 hours, while the patron audience walked around bidding... what a rush! I did sell mine to a wonderful couple who invited me to stay at their place the next time I came down! I painted from a photo I took while in Stehekin the year prior of ducks called Mergansers. It was a mom and babies - some on her back and a couple of tagalongs trying to keep up. I even named it, "Wait for Me!". With travel, lodging, and other expenses, I'm sure I spent way more than I earned, but it was such an adventure filled with discoveries, challenges, and festivities!

PAWA, Plein Air Washington Artists. What a body of artists! I am over-the-moon pleased to be an integral cog in the wheel of more than 200 exceptional plein air artists! We are painting all over Washington State and beyond. I run one of our two annual shows and work with our board and facilitators planning and working throughout the year to keep this top-notch organization thriving! I still say, "You meet the nicest people painting en plein air!"

Moving right along!

There I was, sitting in front of my easel a cold wintery day, reflecting back on another whirlwind year in acclimating to my career in fine art. Art shows, art workshops and classes, Paint-Ins and Paint-Outs, Plein Air Convention, Art Docent for 4th graders, commissioned art, festivals, and more Plein Air Paint-Outs.... yep, that about sums up 2016! Plein Air painting has been an extreme learning process. It is teaching me to really observe, to see colors and lighting in its truest form and try to make sense of it in all types of weather. I didn't realize how much I would learn painting from life. I joined groups mostly for the camaraderie, I stay for so much more!

This large studio painting is from a plein air study that I did earlier in the year of Ladder Creek Falls. I remember the smells of the forest, the breeze on my cheeks, and the sound of the bubbling water as it rushed below me while I was standing on a bridge, furiously painting away while the light was constantly changing. They say a plein air shouldn't take more than 2 1/2 to 3 hours because by then the lighting has changed too much to continue. It's usually done on a smaller canvas, about 8x10, 9x12, sometimes smaller or a bit larger. I've learned artists have taken really big canvases out to the same spot in a few, or even several trips. One has to be aware of the time of day, and if the weather will be the same. It's now on my bucket list to do, and hopefully to do often!

The Plein Air Convention I went to last Spring in Tucson was a thrill. It was intense, as there was so much to do and learn. Aside from the demos and vendors, can you imagine 900 artists out together on the paint-outs? What an incredible sight! A must-do for any plein air painter.

Last year I also was Paint-Out coordinator for Plein Air Washington and attended many of the paint-outs throughout the state. Stehekin, Sequim, Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier were among my favorites! I can look back on my paintings as treasured moments of the time spent in the company of others who share my joy and passion! I ran a juried gallery show for the same group in the summer. The work paid off in spades and it looks like it will be an annual event!

Both my plein air study and studio painting of Ladder Creek Falls are hanging in a local gallery this February, along with 10 more done throughout 2016! This rolling stone is gathering NO MOSS! Now, president of Plein Air Washington, there's nothing like giving back to an organization that has done so much for me already! I am deeply honored and grateful for the opportunities and experiences that have swiftly opened themselves up on my grand journey. I am so excited to share my joy! It looks like 2017 is gearing up to be another stellar year!  

Cheers! -Karen


What a year, and already onto the next!

2015 was my first full year focusing strictly on fine art. By the end of the year, I had painted plein air at several locations throughout Washington state with two groups that I joined. My art was displayed and sold in several places; single paintings with a group and multiple paintings for solo showings. I had one piece selected for a commemorative poster, and a set selected for a juried show! I also joined the local arts council and became an art docent to help teach elementary school students. I am amazed at how far I've come in such a short time - but not surprised. Grit is the definition of longterm determination, and that is what I used to have taken these challenges on head first. And I still could get more done in the course of the day. Thats my goal for 2016! More art, more experience, more contacts, more fun - happy to begin 2016!


Palouse Falls

One of the reasons for me to join Plein Air Washington Artists (PAWA) is to experience the most beautiful areas around our amazing state. many of which I've never been. Other reasons -  to paint with other artists in a planned environment, learning from them, watching their work in progress, listening to them swapping stories, being involved and, of course, making friends with similar interests. I have posted on my calendar every Paint Out PAWA has going on this year and am making efforts to attend as many as I possibly can.

Palouse Falls was the first extended-stay paint out on the calendar. So, off I went to southeastern Washington with a new PAWA painting buddy to camp at a KOA with others from the group near what looked to me like a miniature Grand Canyon with a spectacular waterfall in the middle of, well, nowhere! Even though it was late spring, the rolling landscape was already a golden hue. The campsite was nice, right on the Snake River, and had a nice restaurant and store. Only minutes away from the falls, we went down right away to view the sights and prepare for the next morning. Each day I woke up earlier than the rest. I took walks, taking photos, made coffee on the camp stove and waited on pins and needles to head down with the others to paint en plein air.

I learned how truly fast the shadows that were cast across the canyon change as you're painting - and what they mean by "chasing the light". I got my first taste of painting water in motion, using other colors besides green in the landscape (as we have so much in Western Washington), and relished in the stories the others told literally around the campfire. I learned how difficult it is to remember values, as your eye has a way of making up for the details and colors in the atmospheric haze. And, I can chalk one up for painting against the afternoon winds that wanted to send my easel flying to the bottom of the canyon! I hung on to it like a wild pony and forced my brush to canvas in mad, furious strokes! I decided the less windy mornings were more suitable for my position in the learning curve. I think I'll be able to tackle the winds and win them over when I have more experience under my belt. So many of my discoveries were made just by my being there, as all plein air artists have gone through themselves - not through a book or online video. They all laughed knowingly when I spoke of it. I saw wet, finished oil paintings fly and land face down in the grass and dirt belonging to a couple of the more experienced artists, so I knew the challenges would never cease!

Only when I got home and started seeing the posted photos, did I realize how close to the edge of the cliff I was painting at one point! Our facilitator had come up to me to advise that I should hang my paint tube-laden backpack underneath my tripod to keep it from blowing over the cliff. "The wind picks up unexpectedly around here", she said. Only minutes later, gusts whipped up around me. I'm sure that's lesson #83 somewhere in the plein air painters manual... I gulped at the thought of spending the next few days with no supplies, in the middle of nowhere, watching everyone else paint... and having to go home with nothing to show for it. As it was, I was able to knock out seven paintings in the four day trip, including travel time. For a rookie, I'll accept that as a success! I came home happy, exhausted, and full of new memories - en plein air.


I painted my first gallery piece, "Skagit Spawn", for an event which had individual works from over 90 artists - sculptors, painters, etc. I was happy that it was to support the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group, which helps to get our waterways cleaned up for our wild salmon to thrive. I learned about it through a couple of artist friends that encouraged me to paint something for the event - a lot easier than trying to gather several paintings to hang at a typical gallery showing! The gallery owner was more than gracious, having not seen any of my work, simply asking, "are you an artist?", and allowed me in. The artist reception was packed. I meandered my way through the throngs of people. Being so new in the "art business", I didn't know anyone but the friends I invited and one of the musicians that came to perform. Ha! Most of the others seemed to know each other, as if in a "click". I was OK with that, schmoozing comes hard for me. I tried to spy occasionally on who might be looking at my painting, and strained to see their reaction, unsuccessfully. I was beckoned over to it a couple of times by people who were interested and wanted to meet the artist. I was so excited, I blurted out immediately that this was my very first gallery showing... and later wondered if my inexperience had caused them to shy away. I had nibbles, but no bites that night, no little red sticker on the little description card next to my painting. That's okay, I told myself. Can't expect too much right out of the gate.

Days earlier, when I had gone down to present my painting (the oil still wet on the canvas!), other artists were coming and going with their art, as well. I stared diligently at their art and what everyone was asking, for I had no idea what to price mine. I also asked each person I came in contact with there to see what they thought. I wanted to start low, as a first-timer, but price well enough that it didn't look cheap. I learned an artist can never price on how much time they take, because we would never sell anything! Some use a calculator guide, "so much per inch". I read online once that if you think you will get a pit in your stomach, its too low, if you feel guilty, its too high, and if you feel good about the sale, it was just right... I'll call it the Goldilocks method..! Mostly, I looked around the room and tried to price it according to others that were similar to mine, lower than what a couple artists suggested, but higher than what I would have taken had I had nothing to go on. Life in the art lane.

When I got those nibbles, I questioned my price, searched high and low for the proprietor to see if I should be negotiating? Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) it was just too crowded. I fretted as I watched one of the couples that showed interest leave, then thought, that's fine if it was meant to be,.. you know those things you say in your head to feel better about a situation. I'm learning this is one of the hardest things an artist goes through, pricing their work.

After the reception I was so focused on meeting with my plein air groups that I have joined recently, working on an 18x46' backdrop for the local ballet, and home life, I spent little time thinking about the salmon. A couple of mornings ago, I told my sig. other, "well, its going to be time to go pick up my painting soon". His reply was that it can go to his work and hang there, where they now sell fishing supplies. No worries. Sounded fine to me. Later that day, he handed me an envelope from the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group. It started out in the first paragraph thanking me for participating, and again what the group does, yada, yada. Yes, I love what they do. I was expecting "thank you for your submission..." and instead in the very next line, I was floored to read instead, "We are please to inform you..." IT SOLD!! "...check enclosed"... I shook the envelope upside down, and down flew a check onto the table. I'd swear it was glowing.

The gallery owner later communicated to me that it sold to a doctor and his wife, an interior designer, and my work "enters a fairly amazing collection"... WOWEEE!! Is that icing on the icing on the cake, or what? Yes, I said icing twice! Holy moly, I am honored and humbled, giddy, and ready to take on the world!

This great feeling!

When I was walking back from the car this morning with my plein air backpack over my shoulder, I couldn't help but grin. I am fortunate now to enjoy my lifelong dream. The career I always wanted. I am over the moon, deliriously, joyfully, incredibly happy! Yesterday was a full day painting en plein air with a group of fellow artists; something very new and exciting for me as a fully-immersed fine artist. Then, last night, I attended an artist reception at a gallery where my very first gallery piece is hanging! And this, my first fine art website, my first entry in my first blog, I feel like a child with new eyes, looking towards an incredible journey ahead of me!

When they say, "find a career that you love"... I thought it meant, " a lot", which I have been happy to have had. But, I LOVE being an artist! To clarify, I have always been an artist in one capacity or another. I have drawn ever since I could pick up a pencil, I always say. I have drawn as a hobby and took art in school. I even occasionally skipped my other classes in school to go be my art class. Beyond school, I always had to earn a living, from truck driver to sandwich maker. I have an extremely wide-ranging work history involving an artistic eye, be it product design, graphic design, rotoscope, package design, illustration, and a smattering of commissioned pieces. Those were mostly done in colored pencil, because that's all I really knew. But nothing in oil, that is truly new and fascinating to me! And now oils are my medium of choice in fine art, so, therein lies, another FIRST!

Ahh, the learning curve! I amaze myself at how fast I'm going at this, with all my heart, like a freight train going 100 miles an hour! And my heart is BIG! Full of exuberance, can you tell?!! If you are reading this, then ride with me, because I promise you a journey of love, joy, but also that of trials and tribulations. No holds barred. Now, on to my next painting!