Posted by Deborah on February 8, 2012

In Manzanita, the quaint beach town about six miles north of our place, there is a yarn store on the main street.  I’m not a shopper, and confess to not really knowing what most of the merchants in Manzanita have to offer.  Except for the bakery, the grocery and the bookstore, I’m just not curious about the other shopping opportunities.  Perhaps I’m afraid of temptation, but apparently I wasn’t afraid enough to not wander into the yarn store.  I went in there one day, almost two years ago, in my mud covered clothing, dirt under my fingernails, on a whim, after picking up some groceries at the Little Apple (the local market) across the street.  The wool was seductive.  I never ventured in again until this past fall when I asked the proprietress if I could have knitting lessons from her.  She said “no” and “come to the knitting nights and someone will help you”.  The wool had been gathering in my mind.  The week before Christmas I nervously drove the six miles in the rainy dark to my first knitting night.  And this is why I’m now painting sheep.

People ask me “What do you paint”?  It’s a difficult question to answer and mostly I deflect and rattle off a list of subjects.   What does one paint?  It is of course the frightening question that steams in an artist’s mind whenever faced with a future exhibition.  What will I paint?  (heavy sigh)  I’ve titled my upcoming show at Waterstone “Portraits of a Place” and I made a list of subjects a few months ago based on this idea.  At the time I didn’t know I would be painting sheep.  But I hadn’t yet met Sage Walden and Brian Tallman, or had I bottle fed a lamb.  It seems my life is the well of subjects that I’m always worried about not knowing, not finding.  It’s all there right in front of me all the time. 

So Sage is a knitter, and a spinner of wool . She is usually at the knit nights imparting her considerable knowledge on the subject and sharing stories.  It’s a cozy, relaxed scene and the women who come converse with heads bent to their hands, concentrating on stitches, rambling from needle sizes to recent events in the world and in their lives. Sage and Brian have a sheep and cattle farm up the Nehalem Valley.  About three or four weeks ago the lambs started coming and Sage invited me to come out to see what that was like.  The old “farmer-wanna-be” in me sniffed heaven and Carl and I took her up on the invitation one morning.  We were immediately enlisted to gather lambs, bottle feed the scrawny ones, give water to the moms.  We met Mrs. Hen, Albert the calf and Archie, the shepherd.  As I gazed out across the fields, misty mountains in the background, sheep dotting the green pastures I saw the paintings that my great-grandfather, Willem Steelink, made his living and reputation by—sheep, bucolic and outlined by sunlight, peacefully nipping at green blades of grass.  It was bemusing.   Does everything eventually come down to genes?    Is there an inherited vision?  Who knows?  I just knew it was time to paint sheep. 

So there might be a portrait of a sheep or two in this upcoming show.