Since she was a child, wildlife artist Amy Lay was a watercolorist.
Then, about seven years ago, she began to paint in oils, attracted by the paint’s vibrancy and permanent nature as well as the intimacy a viewer experiences seeing a painting without a frame’s glass barrier. She loved the flow and quality watercolor afforded her as an artist, but she quickly realized oils could be whatever she wanted.
She didn’t have to subscribe to the traditional techniques. Instead, there were no rules.
Lay’s medium is now oils, but the looks she creates has a distinctive watercolor feel, said David Navratil, director at Mountain Trails Gallery, which represents Lay.
“She keeps that wonderful, soft feeling of watercolors,” he said. “It makes her work a little more emotional and gives it a little more of a mystical look.”
Lay’s most recent works are set to hang in an untitled show that opens with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Mountain Trails and runs through Aug. 22.
Lay grew up on a ranch in northeastern Oregon, surrounded by wildlife and horses. Her family valued music, literature and the natural world and encouraged Lay’s creativity. She always had an affinity for animals, bringing home strays and observing wildlife.
“I think I paint animals because I know them best and I’ve watched them the longest,” Lay said in an email interview. “They deserve to be painted and honored, in my opinion. I think humans honor themselves quite enough.”
Lay earned an art degree at Eastern Oregon University but is primarily self-taught when it comes to painting. Her work, which she said continues to evolve, is distinctive for the pencil sketches she lets show through the paint, and the watercolor-like way she uses oils to bring an ephemeral and ethereal look to her scenes.
“The pencil line, the original drawing, for me is the key,” she said. “It’s the bones of the body of a good painting. I feel, as an artist, I want to show my original intent — the drawing.”
Lay tries to avoid using photos when creating a painting. Instead she relies on her memory from hours of animal observations and her imagination. She said she wants to sketch the animal as her “heart sees it.” She shies away from labeling her work as realism or modern and instead settles on “ever-evolving.”
Her latest show, which features about 15 pieces in varying sizes, contains what she said is one of her most diverse bodies of work. She experimented and pushed new ideas playing with night scenes and a variety of color palettes.
But she said the intent remains the same: to honor and celebrate the animals she paints. ￼