Nearly 100 Mountain Area artists prepare to awe large crowds during Sierra Art Trails

Oakhurst artist Monique Wales with her Linocut relief print “First Snow Under the Giant.” The piece was chosen for the cover of this year’s 148-page catalog for the 15th Annual Sierra Art Trails, Sept. 29 - Oct 1.
Oakhurst artist Monique Wales with her Linocut relief print “First Snow Under the Giant.” The piece was chosen for the cover of this year’s 148-page catalog for the 15th Annual Sierra Art Trails, Sept. 29 - Oct 1. Sierra Star

The fine art Linocut relief print, “First Snow Under the Giant,” by Oakhurst artist Monique Wales, has been chosen to grace the cover of this year’s catalog and directory of artists for the Sept. 29 - Oct. 1 Sierra Art Trails - Yosemite Foothill Open Studio Tour.

Nearly 100 artists in 10 communities of Eastern Madera and Mariposa counties will participate in Sierra Art Trails, one of the premier art events in Central California.

The event gives those who attend the opportunity to visit studios, meet artists and see the creative process first hand. A variety of art styles will be represented including sculpture, wood carving, photography, watercolor, acrylic, oil and pastel painting, digital art, glass, drawing, leather, printmaking, jewelry, and paper.

One of those artists is the talented and ambitious Wales, who will open her studio on Jean Road West to the public for the event. The process she uses, Linocut printing, is a throwback to old-world printing, starting with a design sketched on a block, carving out what part of the design will be printed, and then pulling the inked block through the press onto paper. Largely inspired by nature, her time consuming and intricate work is both a labor of love and an exercise in patience.

Wales has been drawn to the old world techniques of producing multiple originals, commonly called printmaking, since her earliest days as an art and architecture student. Working primarily as a digital artist in marketing for nearly 20 years, she returned to her original love of hands-on art in 2009. With her husband Tim, the couple opened Red Tail Studios on Jean Road West in Oakhurst in 2014 after relocating from San Leandro.

Before opening her studio, the couple were partners in a wholesale food distribution business, In A Nutshell, selling nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate.

“We sold the business in 2008, as it was beginning its 20th year,” Monique said. “Though my main duties were that of CFO, I also kept my art skills activated by holding the title of marketing director as well, running its advertising campaigns, website, newsletters, and designing all marketing materials - an original condition of my accepting the partnership as I did not want to give up on my dream of being an artist full time.”

First Snow Under the Giant

The “First Snow” is an 18-color creation that took 10 press passes, many with multiple colors per pass.

“I used almost every relief printmaking technique known to me to create the sense of height and depth, texture and light that I originally felt when gazing up at those distant, green boughs,” Monique said. “I strive to bring into my work the feelings of peacefulness, serenity and wonder I experience when witnessing the world outside our walls.”

This is the fourth Art Trails she has been a part of, saying there is nothing like the experience of hearing the artist describe the impetus and technique behind a piece of work.

Her husband Tim, and a friend who was a former contractor, spent five years building their Oakhurst home on their 12.5-acre lot. The home was constructed of ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms), with a metal roof and eves, extra thick cement fiber board and an exterior stone wainscot.

The home utilizes both geothermal and solar power, is super insulated and includes all sorts of ‘green’ technologies to make it an efficient and environmentally friendly home, which was important to the couple.

“My studio itself is about 1,200 square feet, and is shared space between my woodworking husband, and the printmaking studio,” Monique pointed out. “We have a curtain to separate the two areas and it also includes a print drying rack that uses the high ceilings with a pulley system and a monster vacuum system to keep Tim’s dust away from my drying ink. Every square inch of the bright space is used efficiently.”

While Tim was building the house, Monique concentrated on developing her skills as a printmaker and began showing in the Bay Area.

A member of the California Society of Printmakers, Monique’s award-winning art can be found in private collections throughout the United States and on three continents, and can be seen at Williams Gallery West in Oakhurst and at www.redtailmews.com.

The couple have one daughter, Shea, who is currently enrolled in the Masters Program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, studying ecology.

Also showing at Red Tail Studios during the Art Trails will be silk painter Amy Morgan, jewelry maker Julia Lee, and wood sculptor Steve Carney.

Catalogs now available

The cost to attend the self-guided Sierra Art Trails tour is $20 for two adults. The 148-page spiral-bound catalog, which also serves as the admission ticket to the studios, contains a profile of each artist, maps and other information about the area. Settings range from formal art galleries to home studios to private residences. Some locations host a single artist and others feature several in one spot.

Stellar Gallery in Gallery Row, 40982 Highway 41, will host the 2017 Art Trails Preview Exhibit from Sept. 2 through Oct. 1. The Gala Reception & Annual Awards Presentation will be held at the gallery, 4 - 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 9.

Sierra Art Trails President Jon Bock encourages art lovers to see the preview exhibit that will feature examples of artwork by all the participating artists. “This will help you plan your route when the big event arrives. And come meet the artists and enjoy the hors d’oeuvres and entertainment at the Sept. 9 Gala Reception.”

Catalogs can be ordered online or in Oakhurst at Stellar Gallery, Timberline Gallery, Oakhurst Frameworks, Artifacts, and Western Sierra Nursery, Kuhl by Design in Coarsegold, Casto Oaks Fine Wine and Art and Mariposa Arts Council in Mariposa, and Madera County Arts Council / Circle Gallery in Madera.

Details: (559) 658-8844, www.sierraarttrails.org.