Painting the Pacific Northwest: Idaho artist Andy Sewell has painted his home region for over 30 years
Sun., March 19, 2023
Andy Sewell photographed at work in his studio in Viola, Idaho. Sewell, a University of Idaho graduate, has made a career of painting the Pacific Northwest. His work in currently on display at the Artisans at the Dahmen Barn in Uniontown, Wash. Above is his painting, “Freeze Church Winter.” (Courtesy photo)
Yaquina Head Lighthouse standing proud atop the Oregon cliffside. Golden wheat fields rolling across the Palouse in Washington. The clear, blue waters lapping at the shores of Idaho’s Redfish Lake. For over 30 years, Andy Sewell has brought scenes from the American Northwest to life with his paintbrush.
About 40 to 50 of Sewell’s paintings will be on display at the Dahmen Barn in Uniontown, Washington, until March 26.
“I just like to capture the beauty of creation,” Sewell said.
Sewell, an award-winning artist based in Viola, Idaho, grew up in Ketchum, Idaho.
Sewell said he spent his childhood in the Sun Valley area hiking, hunting and more. As such, his earliest paintings depicted the mountains and rivers of his hometown.
“I had a bunch of paintings of the area that I grew up in,” Sewell said. “I painted the mountains, I painted the rivers, I painted the ski resort, I painted the fishing creeks.”
These paintings got him into his first professional art show: the 1999 Sun Valley Arts and Crafts Festival.
Sewell sold his paintings out of his father’s real estate office after graduating from college. At the festival, he said he made almost half a year’s worth of money in a single weekend selling his paintings.
Sewell had been working as a graphic designer at the time, and he said his success at the festival made him consider becoming a full-time artist.
“I think about five years later I decided to go for it and never looked back,” Sewell said. “And it’s been a crazy adventure ever since.”
Sewell graduated from the University of Idaho with a fine arts bachelor’s degree in 1989. However, he said he began his college career at Boise State University studying business because it was what his father, who was in the real estate business, wanted.
In his third year at BSU, Sewell decided to pursue architecture instead and transferred to UI. Sewell had been drawing and taking photos since childhood, but he did not take an art class until his first year at UI.
That art class was a watercolor painting class.
“I fell in love with it,” Sewell said.
He would go on to switch his degree from architecture to fine arts.
Since then, Sewell has sold his paintings of the Pacific Northwest at art shows from western Montana to the coasts of Oregon. He also sells his own quality prints.
“People like the scenery that they live near,” Sewell said. “So if I’m gonna go to the Oregon coast and do an art show, I’m gonna probably paint the ocean and paint Haystack Rock or something. If I’m gonna be in … Whitefish, Montana, I probably need to paint grizzly bears and mountains. If I’m in the Palouse, I’ll paint the Palouse. If I’m in … Ketchum, Idaho, I’m gonna paint the Sawtooth Mountains.”
In total, Sewell has done more than 500 paintings, all varying in medium from watercolor to oil paint to acrylic. Some he paints outdoors en plein air, others from his own photos. He composes some of his paintings by taking multiple photos of a scene and combining them to create an original image, which he then paints from as well.
He also recently has begun experimenting with abstract art.
In Sewell’s over 30 years of painting, he said he never once stopped.
“I love (art),” Sewell said. “And I’ve never had artist’s block. I mean I have so many ideas of things to paint, it’s almost the reverse problem.”
Julie Hartwig, Dahmen Barn curator and manager, said that Sewell’s use of color and photography makes him stand out among other artists who paint the Pacific Northwest.
“He has the knack of capturing the scene that everybody wants to see,” Hartwig said.
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