On February 14, Twisp artist Donna Keyser was feeling the love of the tropics. It was her birthday, and from the beachview cottage she was renting on the island of Roatán, Honduras, Keyser wrote “Have to figure out how to paint underwater.”
Keyser had fallen for the Caribbean Sea and she had fallen hard. It was the clouds that did it. “All my life I’ve been painting clouds,” she said. “I’m fascinated by the colors. People think clouds are just white and grey. They’re not. They’re pink and blue, and yellow; they change colors. I’m just endlessly mixing colors trying to capture them. It’s a lifelong thing for me. And down here, the experience is mind-blowing.”
Keyser was discovering the Caribbean in all its glory, which for her meant hours of strolling Roatán’s dusty streets and gazing out at the horizon over an expanse of ocean, to where the periwinkle sky meets the azure sea. And always overhead, those ever-shifting clouds.
A self-described “inherent and highly-trained” artist, Keyser paints primarily with oils and designs custom signs. Although she often paints on a grand scale (think “Metro bus shelter”), for her Honduras trip she packed light, taking with her only a miniature painting kit, which she ended up giving to a Honduran artist at the end of her two-month visit.
“I took some old vinyl scraps from sign-making to paint on,” Keyser said. “When I got back I glued the vinyl to blocks to provide structure.” She also painted on PVC plastic as well as using Sharpie pens on aluminum composite.
While Keyser was in Honduras, she hosted an East Wenatchee artist in her TwispWorks studio: Kmbris Bond. Bond and Keyser paint together in a plein air group and Bond had been seeking an opportunity to paint on a bigger scale than was possible in her home studio. “We hatched the plan sitting around the campfire,” Bond said.
For her two-month residency in Keyser’s studio, Bond said she focused on using acrylic paint on canvas rolls that had been pre-treated with gesso, which primes the surface of the canvas for painting. “I didn’t have time to wait for oil paint to dry,” she said.
Bond said it “was great to sink into relaxation” during her time in the Methow Valley. She found herself experimenting with mark making: using different tools to make a mark. In addition to brushes she also used spackling tools and sponges to make marks on her canvases.
Keyser has been home for a few months but already has her next international journey planned. In August she will travel to Norway for a multi-disciplinary residency. “I’m going to pick up stuff in an old barn and paint on it,” she said.
Learn more about Donna Keyser here.
Learn more about Kmbris Bond here.