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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Retrospective showcases the late Alice Warnock's painting career

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Retrospective showcases the late Alice Warnock's painting career

Alice Warnock often traveled Baker County for location work.  (Submitted photograph).
Alice Warnock often traveled Baker County for location work. (Submitted photograph).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

When Alice Warnock discovered that her grandson was studying painting at St. Francis Academy, she decided that if he could do it, so could she.

That began more than 30 years of artistic experimentation, where she became quite accomplished in watercolor painting.

"She tried oil and acrylic, but when she got going on watercolor — that was her medium, she liked that," said her son, Dan Warnock Jr.

Alice, who passed away Aug. 16, 2002, will be honored as the featured artist for January at Crossroads Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. The show, titled "Alice Warnock, Author and Artist: A Retrospective," will begin with an opening reception during First Friday on Jan. 3 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Alice was born in Portland in 1908, and graduated from high school in three years instead of the usual four, Dan said. Then she attended the two-year Oregon Normal School at Monmouth for a teaching certificate.

"She taught in a little old one-room school," Dan said.

It was during her teaching years that she met and married Dan Warnock Sr. after two of his nephews introduced them.

"They decided their Uncle Dan ought to be introduced to their teacher Miss Brown," Dan said.

In 1946, the Warnocks moved from Western Oregon to Sumpter Valley. It was in Eastern Oregon that Alice's art career flourished.

After discovering her artistic interest, she began attending a variety of workshops all over the state, from Wallowa to the coast, Dan said.

Her watercolor paintings were featured at shows in Coos Bay, Pendleton, La Grande, Joseph, Baker City, Hermiston and Walla Walla, and she sold them at the Miners Jubilee and Crossroads.

"She's got them scattered around everywhere in the world — grandkids have got them, people have bought them," Dan said.

As part of her painting routine, Alice ventured out on weekly "paintabouts."

"That was a group of women who would take their lunch on Thursday afternoon and paint. They did that for years and years," Dan said.

In Alice's biography, she wrote, "I prefer to paint on location and try to capture the mood and feeling of a subject."

Dan said his mom enjoyed painting vibrant colors in landscapes, especially flowers, such as pansies and violets.

Clara Hutchinson of Baker City was also part of the paintabout group. She said they began in 1965, around the time when most of the group member's children were leaving home.

"There were several of us and we were looking for something to do to take up the time we'd been spending with those kids," she said.

There were about five women in the group who painted on location, including area reservoirs, parks, and out in the woods, Hutchinson said.

They'd also meet at the library, and still do, she said, requesting the kitchen room so they have access to water.

"We're all water colorists," she said.

In addition to her painting, Alice always wanted to continue her education, so she set about earning her college degree.

"That was her lifelong dream," Dan said.

She graduated from Eastern Oregon University in 1985 at the age of 77, concentrating mostly on literature and writing.

"She always kept a diary," Dan said.

Alice continued to study the written word by taking classes at Crossroads taught by Eloise Dielman. Many of her writings appeared in "The Attic," a quarterly publication published by Crossroads.

"She'd been there since we started (six years ago). And she was very faithful," Dielman said.

This dedication is the basis of Dielman's favorite memory of Alice and her husband, who also attended class.

One day the Warnocks were driving into Baker City from Sumpter during the winter. Alice, who was driving, apparently fell asleep. No one was hurt, but their car ended up in the borrow pit. Someone saw the accident, called 911, and an ambulance responded to pick up the couple.

However, they weren't taken to the hospital. Since they were only wet and not hurt, the Warnocks were dropped off at Crossroads, just a little late for the class.

"That's my only bunch of students who've arrived in an ambulance," Dielman said.

Copies of Alice's poems will also be on display at Crossroads, alongside more than 15 of her paintings.

"I think it's really a nice tribute to her. I'm kind of excited about it," Dan said.

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