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 Penny Otwell  (20th century)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: mountain landscape

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Penny Otwell
An example of work by Penny Otwell
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
El Portal is a town of just under 700 people located in the Merced River Canyon, about 14 miles from Yosemite Valley, and is home to Penny Otwell, an artist who says, "This is the perfect place for a landscape painter. I live in a wonderful small community of people close to Yosemite Valley, the High Sierra, the Merced River, and the Sierra Nevada Eastside. I continue to be inspired by nature and by mountains especially. Some people respond to my work through my use of color, but I am responding to what I feel about remarkable places."

Working "en plein air" (or outdoors) allows Otwell to work spontaneously and in the moment. "It's fun to be on the lookout for inspired scenes, whether I'm driving in my car or taking folks out on a trail. I come back to the scene, set up my easel, bring out the paint, and start drawing right onto the board or canvas. Working this way, I always imagine how I want the painting to look from the beginning. If I can keep my focus on the light, color, and form, I may be successful by catching its uniqueness".

Otwell paints with oil paint primarily but occasionally goes back to the mediums of watercolor, acrylic, and pastel. With oil paint she uses a limited palette, mixing most of her own colors, which helps keep a harmonious balance in her painting. She has successfully experimented with a cold wax medium that gives paint a thick texture using painting knives or brushes. The artist paints on canvas, wood supports, and paper.

Arriving in Yosemite to work at the Ahwahnee Hotel in 1964, Otwell has since made Yosemite her home. Living in the Sierra Nevada means experiencing seasonal changes that make life and painting more interesting. Yosemite Valley in all seasons is a painting paradise. "When the Tioga Pass Road opens up I can then paint the High Desert terrain of the Eastside, the steep Aspen canyons, and Mono Lake".

Otwell has had two paintings accepted each year into the juried Yosemite Renaissance XVI, Yosemite Renaissance XVII, and Yosemite Renaissance XVIII. She received a third place cash award for Red Waterfall in 2001; a second place cash award for A Rock of Another Color in 2002; and two more paintings accepted in 2003. "American Artist Magazine", June 2002 featured three photographs of her paintings and an article about her work with the cold wax medium. The Ansel Adams Gallery represents the artist in Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Country Arts Council in Mariposa, California. Otwell is a naturalist-hiking guide during the summer when she is not painting.

Submitted by the artist, October 2003

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