Story By: Alan Sorenson
Page Design By: Stacy Mantle
Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series about the artists who are members of the local artists cooperative, Artitudes Gallery.
Linda Warneke and Dr. Frank Miller have more than a few things in common. Each is a Havre resident by choice rather than birth, a talented painter, a member of the Havre Art Association and a featured artist for January at Artitudes Gallery in the Atrium Mall in downtown Havre.
Their exhibitions opened Tuesday, but an official unveiling will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. today during the gallery's monthly First Friday reception.
Warneke has been with the gallery nearly from the beginning and has been a featured artist in the past, as has her mother, Inetia Cantin, also now of Havre.
“My mother was featured artist last month,” Warneke said. “We have had some really good turnouts” at past receptions.
Miller, an obstetrician-gynecologist who is also a gourmet cook, left for a medical conference in Great Falls on Thursday afternoon and won't be on hand for the reception tonight. Before leaving, he dropped off dozens of extra-large biscotti he baked for the occasion.
The gallery is an incorporated cooperative whose 28 or so member artists share in the costs of maintaining the business. Members also donate time behind the counter to keep the doors open. Mary Nault, who came up with the idea for the gallery with Kris Shaw, said Artitudes opened in September 2004.
The gallery has two featured member artists most months, but sometimes has only one to make room for an outside guest artist. That guest artist then pays rent for the privilege of exhibiting in Havre.
Both of this month's artists are primarily watercolorists, but flirt with other mediums, too. And each admits to a lifelong love of art and credit the creative climate of Havre with advancing their talents.
Warneke grew up in Portland, Ore. Her involvement with art began early and is something she shares with other members of her family.
“My grandfather used to sit and paint,” Warneke said. “He'd draw and us kids would add to it. Then in school, I took art courses.”
Her sister also pursued art and is a colored-pencil artist in Portland.
Warneke's other grandparents owned the Choteau Steakhouse and Bar, where she spent time in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. After high school, she moved to Choteau permanently and met her husband, Bill Warneke, a Choteau police officer. Not long after that, he became a special agent for the Great Northern Railway and they moved to Havre. He served with the railroad police for three decades and through two mergers. He died in April 2002.
Warneke was one of the founding members of the Havre Art Association after the family moved to Havre in 1967. She has participated in each of the association's annual art shows. She cut back on her artwork for a few years to raise her children.
“When we moved to Havre, I had a family,” she said, “had kids, running them around.”
Once the last was out of kindergarten, she began painting regularly again and hung around with and learned from Havre artists Suzanne Huston, Carolyn Anderson and the late Deanie Breiby.
Warneke had worked in oils, but she said she switched to watercolor principally because watercolors don't have fumes that came make a painter sick. “I had such bad sinus headaches from them,” she said.
Over the years, Warneke has worked to improve her talents.
“I've taken lots of workshops with a number of artists,” Warneke said, “and I've taken adult ed classes off and on.”
Her paintings depict real life and real-life situations. They include scenes from the Hi-Line.
There's one in the exhibit of the arched bridges that used to span the creek at Beaver Creek Golf Course and and another of the silos just north of U.S. Highway 2 east of Havre. She has also painted portraits and still lifes. But she's particularly fond of painting animals and florals.
Warneke used to paint at her kitchen table, but she now works in a studio in her home. Her kitchen has contributed to her art in another, more subtle way. She grows moth orchids in her kitchen window, moth orchids that have found their way on to her canvases.
Miller came to art a little later than most, though he did his share of doodling as a child.
“I was always drawing things - at inappropriate times in school - ships and airplanes, even in first grade. And I had done some Paint by Numbers before coming to Havre,” he said.
Miller said he and his wife, Mariann, moved to Havre nearly 25 years ago and that's when his interest in art took off.
“I started with adult ed, first at the high school and then when it moved to the middle school,” he said. “I always wanted to do oils and big things, but that's messy and harder to take around in the car.”
He eventually took the hint from several of his fellow artists and switched to watercolors.
“I still miss oils, because there's something tactile about it,” he said. “It's like finger painting, you move the paint around.”
There are many differences between working with oils and watercolors, he said.
“You have to think with watercolor,” he said. “With oil, you can change it as you go. You can't do that with watercolor. Things look better when you plan ahead.”
Watercolors are also more suited to his work space than oils.
“I paint at the kitchen table,” he said. “I can get up and paint and get it all cleaned up before breakfast. No stain, no stink, and I can wash off with soap and water.”
Some of Miller's paintings resemble French Impressionism and others tilt toward American Realism.
Perhaps one reason many of his paintings bear an impressionistic stamp is his familiarity with France.
“My son lived there for many years, and I have two granddaughters who live in France,” he said. “I've been there many times.”
One of the paintings on display at Artitudes is a study of his son walking away toward a gate with the son's two daughters flanking him.
“What I'm always shooting for is some kind of emotional statement or feeling,” he said. “If it doesn't give me an emotional lift, I don't really like it.
“It is gratifying when people like it, because it means they're connecting with it. I'm trying to find good homes for them. They're like children in that way.”
Miller said he has many paintings that he looks at more than once a day.
“I have a lot of other people's paintings,” he said. “I really like Linda's. I have lots of hers.”
Among his paintings on display for the month is one of a woman painting at an easel with hills in the background.
“That's Iona McEwen Schafer, my first oil teacher,” Miller said.
McEwen was a prominent Havre painter and adult ed art teacher who died several years ago.
Miller is eager to talk about his paintings and demonstrates his passion for the emotions they evoke in him with a running narrative on each. Each has a history he is eager to share, much as a loving grandfather is eager to pull out his wallet and show off the photographs of his children and grandchildren.