Painting vibrant and vast Nevada landscapes like those near Tuscarora or Battle Mountain can take a while. Some artists go back time and again, while others paint from a photograph. Sidne Teske prefers to paint en plein air—or on location—and she knocks out her detailed paintings in one quick sitting. One of her larger pieces takes about three hours. She first identifies where things will go. Then, she takes loads of mental notes on where things are situated in the current light. She swiftly captures the plant life, mountains and sweeping valleys, then steps back from her work to gain perspective and see how her rendering compares to reality. The biggest skill she has in her toolbox, she said, is the ability to chase the sun.
“I have to block in a painting really rapidly and kind of key in on the things that are of interest to me and work on those things,” Teske said. “As time goes by and the sun continues to move, everything changes.”
The clock ticks by quickly as she paints, and she works to lock in the effect of the light before the shadows shift. There's a dimensionality when working outside that Teske doesn't get in her studio, although she also does some studio work and also refinishes furniture. But the immediacy of painting outdoors is something she can't get anywhere else.
About 20 of Teske's pastel works are hanging at the Northwest Reno Library in an exhibit called Do You See What I See? The pastels, made on sandstone paper, are colorful images of high-desert vistas, rivers and plants near her home in Tuscarora.
Tesk has always enjoyed making things. She painted and drew as a kid. As a young adult, she was fascinated by pen and ink and did exclusively black-and-white work. When she was about 30, her brother gave her a little box of new pastels. She was completely unfamiliar with the medium and began to draw with the powdery sticks. She found that they suited her. She's focused on using them ever since.
Teske started working as a professional artist around that time. One day, an experienced artist she admired took her outside to paint. She was lamenting to the fellow artist about her lack of knowledge as a beginner. After painting some of the outdoor scene the mentor came over to assess Teske's work.
“She said, ‘Your stuff is just so boring. Why don't you do something different, like paint the background red or something, and then work on it?'”
Teske was rattled by the comment but was also resolved to show what she could do. Teske applied the advice and painted the foundation of the painting red. And she had a realization.
“I thought, ‘Oh! That's how this is done!' It was just an amazing, great comment from her. And I made a painting I actually liked.”
The works in her current show at the library all have underlying shades of red, with the bold color popping in the borders and backgrounds. The chalk-like, scratchy strokes bring to life a Nevada that Teske sees and feels like others might miss.
“I just love the way the land lies, and I love the rocks,” she said. “It's so big, and there's so much to see. There are many people who don't see the beauty of this area.”
With Do You See What I See?, she hopes they will.