Living as a landscape painter in a geographically diverse state such as Oregon is like being a kid in a candy store. Between the coast, mountains, deserts, the gorge, old-growth forests and the rolling hills of vineyards, the Beaver State is an artist’s paradise.
At least it is for Michael Orwick, a painter who specializes in landscapes and has made a career for himself capturing the beauty of Oregon’s many natural wonders. But it was Orwick’s vineyard project that established his painting career. “I live in Beaverton and my sister lives in McMinnville, and when I would go out to visit her I would basically drive past all of those vineyards,” he says. “It just felt like mining for diamonds in your own backyard.”
After graduating from Pacific Northwest College of Arts in Portland, Orwick started working as an animator, worked his way through illustration and eventually found his passion for landscapes with his first vineyard exhibit. “I did about 40 paintings, mostly of vineyards in the Yamhill and Dundee area,” Orwick says. “I had a great time learning about the vines and getting to know all the different people involved and really exploring all the different vineyards.”
Vintners took notice and started giving him tips on the best pleine air spots for different vineyards. But it was at his favorite vineyard, Youngberg Hill, where Orwick established his first “Painting the Vineyards” workshop and invited an intimate group of artists to spend a week honing their craft and tasting wine. “It’s kind of how I wish I studied art instead of going to art school,” Orwick says, comparing it to “the extreme sports of painting; it forces you to be out there and capture those moments no matter what.” And like a pinot warmed by the sun, the Impressionistic moments Orwick captures are something to be savored: vineyards glowing at the golden hour, rows of grapevines in the moonlight, cultivated fields with the first blush of autumn.
“In a sense, I guess I retired really early,” he says. His vineyard landscapes have sold well with the tourism that Oregon’s wine industry enjoys. “I feel lucky not only to live here but to be able to capture it and share it with others,” he says. Orwick is looking into conducting a “Painting the Vineyards” workshop in the Eugene area.
For more information about Orwick’s work, visit michaelorwick.com.