Bonnie Ohmstead: acrylic painter

Dear Readers: mechanical drawing/graphic art, which the dictionary defines as “drawing, as of machinery, done with the aid of rulers, scales, compasses and so on,” doesn’t appear to have much in common with fine art, which is defined as “a type of art. . .that is concerned with the creation of beautiful things.” But today we’re going to meet Bonnie Ohmstead, a Rusk County resident whose work as a mechanical artist/graphic artist paved the way for her current work as a fine art painter, and has left its influence on her painting style, due to the detail required.

A native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, Bonnie worked as a mechanical/graphic artist for Snap-on Tools Corp., where her main responsibility was creating precise pen and ink drawings of an array of tools for the company’s sales/dealer catalogs. After a number of years there, she became a free-lance artist for Snap-On and several other companies.

When she and her husband, Karson, retired in 2002, they moved to Rusk County, where they had owned property since the 1980s. They built a home in the Blue Hills area where the beautiful natural setting and abundant wildlife stimulated Bonnie’s lifelong interest in nature and capturing nature’s beauty through painting. She says her paintings of animals include many for which Wisconsin is noted, including bear, deer, wolves, coyotes and a variety of birds, and adds that many of her animal subjects have been sighted in her own yard. Bonnie reports that she is currently concentrating on landscapes, and is experimenting with a more impressionistic painting style.

Acrylic paint is Bonnie’s medium of choice. She explains acrylics are water-based and can be made to look either liquid, like watercolors, or heavy-bodied, like oils. They are also very quick drying, which Bonnie says she likes because she doesn’t have the patience to wait for oil paints to dry. With a nod to her days as a mechanical/graphic artist, Bonnie says another reason she prefers acrylic to oil paint is that with acrylic she can add a bit of ink here and there to accentuate an element of a painting, something that would be impossible if working with oils.

In addition to her own painting Bonnie is also a long-time member of the Rusk Area Arts Alliance (RAAA), which promotes the arts and artists in Rusk County. She joined the group in 2007, she says, because she “loves being with people of like minds and finds it very inspiring.” Bonnie has been very active in the production of the annual Reclaimed Flambeau Mine Calendars, which feature RAAA artists and area writers celebrating the natural beauty and variety of the Reclaimed Flambeau Mine Nature Trails and Recreation Area. She has worked both on the RAAA calendar committee and as a participating calendar artist in all calendars.

Although she has been successful at designing and selling salt-dough Christmas ornaments and hand-made cloth dolls, which she did while her two sons were young in order to “keep feeling creative,” Bonnie today concentrates exclusively on painting. She paints on canvas board, stretched canvas, and watercolor paper, and also designs hand-painted notecards. Her paintings and notecards can be seen and purchased locally at the RAAA Gift Gallery, 711 Lake Ave. W. in Ladysmith, and at the Gallery on 2nd, in Hayward, WI. Bonnie can also be contacted directly at her e-mail address: runoffcreek@brucetel.net or at 715-868-6902.

by Pegeen Snoeyenbos