Artist's admiration for blue herons lands her painting on park district activities guide cover

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BOB WAYT - Cedar Hills artist Veronica Lake contributes striking blue heron cover art for an upcoming activities guide. She drew inspiration from scene at Commonwealth Lake. When Veronica Multanan started dating Allen Lake, her husband of 23 years, she immediately saw the possibility that she might one day share a name with a certain blonde movie starlet of the 1940s.

The funny thing is, that wasn’t the first time the Beaverton artist was connected — however obliquely — to the late, great Veronica Lake.

“Even when I was a little girl, when I had my hair cut off to the side, my friends would say, ‘Oh, it’s Veronica Lake!’” the Cedar Hills resident recalls. “Now it’s rather handy being an artist named Veronica Lake.”

Especially, that is, when the artist is drawn to water, nature and wildlife in her work.

Lake’s admiration of the great blue herons at Commonwealth Lake Park in Cedar Hills led her to win the 2013 Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District’s “Artists in the Parks” contest. Her watercolor depiction of “The Heron” will grace the cover of the district’s soon-to-be released winter/spring activities guide.

The park district and the Beaverton Arts Commission collaborated on the contest this past summer with the goal of showcasing outstanding local artists. Entrants in the contest, which was open to visual artists residing within district boundaries, were required to depict a scene of a district park, trail or other facility.

A professional artist in the Portland area for the past 16 years, Lake, 50, is perhaps best known for her commissioned watercolor, acrylic and mural paintings. She also teaches art classes for adults, teens and children in the Cedar Mill area. She chose Commonwealth Lake off Southwest Foothill Lake Drive, one of her favorite local oases, as the backdrop for her painting.

“For the last 26 years, I have lived by the park in various locations, and it has always been a big draw for me,” Lake says. “The setting of the park, with its gently curved pathways, beautiful trees, sweetly singing birds and sparkling water, has always inspired me. I usually come armed and ready with a camera, if I am not running around it, knowing that I might come across one of my favorite sights: the blue heron.”

Doug Menke, general manager of the park district, says Lake’s watercolor came closest to depicting what district leaders had in mind for a multi-season activities guide, which will be released to the public in mid-November.

“Many excellent pieces of art were submitted, but we felt Veronica’s heron at Commonwealth Lake best exemplified what we were seeking,” he says. “It’s a beautiful depiction of nature in our area, and it’s appropriate for winter or spring.”

The district creates activities guides three times a year — representing summer, fall and one with a combination of winter and spring — with lists of all programs, events and activities offered each term.

Sometimes in her pursuit of what she believes are two herons living at the park, Lake would get just close enough before one of the birds rose up quickly and took off for the sky.

On another day, she was considerably luckier.

“This one caught my attention one beautiful fall day,” she says. “It sat there as if to say, ‘Take a picture of me, and be sure to do a good job painting me while you are at it.’ I managed to move in closely, since this bird seemed so sure of himself. Thankfully, the picture turned out well.”

Utilizing artistic license with the image, Lake added warm colors to depict the foliage to, as she says, “enhance the sense of warmth and mystery I felt about the experience.”

“There is a slight hint of purple in the heron that was used to convey the feeling of royalty I felt about the bird in that moment. Light is an important element in my work also because I believe it reveals truth and provides us with a way to see into the heart of the creator of all things,” she adds. “It was part of the mystery of this moment, and I felt I was able to capture that element in this piece.”

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