Jane Aukshunas has been greeted by curious cows in the field.

She’s painted while battling hay fever, the scorching sun, pounding rain and whipping wind. All in the name of art.

Being a landscape artist “sounds really romantic, but you have to have sunscreen and a hat,” she says.

by: COURTESY JANET AUKSHUNAS - Artwork by Janet Aukshunas is featured at the Wild Arts Festival benefiting the Audubon Society of Portland. COURTESY of JANET AUKSHUNASWhen she’s not out in wine country or rolling lavender fields, Aukshunas is based at her studio in Hillsboro, where she’s spent the past 20 years creating oil pastel landscapes. This month she’s one of 70 local artists who’ll showcase their work at the 32nd annual Wild Arts Festival, a benefit for the Audubon Society of Portland.

The festival Nov. 17 and 18 will focus on artists who use works of nature or wildlife as a subject, promote sustainability or use natural materials as a medium. In addition to paintings, mediums will include photography, glass, watercolors, jewelry, wood work and the written word.

This year there will be book signings from “Wildwood” author and Decemberists lead singer Colin Meloy; Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Peterson; and Peter Zuckerman, author of the nonfiction “Buried in the Sky,” released in June.

Other mainstays at the annual event are the “6X6 Wild Art Project” with local art for $40, a silent auction with more than 100 items, and Audubon’s educational birds for kids.

An ideal landscape

It will be Aukshunas’ second year the Wild Arts Festival, one that she appreciated last year for the sheer beauty of the setting.

“It was indoors in a beautiful glass building,” she says. “The sun shone down through the atrium, reflecting light off the shapes and colors.”

by: COURTESY JANET AUKSHUNAS - Art from Janet Aukshunas' Hillsboro studio. As an artist, Aukshunas can’t help but look for creative inspiration in her daily life: “I’m attracted to curvy landscapes,” she says. “It’s amazing how the Earth reveals itself. If I see an intriguing pattern, I’m going to see how I can work with it.”

While she works year-round, she says fall is her favorite season, considering the contrasting shapes and colors of the trees, the rain and light intensifying it all: “I drive around a lot, always looking for something cool. I get whiplash looking at all the fall foliage.”

Born on the East Coast, Aukshunas came to Portland in 1990 when her husband was working on a Frommer’s travel guide on the Rose City. She fell in love, and has traveled around the globe helping to write travel reviews but will always return to Oregon.

“I loved wine country,” she says. “I saw a postcard when I lived in Boston by the Hillsboro tourism board, and it just looked like my ideal landscape.”

She’s typically featured lavender farms, vineyards and agricultural land; the addition of cliffs and waterfalls inspired by Hood River is new, something she wants to do more of.

When the elements get to be too much to contend with in the field, she grabs her wood panels and tote bags full of art supplies and hunkers down in her Toyota Corolla on the side of the road, with protective covering on the seats to keep the messy oil pastels from staining.

“I put my painting on my steering wheel and run my windshield so I can see,” Aukshunas says. “I like to sit there and do my painting from the viewpoint. It’s a lot more immediate than trying to garner it from a photograph.”

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