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Last week in Boise Weekly, you met some of the artists taking part in this year’s cover auction. This year is our 20th anniversary and the auction will continue for one more week, culminating on Wednesday, Oct. 20.

Yes, that means you still have time to bid and take home some sweet, original art created by one of our talented local artists—or two or three... or more.

These artists deserve our love. Their art on the BW cover is a symbol to everyone in the Treasure Valley that art lives here. That art is valued here. Their art on the BW cover is truly an honor — not every submission winds up on the cover, far from it. To be selected as a BW cover artist is a proud moment, a medal of honor, a way to nurture one’s artistic endeavors or to create some buzz.

In addition to being on the cover, artists’ original works are digitized by Evermore Prints and framed by Van Dyke Frame Design, all in anticipation of the annual cover auction.

Over the past two years, the auction has been taking place virtually, online through Auction Frogs. For two weeks — Oct. 6 to Oct. 20 — a year’s worth of BW cover art is available for bidding. Bonus: There is also a poster featuring all covers available for purchase on the Auction Frogs website: and you can get note cards of your fave(s) there as well.

Know this: Not only does your money help line the artist’s pocket, it also goes into the Boise Weekly Cover Art Auction Grant fund. This grant has provided more than $250,000 to fuel dozens of artists and art projects.

So now that you see what good the auction can do — and will do next year and beyond — let’s finish that conversation we started last week with some of this year’s cover artists.

Who or what inspires you — and why?

Nikki Russo: Nature is a major inspiration for me. It’s uninhibited and raw. It can be quiet, simplistic, loud, harsh, calm, intoxicating, and I when I paint, I truly go into a dream state often “seeing things” on a board or canvas before I ever lay my paintbrush or palette knife on a surface and this is usually after I have gone for a long walk in nature. Other artist inspire me too! We are such a diverse bunch of humans and it’s amazing to see how each person sees the world around them and inside them by creating amazing art!

Dave Thomas: I’m inspired by fellow artists, some I know personally and others I just know their work. To name a few ... Martin Puryear, Chris Wool, Mark di Suvero, Alice Neel, Alfred Leslie, Ron Gorchov, Juan Miro.

Jacey Peterson: I feel fortunate to have so much inspiration all around me. Growing up in Montana gave me a deep connection to wildlife. When I wasn’t outside admiring the beauty around me I was in my moms salon. The salon gave me appreciation of self love, self care, and appreciating unique beauty within everyone. Whether it is people or wildlife, I love to add a colorful splash of color to all my art.

Jill Storey: There are always other artists who inspire me, both old masters and contemporary ones (John Singer Sargent and Colley Whisson, to name a couple). But I’m mostly inspired by the world around me. The way golden light hits the trees on my way home, or the natural grace of someone walking across the street, can stop me in my tracks.

Betsie Richardson: I get inspired by all kinds of artists — past and present. I’m especially drawn to the oil painters of the Dutch Golden Age and the soft realism of past painters like John Singer Sargent, whose every carefully rendered brushstroke served a purpose. I fill my senses with new work where I can, like in the Artists Magazine and Instagram. Among current artists, the multi-layered, honest narrative paintings of Zoey Frank and the massive pastel drawings of glaciers by Zaria Forman blow my mind and make me want to run to the easel to create. I enjoy visiting the Boise Art Museum and Capitol Contemporary Gallery to stick my nose in paintings and sculptures and feel their scale and message in my body. I used to travel internationally pre-pandemic and would always include museums and galleries in my itinerary. I adore the visceral experience of physically standing in front of a work of art that has captured my full attention. Cheesy as it sounds, I believe the world is a more meaningful, beautiful place with visual art in it. Can you imagine walking through a city or town without any works of public art — no larger-than-life bronze statues of Abraham Lincoln, no 30-foot-tall colorful murals and uplifting messages in Freak Alley or by Sector Seventeen? Barren, sad streets, I tell you.

Mary Gardiner: Australian plein air painter Elisabeth Cummings is one of my heroes — along with the legendary Helen Frankenthaler. Both women are/were fearless.

In light of the past year and a half or so, has it been more challenging creating art during a pandemic? Why or why not?

Nikki Russo: I have gone back and forth with bursts of energy that make me want to paint 20 paintings at a time, to extreme procrastination. It’s been such an emotional time for everyone and challenging to keep moving forward sometimes, but on the same note, once I actually get going, it’s given me extreme pleasure when I am in my studio creating. In fact just recently, I think I felt the most intense joy in one moment than I have felt in a very long time and it was when I was painting in my studio. Earphones on, music blasting, That distinct scent of oil paints permeating the air all around me, a hot coffee, a sunlit room full of color, standing in front of a painting that I was working on and suddenly realized that I actually REALLY liked it and I was proud of it truly made my heart sing and I had a burst of happiness that took my breath away! That was a good day! I guess you can’t ask for more than that!

Dave Thomas: Not for me, it’s just an inconvenience ... I miss the social engagement with friends and acquaintances.

Jacey Peterson: Life as an artist during the pandemic. Where to begin? The last two years have affected everyone differently. Like many parents my focus was almost solely on my children and their well being, through online schooling , and the changes of the world. I am thankful to be painting as much as I can during these times. It has always been a release for me . I’m so thankful for all my friends, family, and amazing clients who have helped keep me painting through the last year. I hope to see you all in person next year !

Jill Storey: The answer is both yes and no. With so many things slowing or shutting down, there was more time to spend in the studio, with fewer interruptions. But I found that even though I am convinced I’m an introvert, I require people! I felt a lack of energy that caused my creativity to slow down, too. It’s really good to be interacting with people again.

Betsie Richardson: The pandemic brought both greater challenges to creating art for me and a burst of creative inspiration in reaction to it. My daughter, Olive, was in preschool in the spring of 2020 when Idaho issued the shelter-in-place order. When childcare gets disrupted in my family, I take on that duty. My husband runs a company that thankfully maintained work during the pandemic. I was suddenly at home with a 5 year old instead of going to the studio five days a week. I had commissions booked, a featured show coming up at Capitol Contemporary Gallery and a greeting card business to run; I couldn’t simply lock the doors to my studio. My mother-in-law jumped in and cared for Olive several hours a day so I could walk the mile to my studio that spring and summer when the preschool closed. That daily walk with my old dog leading the way proved quite the artistic muse; I had a spiritual download of all kinds of new subjects to paint. My favorite pandemic painting subject was a roll of toilet paper I titled, “I Miss You.” As the fall of 2020 came into site and we realized Boise schools were going entirely online, I launched into problem-solving mode and found a fabulous young teacher who agreed to run a kindergarten in the spare bedroom of my house for Olive and three other kids. The other families and mine scrounged up a table, chairs, whiteboards and classroom materials, and watched our kids thrive throughout the school year, all learning to read and getting vital social experience and play. I realize how incredibly fortunate we were to have the means to pull this off, and my heart goes out to those artists who abandoned their work to stay home with children. During 2020 and 2021, Olive took to painting rainbows on her easel and with markers on paper — gobs of them. Can you think of a more symbolically uplifting subject? After the rain comes an arc of color crossing the sky, filling us with awe. I used Olive’s easel with her painting of a rainbow as the subject of a large still life painting called, “Someday We’ll Find It.” I believe that. Just like my Boise Weekly cover painting of a paper origami crane rising from a surgical mask, I believe humans have the capacity to overcome strife when we lean into hard decisions and work together. We will find that rainbow after this storm. We will rise again.

Mary Gardiner: For me the pandemic opened up time and space to create because we can still go outside to paint, and many daily life events have been cancelled so there is more time for art. I would go crazy without art, music and literature to stabilize and calm me, and I’m very appreciative of the Plein Air Painters of Idaho (PAPI) group, and the new Boise fine art gallery owner Avianne (IGFA) who juried me into the gallery as a signature artist. Art helps make me a better person, and we can all make art, and live with a grateful heart.

The conversation continues — a Q&A with BW cover artists

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