Barbara Raines of Wallowa is low-key about her art — but she’s got some long-term admirers. At 93, Raines has been winning accolades for her drawing since childhood.
“I don’t know how long I’ve been painting,” she said. “The first art I ever did was drawing the cabin that Snow White and the Seven Dwarves lived in on any scrap of paper I could find when I was a kid at home. I sketch a lot, and my imagination just takes over.”
Her penchant for recreating cabins remains, but she’s moved on to painting and added several mediums and styles over the years: from a historical depiction of a Native American camp to a study of Cypress trees in a swamp.
Those paintings are still winning fans, and Caleb Samples, heating and cooling technician for Wallowa County Grain Growers Propane and Wood Stove Center, is a new one.
Samples serviced Raines’ propane heater recently and was so taken with the paintings he saw in her home that he arranged for her work to be featured along with the work of fellow Wallowa artists Theresa Henke and Dennis Reinke in the new showroom for the propane and wood stove center at 804 Depot Street in Enterprise.
The showroom is now graced with four of Raines’ paintings, including the most recent of a small brown cabin in a rural setting. The solitude, combined with the welcoming light shining out of the tiny window of the cabin fills viewers with a sense of peace.
Most of her paintings come directly out of her imagination, and she finds a great deal of pleasure in seeing how she can create what she has dreamed up in her mind.
But painting was never a career goal, she said.
Barbara, daughter of Wayman and Millie Larkin of Wallowa, was born on Bridge Island in Canyon County, Idaho, and she attended Nyssa Elementary for a time. The family moved to Wallowa County when she was in the third grade.
She led what she considered an ordinary life in ‘20s Wallowa and met and married Paul Raines while cooking for the Minam Highway construction crew back in the ‘40s.
She had two sons: John, who lives in Wallowa; and Ken, who lives in Lewiston, Idaho. She still lives in her own home in Wallowa and her son, John, “takes such good care of me,” she said.
She kept up her hobby over the years and gave a few pictures away as gifts, sold more, had some featured on the walls of The Hydrant in Joseph, took up painting crosscut saws for folks who requested them and did commissions.
After a lifetime of that, just how many paintings she made and where they ended up is a list that’s beginning to blur.
“All in all, I can’t recall,” Barbara says when asked about it.
What’s almost as remarkable as the length of her creative journey is the fact that Raines is almost entirely self-taught, having only taken a few lessons with La Grande painter Jan Clark back in the mid-80s. Clark, who became interested in watercolors at about that time, introduced Raines to the medium. Clark still teaches at Art Center East in La Grande.
That class was a fun endeavor, Raines recalled, though it started from sadness. When husband Paul died in 1987, she had to have something to occupy her mind, she said, so she decided to improve her natural painting skills with lessons from Clark — held in her home. Several other ladies from the county also attended.
Barbara has outlived most of those friends.
“I still run into Jan at Walmart once in a while and get a Christmas card from Jan every year,” she said.
One of the benefits of being self-taught is there are no rules. One of her paintings on display at Grain Growers was painted, in part, with a basting brush.
Participating in a showing late in life is a pleasure, Raines said, though she’s surprised at all the fuss.
“It’s just something I enjoy,” she said.
You can pick up a Raines’ painting for around $325.