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Blair paints Mission Valley landscape

RONAN — It was an idyllic setting — a weathered fence, falling down in places, an open meadow of yellow flowers ringed with pine trees, a slight breeze, blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. The only noise was the occasional bee loading up on pollen and once in a while a vehicle crunching past on the gravel road. 

Mary Blair sat facing southwest, her easel before her and a palette of oil paints in her right hand. Blair was one of the plein air painters participating in the Sandpiper Gallery’s Flathead Reservation Paint Out from June 24 to June 27.

According to Blair, the idea of the Paint Out was to take four days to “cover as many canvasses as we can.” Then on June 27, artists would pick their favorite piece and have it framed and ready to be displayed in the Sandpiper Gallery during the week of June 29 through July 3.

Blair is a snowbird. She teaches oil painting and sculpture at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz., during the winter and returns to Missoula in the summer. Both Blair’s sons live and work in Missoula.

She likes to help adults and kids learn to paint. 

As for Blair, she said, “I paint wildlife, landscapes and flowers but mostly landscapes.”  

Taking a basic painting class when her kids were in high school, Blair said she sold her third painting and “from then on I was hooked.”

Later Blair took up sculpture. She has a piece on display at the Roosevelt Museum and Library in New York, and she plans to go back in the fall and take a look. 

“I can’t believe a little kid from Montana could have a piece in a fancy place like that,” Blair said. 

A true Montana girl, Blair hails from Great Falls. She even spent some time as a park artist in Yellowstone National Park. While that sounds like a wonderful job, Blair said she spent 50 to 60 hours a week painting and sculpting and got to the point she hated it. 

“It took me 20 years to get back to liking to paint,” Blair said. 

Now painting is enjoyable for Blair. Her only problem on June 24 was finding an open meadow with not too much timber.

Blair said, “It’s always a good day when I’m painting.”

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