Devin Higgins staff reporter
To hear Denise Fairweather explain it, it sounds like a case of extreme serendipity.“We were just four hippie kids who all lived in the same town and went to the same school,” Fairweather said. “We all took separate roads but ended up in the same spot at the end.”
Fairweather, along with Dave Bartholet, Spike Walker and Don Nesbitt all emerged from Battle Ground and became part of the Pacific Northwest art community. Bartholet is considered one of the foremost wildlife artists in the country. Walker’s book, “Working on the Edge - Surviving in the World’s Most Dangerous Profession: King Crab Fishing on Alaska’s High Seas” became the blueprint for the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.” Walker also served as an original writer for the series.
Nesbitt, proclaimed jokingly by Bartholet as “the second best artist to come out of Battle Ground,” is also a nationally-known artist based out of Long Beach, WA.
Fairweather was the former chairman and designer of the Battle Ground Rose Festival Float, the first woman to be president of the Chamber of Commerce and was a Citizen of the Year award recipient.
“I worked in the community for 17 years and also ran A Gift Place and Battle Ground Florist for 26 years,” said Denise Fairweather. “By the end, I was pretty burned out so I was looking for a new place to settle in for my retirement.”
Fairweather found it in Seaside, where she and her husband had spent their honeymoon and returned to regularly, but not before initially moving farther up the coast to Gearhart to open a shop. “Unfortunately, it got wiped out in a storm, so I wasn’t quite sure where I was going to end up next, but then I got a call from Dave saying to come to Seaside,” Fairweather said.
Bartholet, a self-taught artist for the past 43 years, was always drawn to the outdoors and the attraction of the natural world.
“My family was always outdoors so I became fascinated with old barns and other structures and also with wildlife,” Bartholet said.
Nesbitt didn’t jump into the art scene until he was already in his 40s, by which time, he realized he’d had enough of his job as a salesman for the paper industry.
“What happened was I believed the lie that you had to be a ‘starving artist’ to get by,” Nesbitt said. “Once I decided to pursue my passion, though, I realized it didn’t have to be that way. The transition was a little awkward though because I hated going to another paper plant after that.”
Based on the Washington side of the coast in Ilwaco, Nesbitt opened his gallery after running the Paint’n the Town Red shop in Battle Ground with his wife Jenna.
“Jenna goes by the name Queen La-Di-Da,” Nesbitt said, adding that she now has her own gallery not too far from his in town.
Even though Nesbitt attended Clackamas High School, and not Battle Ground, he enjoys feeling like he’s always been part of the crowd.
“I don’t think the others really remember when I came onto the scene, but at this point it doesn’t really matter to them when I showed up either,” Nesbitt said.
An eclectic artist who uses watercolors, acrylics, tile and hand-painted glassware, Nesbitt credits Bartholet for giving him the know-how to pursue his career.
“Dave gave me a very important piece of advice when we met up again about 10 years ago,” Nesbitt said. “He told me that most artists don’t sell anything for two or three years sometimes, which is why so many quit before they’re noticed. In the meantime you have to keep painting and putting yourself out there so when you do start selling work, there will be more for new customers to choose from.”
Nesbitt, Bartholet and Fairweather all stay in contact through each other’s galleries, as well as being at local events and openings across the region.
“There’s a saying that we like to go by,” Fairweather said. “‘Live your life like a stroll along the beach, right along the edge.’ I think we’re all happy where we’re at because we’ve all found peace in something we love to do.”
Nesbitt couldn’t be happier with the direction his life has gone since he left his sales job for his paint brushes.
“I get to sit here, watch the boats come in, chat with folks every day, and enjoy myself,” Nesbitt said. “People assume everyone has to take the same path to be successful, but being an artist involves a totally different pathway, and once you stop thinking you need to starve to enjoy it, it gets even better.”
Bartholet said he couldn’t be more pleased with how his fellow artists have blossomed in their careers. “I’m really proud of all three of them and what they’ve been able to do.”