Photographer Jerri Lee Nielsen’s work is inspired by the landscapes and wildlife of the Northern California Sierra-Cascade region, and also by the people who cherish our beloved North State region.

Art exhibition at Blue Goose

The Blue Goose Gallery of Artists is again gearing up for the June “First Friday” art event in Chester, at 607 Main St., from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Friday, June 7.

Four featured artists will be on hand, including mixed media artist Judy Abbott, watercolorist Lisa Courtemanche, photographer Jerri Nielsen and master woodcarver Gary Spence. These artists will be demonstrating their techniques while displaying their artwork for guests to enjoy and to ask questions about their process. The artist demos will take place in the large new classroom space that recently opened in the back of the gallery.

Classes are offered throughout the summer and will include jewelry making, colored pencil, drawing, photography, watercolor, segmented wood, collage, alcohol inks, batik, dying silk scarves, soapstone, pen & ink, birds in watercolor, scratchboard and more.

It’s an exciting summer of learning offered at the Blue Goose! For dates and more information about these classes, stop in the Gallery or check the listing of classes on the Gallery Facebook page. To register for classes, call the gallery at 258-2600 during its regular hours Monday through Saturday, from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m.


This month’s theme is “Time For Making Waves,” a reference to the number of folks in the community that are “so ready for summer,” that it was decided what better way than to splash-splash out in the lake and make waves, explained co-op member Deb Groesser.

A fun party atmosphere awaits guests with refreshments, prizes and plenty of time to visit with many of the gallery artists in addition to the featured artists.

Judy Abbott

Mixed media artist Judy Abbott loves to use a variety of material in her artwork such as wood, stones and feathers to name a few of the items she employs in her creations. Photos submitted

Mixed media artist Judy Abbott loves to use a variety of material in her artwork such as wood, stones and feathers to name a few of the items she employs in her creations.

“I started getting involved in art just four years ago,” Abbott shared, adding that she has “always been attracted to the Sierra Mountains and the Northern California coast. I gather much of my materials from creeks, lakes, hiking trails and beaches.”


Most of the time any place she goes she watches the ground and around trees for items that she can use in her art.

Abbott worked at Enloe Medical Center for 40 years, retiring as a nurse in January 2018.

“This opened up a lot of time for me to create art and I was fortunate enough to be able to join the Blue Goose Gallery of Artists in Chester last year.”

Abbott recalled how she built a log cabin in Warner Valley on the creek where she and her husband enjoy spring, summer and fall in their new dwelling. “It is a wonderful spot to create art,” she said.

“My husband is a craftsman when it comes to wood and we now work on some projects together. He creates branch boxes that I use to create feather designs, and he also makes wood hearts from the inside of these boxes that I sand and apply three to four coats of tung oil” that’s extracted from the seed of the tung tree, a water-resistant finish ideal for wooden objects.


To broaden her materials used in her designs, “Over the last two years I started using ocean pebbles, sea glass, gemstones, horse hair, tree bark, driftwood and a lot more to create pictures with.”

Abbott said that her art is often whimsical “which I enjoy very much.”

“I like bringing a smile to those that see my art,” she continued. “One of my favorites is making Drifters with driftwood of course. The characters are very expressive.”

This last year she also added feathers to her designs, including animals like owls, cats and raccoons, created entirely with feathers.

“I use glass eyes that are hand painted and the eyes follow you as you gaze at the picture. My newest art is starting to incorporate my photos as the background.”

Abbott  said, “I have a saying about art: ‘Art licks your wounds and puts a song in your heart!’”

Lisa Courtemanche

Watercolorist Lisa Courtemanche also works in beaded and wire-wrapped jewelry. She says that art has taught her to stop, slow down and appreciate nature around her.

Watercolorist Lisa Courtemanche works in beaded and wire-wrapped jewelry.


Her favorite quote comes from the notable scientist Albert Einstein: “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.”

“I love color!” she openly enthused. “In my watercolor paintings I love to watch the water mix with the pigments,” adding that, “Art has taught me to stop, slow down and appreciate nature around me. The various reds in a rose or beautiful subtle blues, grays and rusts in a Gamble quail’s plumage for example.”

Mountain living was part of her life residing in Northern California, she shared. “I now live in the Mojave Desert in Southern California where another kind of natural beauty envelops me on a daily basis.”

Creating beaded jewelry also keeps her busy. “The possibilities are endless,” she said. “It’s like I’m a kid in a candy store when I go bead shopping!”

Courtemanche noted that being a member of the Blue Goose Gallery continues to deepen her artistic experience.


Courtemanche said, “All the artist members are so talented and inspiring. … Come to the gallery and check out all the creativity. Then you will want to pass it on!”

Jerri Lee Nielsen

Photographer Jerri Lee Nielsen also has a favorite quote on creativity that she likes to share attributed to author Rob Siltanen: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. … They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

With that in mind, Nielsen’s photography is inspired by the landscapes and wildlife of the Northern California Sierra-Cascade region, and also by the amazing people who cherish this area of our beloved north state.


Nielsen grew up in Northern California and has had the opportunity to live and travel through many other states, but for her this region will forever feel like home.

“Art has always played a huge part in my life,” she said, recalling that in high school she performed in award-winning marching and symphonic bands, had her poetry published in national anthologies, performed solo roles with the Central West Ballet, and earned a scholarship to attend the Contra Costa Ballet Centre summer program.

She attended the University of Utah on scholarship, studying fine arts and earning a bachelor’s degree with emphases in ballet teaching and performance.

But photography was woven through her experiences with other art disciplines, and became a primary focus as an outlet for her creativity.

Nielsen is dedicated to photography, and voraciously devours everything she can find about photographic techniques, processes, composition, lighting and so forth.

In 2018, she passed a tough exam and rigorous portfolio review by five judges from the Professional Photographers of America, and earned the title Certified Professional Photographer.


She now runs her own portrait photography business, and in addition teaches photography classes at the Blue Goose Gallery.

“I love being a part of the Blue Goose family and am always excited to see other artists’ new work throughout the year!”

Nielsen said her goal is to connect people to the beauty that surrounds us every day.

Gary Spence

Master woodcarver Gary Spence searches for just the right thickness of cottonwood bark, so he can carve his highly collected “Wood Spirits.”

Master woodcarver Gary Spence searches far and wide looking for just the right thickness of cottonwood bark, so he can carve his highly collectable “Wood Spirits.”

His creations come with a card explaining the story of the sprites of the forest.

“There’s an old tradition of placing a wood spirit near your door to protect you and to welcome friends and neighbors.”

Spence continued, “It is well known around these parts that everyone should have one hanging around their home or in an outdoor location where it can be seen and enjoyed.”


Each Wood Spirit is a special, individual carving, said Spence, as are all of his finely crafted pieces, many of which can be viewed at the Blue Goose Gallery, including cowboys, wine stoppers, Christmas trees, Santas, pencils, boots and much more.

Having worked with wood in a variety of ways through the years, Spence joined a woodcarving class in Reno some years ago to see what else he could do. There he learned how much fun carving can be and continues to create a wide assortment of pieces.

Spence said creating a personality in wood is “just plain fun,” and that the bark and wood tell him who they are, and he just removes the excess wood that encapsulates the figure inside.

His tools consist of many extremely sharp chisels, and he laughs when he tells his carving buddies stories about all the “blood and Band-Aids” that comes with working with wood.


He enjoys sharing his collection of works, knowing that when a piece is adopted it “finds its family” and that brings him true joy.