Plains artist honored at Great Falls
April 6, 2023
A Plains woman was honored for her work at a major art show in Great Falls on March 19.
Ilene Paulsen was selected out of hundreds of other artists at the Great Falls Western Art Week March 15-19 with the Most Distinguished Body of Work by the editors of the Portfolio, Magazine of the Fine Arts. Her award was based on overall booth presentation, the artwork itself, and professionalism of the artists. Paulsen said this might have been the most prestigious award she has ever won and she was totally surprised that the judges picked her work. "Apparently, the magazine gave only one award in previous years and no one that I talked with had heard of it. This year they gave out seven," said Paulsen, who had about 20 original pieces of art plus prints and cards. Most of her artwork was watercolor along with a few acrylics with original pieces ranging from 8x10 inches to 2x4 feet.
"I would really like to thank my husband, Bruce, and my family and friends, who support me in my art endeavors with compliments and critiques, the customers who do me the honor of purchasing paintings, and to our God who gives us the talents," said Paulsen.
This was Paulsen's second year to participate in the show. She was invited to participate in the Wild Bunch Show in the Hampton Inn with her own booth, but last year she shared a booth with Montana Watercolor Society in the Heritage Inn.
Paulsen noted that the Western Art Week began in Great Falls in 1969 as a fundraiser for the Great Falls Advertising Club. It is put on each year to commemorate the birthday - March 19 - of famed western artist Charles Russell. Paulsen guessed there were perhaps 500-800 artists from the United States and Canada in 15 different shows in various hotels, galleries, and the fairgrounds. Each of these venues had their own show name and artists, but all were part of the Western Art Week event.
Paulsen has been painting for more than 40 years, starting with acrylics. "I like the challenge of putting color on paper or canvas and trying to capture the beauty I see in a reference photo. I enjoy painting God's beautiful creations," said Paulsen, who began watercolor painting in 2002 after taking some classes in that medium. She does a handful of shows each year, including the Wildlife Expo Show in September in Anaconda and a solo show in October at the Phillips gallery in Kalispell. She's also one of over a dozen professional artists at the Artists in Paradise show each year at the Paradise Center. She's been the coordinator for the Paradise exhibition for the last three years. This year's show is scheduled for Aug. 3-5 and she added they are still looking for local artists to participate.