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Billings artists shares passion for water color paintings of Pictograph Cave State Park

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Posted at 11:22 AM, Sep 05, 2023

As a girl, a Billings artist first came out to Pictograph Cave State Park, where she did her first watercolor painting.

It's been a lifelong passion for her and she put some of that work, at least from the last 25 years, on display at an art show at the park, scheduled from Sept. 1-4.

Mana Lesman learned to paint with watercolors when she was 12 years old.

"That's 12 years after 1941," Lesman said. "This was my first place to paint outside."

She painted scenery of Pictograph Cave State Park for the first time in 1953.

"I'm 81 now," Lesman said. "And that was the beginning of my love affair with this neighborhood and this area."

Now, decades later, she put her work from the last quarter century on display at the park.

"This painting is one of my favorites because sometimes you have the opportunity to have just the right light," Lesman said. "And as a water colorist, that's extremely important."

When she finds that perfect lighting, she has about two hours to paint and then comes back on a few other days at the same time.

Lesman also says warm weather is good because the water colors dry quickly.

And outdoor water color painting is impossible in the winter because the paint freezes.

The art show gives her a chance to talk with people who liked her paintings.

"Everyone should have some art in their home," said Larry Bean, an art afficionado and photographer. "And particularly when it's just top of the line art and particularly one that artist happens to live right here with us.

"Capturing a scene and capturing the essence of a place, it's very valuable in the art world," said Richard Tooke, recreational manager at Pictograph Cave State Park. "But also from a historical perspective, having a record of what is seen, by different eyes and produced in different ways, I think, has a lot of value.

The four day show finishes on Monday.

"There is a verse from the Bible about, don't hide your light under a bushel," Lesman said. "It is the responsibility of the artists to share that with people. Why else would anyone paint dance, do theater play music? But for an audience."

Lesman says she can also show her paintings at her studio in Lockwood.