Wes Porter & Eileen "Little" Brennan-Porter (aka Dusty Brennan) are the Artists and the Owners of Arts & Artisans Fine Art Gallery. Opened in 2005, the gallery features the artists' original works as well as Archival Giclee prints of selected paintings and drawings (see a detailed description of the Giclee process on the Paintings page).
Original paintings by renowned New York artist Burton Silverman are in the gallery’s collection. Jacob Collins, also of New York, founder of Water Street Atelier, The Grand Central Academy, and the Hudson River Fellowship, has twice been to the Shenandoah Valley with his students and colleagues as guests of Wes and Eileen, doing Plein Aire paintings of the beautiful scenes around their home in the valley between the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountains. Some of Jacob's and his students' fine work from those trips is also displayed.
The gallery is now looking forward to offering drop-in open studio painting and drawing sessions, demonstrations & workshops featuring guest artists, and live musical performances.
Stay tuned to our “News & Events” page for details and schedules.
Wes Porter was born 1934 in Miami, Florida. He has lived for most of his life in Northern Virginia.
During the first thirty years of his life, he was an artist, writer, musician and fly fisherman. He worked at various jobs, built and repaired stringed instruments, designed and built tournament casting rods (won first place in a national casting competition one year), painted portraits and restored frames for a living. His main goal during this time was to be a fine artist.
He had no formal education in art, but over many years constantly immersed himself in various open studios and workshops around the country. He is for the most part self taught.
In 1974 he became a single parent and was forced to give up painting. He began a small graphics business as a cottage industry in order to raise his two small children. By the 1990’s his business had grown into a large graphics design and production company with 50 employees in Manassas, Va. His son Browning is now a writer, published poet and graphic designer, and his daughter Rebecca now runs her own successful graphics design and production company.
In 1989 Wes designed and built a studio home in the Shenandoah Valley with the help of his then employee and girlfriend Dusty, they moved in, and Wes seriously took up painting again while Dusty continued to help run the graphics business. In 1992 Wes studied with prominent New York artist and writer Burton Silverman in his New York studio, and Burt became an important artistic influence. Wes has become a major collector of Silverman’s work over the years and they remain close friends. He was the subject of Burt’s instructional video “My Friend Wes”.
Wes has since exhibited in numerous juried competitions on the east coast, has had several one man shows, and has paintings in many private collections, including those of Willard Scott, Phillip Morris of Richmond, the Bruce Mellon family, the Byrd family, John R. Hazel of Delaplane, Jim Vance of NBC news, and Burton Silverman.
In 1998 the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association hosted a one-man show of his work at the Athenaeum in Alexandria, which traveled to the Artists Museum in Washington, D.C. Then in 2000 the Twentieth Century Gallery in Williamsburg, Virginia, an auxiliary of the Virginia Museum, hosted another one-man-show of his paintings. In 2003 the Center for the Arts Caton Merchant Gallery hosted “Art as Meditation, a Retrospective”, which also included some of Wes’ new work.
Wes has shown in and received awards in many group shows, including Best in Show at the Waterford Virginia Annual Show, the Virginia Beach Annual Juried Show, the Artists Museum Annual Show, the National Equine Society Annual Show, the Mill Show in Berryville, the Aldie Mill Show in Aldie, Virginia, and The Plains Virginia annual show, where he won 1st place in the Popular Choice Award.
In June of 2006 Wes was a featured artist in the national fine art publication “The Artist’s Magazine”. The article included a demonstration of his methods as well as a discussion on his philosophy of painting and several good examples of his work.
Wes was formerly on the advisory board for the Corcoran/Washington Project for the Arts and a board member of the Center for the Arts in Manassas, Virginia. He and Dusty married in 2001 on the banks of the Shenandoah River, and in 2005 they bought two buildings in historic Luray Virginia, and created the Arts & Artisans Gallery, featuring examples of Wes and Dusty’s current work, and the Artisans Grill next door, which became the number one place to go for good food in Luray before they closed it in 2014.
In 2013 another graphics company finally annexed Wes & Dusty’s graphic business, which continues to thrive today. Now Wes & Dusty are able to focus on their own painting and framing projects, and look forward to featuring workshops and demos at their Gallery.
Eileen Brennan-Porter (aka Dusty Brennan) grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., the daughter of a Navy Lieutenant Commander and an Australian war bride. Eileen’s mother was an artist before she married, which inspired her daughter’s conviction at an early age that she, too would be an artist. She drew constantly as a child and continued to throughout her life.
She attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, majoring in Painting and Printmaking. She then moved to Cape Cod with her brothers and their musical group, where she began showing her work at galleries in Hyannis, Chatham, Provincetown and other locations on the Cape.
She eventually went to work at a sign company in Hyannis, where she learned the art of hand lettering, silk screen, and gold leaf surface and glass gilding, which afforded her a steady income. After moving back to Virginia in the mid 70’s, she continued her career in the graphics business, eventually in 1978 going to work for her future husband Wes Porter (a fellow fine artist), as the first employee of his sign and graphics business.
They discovered their mutual love of fly fishing…she fished for trout on remote mountain streams in Virginia and pastoral chalk streams in Pennsylvania, and he liked bigger waters, fly fishing for smallmouth bass on the Shenandoah, and float trips in Alaska, Canada and Chile. Together they floated and fished world class rivers in Montana, Utah and Colorado, and fly fished for salmon in Alaska.
She also continued to pursue her first love--her fine art studies--attending workshops, open studios and various classes at art schools throughout the area, such as the Art League in Alexandria, even while her responsibilities at the graphics business continued to grow.
In 2005 she and Wes bought two historic buildings in Luray Virginia, opening Artisans Grill in one and Arts & Artisans Gallery in the other, which houses hers and her husband’s work as well as work by prominent New York artists. With the sale in 2013 of their graphics company and its continued success, Eileen’s plans and ideas for the art gallery also continue to grow.
Although she worked primarily in oils to begin with, she moved on to other mediums such as watercolor, pastel, etching, colored pencil and charcoal. She especially enjoys working in pastels, as it encompasses her love of drawing as well as her fascination with color.
Her lifelong interest in art has not been for the pursuit of recognition or monetary gain in an arbitrary art world, but more for the love of the creative life.
Eileen’s and Wes’ home in the Shenandoah Valley has provided endless inspiration, with its expansive views of the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountains, and the historic Shenandoah River. Throughout all her travels she has never found a landscape more beautiful.
It seems to me that a great deal of what is taken for art in the world today has become an effort merely to follow the trends of the market, and is driven by the need to sell. It is certainly no sin for an artist to sell his work. But to only pursue the market and to create a product solely for the money is to produce a kind of furniture. The process of making art has become to some, just as old Degas feared, a matter of devising a novelty product, promoting it as new and edgy, and marketing it to some entity with bottomless pockets. The result of which is not the production of anything particularly valid but that those who have placed themselves in this loop get to eat, some of them extraordinarily well.
I don’t believe that is art. But we now seem to be working our way back to a place where novelty and excess are not enough. Soon, I believe, the critical mass will be reached and some innocent will exclaim “Look, it’s only a bunch of scribbles. The Emperor has no clothes!”
I’m not suggesting that we go back to the past. We need to continue the dreams and experiments that will always go on among artists. And we need to return to the search for what is honest and real in art. That happens, I believe, when an artist witnesses something elusive, beautiful, sometimes just in a glance, that has accidentally revealed itself to him. The importance of that moment drives him to record for himself and his viewers an impression of what he has seen and felt. The process of making art then requires first, the artist’s vision, then the need to do something about it, and finally the effort, employing all of his practice and prowess with the materials of his art, to express that vision. If he succeeds and it all happens, then the artist has fixed that ‘moment between moments’, and brought a certain piece of the sublime into the material world.
I am a studio painter and drawn to a naturalistic style. I don’t work quickly. It is a process of discovery, a meditation. I work with sketches, photographs and from memory to record what are important moments for me to convey, and to share what I feel is some of the magic of what life is really all about.
4 East Main Street | Luray, Virginia 22835 | Tel: (540) 743-1203 | Open By Appointment
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