Wednesday, December 8, 2004

All the fun of the valley, in a book

Local artist Betsy Pearson publishes "A Sun Valley Journal"

All the fun of the valley, in a book

"This book captures the peaceful magic of the Sun Valley area."

—Ridley Pearson

Is it possible to capture all of the spirit and joy of Sun Valley in a book? No, not according to Betsy Pearson. "There are just so many things I had to throw out, I could easily fill another one!"

Pearson has just published "A Sun Valley Journal," a whimsical book styled on an artist's travel journal. Ridley Pearson, Betsy's son, himself an acclaimed writer, writes on the inside cover, "This book captures the peaceful magic of the Sun Valley area: where to play, why we come, and why we stay. What a joy!"

The book's 40 pages are filled with ink and watercolor sketches that depict the culture of Sun Valley. "I wanted to get in the basic things that people might remember or might have done during their time here." Many of the activities that make this area unique are given the Pearson touch in a delightful sketch, accompanied by a sentence or two, such as any traveler might write in their own journal.

From the multitude of snow-based activities to events that are the valley's own, such as Wagon Days, lunch at Christina's and The Sun Valley Symphony summer concerts-one glance through this enchanting journal will remind you why you live here, or remind you why you come back year after year.

Pearson and her husband Bob arrived in the valley in the mid-70s. "Our eldest son, Brad, moved from Connecticut to a ranch at the foot of King Mountain. They ran cattle and had horses, sheep and goats. But Brad didn't know which end of the animal was which, so he had to go to the library and read up on them!

"We came out to visit and just fell in love with it (the area). We both skied and we both played tennis and we just loved it out here."

By 1979 they had built their very own Sun Valley get away, just west of Bellevue. "We started coming out for two weeks in the winter and then two weeks in the summer. Slowly, we were here a little more, and a little more. Pretty soon we looked at each other and said, 'We're here all winter and all summer!'" By 1996 they had relocated permanently.

All three of their children have lived in the valley at one time or another. Ridley made his home in Hailey for over 25 years, and wrote many of his books, including his first, while staying at his parent's Bellevue home.

Wendy, their daughter, has a vacation home in Gimlet, and although Brad sold the ranch and moved back east, last month his quit his job and is heading back to the valley.

The family is all artistically inclined: Ridley a best-selling author, Brad a magazine editor, and Bob a self-described "writer for hire." Bob Pearson's 'employers' have included the likes of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

Betsy's first love however, has always been art. "I've been painting ever since I could hold anything in my hand! I showed my work in galleries back East for years. But when I came out here I decided that even if they'd take me, which I'm sure they wouldn't, I didn't really want to get caught up in the gallery life again. I've been there, done that. Anyway, I get enough commissions."

As we tour the Pearson's idyllic log cabin (which Betsy designed herself) in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, I spot paintings scattered throughout the rooms, on easels, on the floor and tacked to the log walls. They are truly beautiful.

Primarily a landscape painter, working with oil and acrylic, her work features many local vistas as well as the exotic locations she has traveled to. Seeing these works I realize that the Sun Valley Journal is just a bit of fun for this talented artist.

"The idea for the book came from these," she said as she handed me a pile of journals. Inside is a colorful array of sketches of the Pearson's many travels. "I started my first journal in Italy, I'd just do these sketches in-between paintings."

When her friends Karen Huffaker and Sue Hare saw these journals, in which there are also scenes from Sun Valley, "They both just pounced on me! They told me I had to do a book. So I did."

After pondering the idea of sponsorship, Betsy decided she wanted to be in full control of the project so had it self-published. "It was really very easy, once I decided to really do it. Roger Raymond at Express Printing helped me enormously. They were wonderful there, they did everything."

The next step was distribution. To Betsy's surprise, every store that they approached snapped up the book. "I've done one print run so far, 1500. We may do another, but I don't want a garage full of books! It really only has a local market. I'll wait and see what the bookstores want to do. They said there's nothing like it though, something that is easy to take home or to give as a little gift."

"It really fills a niche," said Darren Sutherland, manager of Iconoclast Bookstore in Ketchum. "People don't always have room, or can't afford, to take a big, beautiful coffee table book home with them, but nevertheless want to take a souvenir as a memory of their time in Sun Valley. This is perfect, fun, small and affordable."

"A Sun Valley Journal" is available at Iconoclast Bookstores, Chapter One and other shops throughout the valley. It is priced at $16.95. Betsy Pearson will be signing copies of the journal at Iconoclast Bookstore in Hailey on Dec. 21 from 5-7 p.m. and on Dec. 22 from 6-8 p.m. at the Ketchum store.

Ridley Pearson will be joining his mother at the Ketchum Iconoclast signing to promote his new book "Peter and the Starcatchers."

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