Art is a way of connecting. When I render a place, person, or object with paint, I intend that this expression will resonate with those who view it. Hopefully, it will cause the viewer to recognize the beauty of the subject, and it’s worthiness to be painted.
This response was awakened in me as a child when taken to the Houston Museum of Art. Seeing the paintings housed in expansive marble rooms, instilled the message in me that art is valued. The bright colors and simple compositions of the modernists Mark Rothko and Piet Mondrian, portrayed on huge canvases, excited me. And the still life paintings and portraits painted centuries ago by Renaissance masters were like magic, they appeared so real. These early influences stirred a desire within me to create the same sense of wonder.
I have sought out teachers along the way. The first was a neighbor who was willing to invest a summer with a teen who had no artistic skill, only desire. She proved to be invaluable in teaching me to see what was in front of me, as opposed to what was in my head. She taught me the basics of oil painting and opened my mind to color mixing. The unexpected delight of seeing how red deepens and mutes with the addition of green was mesmerizing.
Developing the skills of artistry takes a lot of time, and few artists have that luxury. Life has more than one focus and many twists and turns. A decade would fly by before my next meaningful art influence.
Distracted by growing up, marrying, and moving, my next opportunity came many years later while living in the Los Angeles area. A flier for The Mission Renaissance School of Art came across my path, and one visit to their studio had me hooked. Classes were high for our budget, so I cleaned several houses every week to keep up a weekly class in watercolor with Larry Gluck. Larry was an accomplished artist and communicator. His instruction, while technical, also leaned heavily into the aesthetics of art. Terms like “lost edges,” “relating,” and “cycling” became part of my internal dialog while I worked.
We moved again, this time to Tennessee, where I began selling my watercolors, teaching classes at the local Parks and Recreation Center, and had the experience of being “The Artist in Residence” at Leoma Elementary School, where I designed and taught an art program to K-8 students.
The demands of raising daughters, caring for aging parents, and beginning a new career as a Registered Nurse, absorbed most of my time. The desire to paint was pushed back into the recesses of my thoughts.
With daughters grown and parents gone, I was restless to paint and struggled to find a starting point. A friend invited me to join her in a painting class taught by acclaimed artist, Tim Stevenson of Florence, Alabama. Attending his class, I found a group of serious artists and a teacher with a wealth of knowledge and an unwavering expectation for discipline and the pursuit of excellence. Here, I have found inspiring artistic support, which has enabled me to grow consistently as an artist.
Recently retired, for the first time, I now find myself in a position to wholeheartedly pursue what has always been an undercurrent of desire in my life. Portraits have been my focus for the last few years. Mastering the challenge of rendering my subjects on canvas is a lifelong pursuit.
I feel drawn to portraits because of the mystery of the human spirit. Spending hours identifying and recreating skin tones, features, posture, and expressions lead to contemplation of who the subject is as a person. I often start to get a sense of their inner spirit. The act of painting begins to feel like a prayer for the very best of them to be called forth, not just on the canvas, but in their lives as well. When I paint a memorial portrait, I hope to capture something of the subject’s persona and that it will bring some level of comfort to their loved ones.
Objects sometimes speak about someone in a way their portrait cannot. When my mother died, I gathered cherished objects of hers that brought back memories or represented what was important to her. I then painted them as a still life. Holding up the beauty of her spirit and letting everything else fall away was healing for me. It gives me peace every time I look at the painting.
Painting portraits of beloved pets offers a touching tribute to those loving creatures who enrich our lives and uniquely memorializes them.
Art has that power to move us, to open us to healing, wonder, and contemplation. It enhances and expands our inner world as it adorns our outer world. That’s what keeps me coming back to the easel, and now I finally have the time to spend there.
“There are many transitions on the road to adulthood. Taking the wheel is a process.”
18×24” oil on linen
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