Can you give us a snapshot of your life?
33 year long story short: I grew up in South Florida, started studying piano at 5 years of age, began harp lessons in my sophomore year, and earned a BS and an MA in commercial art at a college in the Florida panhandle. I have been married for 7 years to my college sweetheart, Ben and have an amazingly sweet and happy 14-month-old son, Landon. We lived for 3 ½ years in southern New Jersey and have now lived in the beautiful Finger Lakes area for 4 years.
I paint still lifes in oil, play harp for weddings and banquets, design custom jewelry, and am also a graphic designer for which I’ve been to France twice for magazine advertising jobs.
When did you start creating art?
I’ve been doodling and enjoying photography for as long as can I remember, but the start of my real pursuit of art took place in college. I was a freshmen voice major and found myself wandering around one of the senior artist’s exhibitions after class. I saw a drawing rendered on black paper with colored pencil. I believe that God filled me with inspiration to immediately try my hand at some art.
I had most of my homework done and it was the weekend, so I went to the bookstore on campus and bought some black construction paper, pencils and some greeting cards that had photographs on them to draw from. As I worked on my first self-imposed art project, my roommates and friends told me that I should go into art. I hadn’t told them at the time that I was having second thoughts about continuing my major in music.
As most who are skeptical of their own abilities, I was unsure whether or not my natural skills would be what it took to succeed as an artist major so I submitted my creation to the art teachers asking for their thoughts. The following semester I found myself sitting in my first art class dry mouthed, hands shaking and wondering what I had gotten myself into. But as the semester rolled along, I found myself succeeding in ways I never expected. From then on art, like music, became an extension of myself. I might curl up and die if I didn’t have a creative outlet.
How do you choose your subject matter?
Many days I am trying to squeeze in some quick painting while my little boy takes a nap. When this is the case, I usually walk through the house and grab an object that catches my eye or something I had noticed earlier in the day. It’s usually color, lighting, an edge or texture that grabs my attention, but almost always it causes an emotional response. After selecting one object I get an idea for the feel of the painting and am able to choose some smaller complimentary objects, and I add color with some fabric, flowers or fruit. Sometimes I can see the painting or portions of it finished in my mind and I can also feel how it will be to paint certain parts of the painting.
Many times some of the objects have sentimental value to me. I’ve painted many wedding or anniversary gifts, items from my husband, trinkets that remind me of places we’ve been or people who are special to me or have passed on. Recently I have begun adding objects that have a symbolic meaning to me, and I feel this adds needed depth to my paintings.
Who has influenced your work?
I continue to be entranced by Richard Schmid’s work for his practical and wise technique. I love Carol Marine for her gorgeous colors, fun painterly edges and creative cropping of her subject matter. I also find John Singer Sargent to be one that I continue to look back at for his subject’s hands, and for placing only necessities on the canvas.
I also dabble in children’s book illustrations and have a handful of illustrators whose work I love to drink in.
Looking at N.C. Wyeth’s illustrations for Treasure Island, Last of the Mohicans, The Black Arrow, The White Company, and Kidnapped makes me want to pull out the paints. To me Wyeth’s work is a beautiful meld between fine art portraiture and illustration. They’re completely inspiring.
My favorite illustrated work of hers is the Gift of the Magi. Swirling paint and charcoal make this heartwarming story come to life.
I love the authenticity of the Dinotopia books that his sketchbook style gives. And of course his detailed paintings are simply gorgeous.
Do you have a favorite piece of art by someone other than yourself?
There are so many, I will choose from my long list of favorites.
For fine art paintings, I love Carnations and Apples by Carol Marine.
For illustration, I love Wyeth’s The Black Arrow. I think it’s the lighter backgrounds, the contrast of the men with the snow, and in some of the illustrations the trees seem to grow right out of the canvas. Brilliant.
I always have music going in the studio and it’s usually orchestral movie soundtracks. I enjoy John Williams, Alan Silvestri, and John Barry. If I’m feeling the need for some dark music, I enjoy James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer. If I need something more lively, I enjoy William Joseph.
The Forgotten, The Count of Monte Christo and August Rush.
What was the best advice you ever received that has helped you with your art?
I really enjoy Richard Schmid’s book, Alla Prima. He shoots straight and steps on toes, but it’s a needed refreshing nudge. There’s a phrase from that book that I keep on my studio wall: “Never knowingly leave anything wrong on your canvas”. It haunts me as I paint and keeps me from getting lazy.
And as far as technique goes, squinting at my still life to simplify values has been an invaluable and necessary action I take while painting.
If you could only pass along one piece of advice to a young artist, what would that be?
Well, if it’s appropriate that I pass on advice without being a seasoned artist myself, I would just simply say fight for your art. As a stay-at-home mom and wife who also tries to fit painting into the mix, I am currently in the fight myself. We all get distracted, we have families, we have to do the laundry, we have to cook, care for each other, and do a million necessary evils in order for life to continue on.
You must take yourself seriously as an artist. Introduce yourself as an artist. Set up your work hours (even if it’s only 2 hours an evening after the kiddos go to bed) and don’t answer the phone or get on Facebook because . . . you’re working.
So with all of that you must make a plan to get into the studio. Set achievable goals and enlist the help of those around you to simply get yourself painting and creating on a regular basis. The rest (marketing, gallery leads, . . .etc.) will follow. It will involve thinking ahead, being proactive and probably less sleep. Whatever that goal is, you must keep that dream in front of you. It was gallery representation for me, and now I have new goals that I’m working toward.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”
-Henry David Thoreau