As an Art History student at Williams College, I distinctly remember being drawn to Fumee d’Ambris Gris by John Singer Sargent at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. I was immediately struck by Sargent’s incredible sense of light, reflection and contrast.
Right now, I am inspired by the beauty of the salt marshes of the Connecticut coast.
I enjoy looking at the ever-changing light and color of the marsh - the interplay of sunlight, water, clouds and weather.
My recent favorite [of my paintings] is called Morning Stillness which captures the feeling of a quiet morning overlooking a misty marsh. I love how the soft brush strokes and layers of color create a sense of airy space and peaceful moodiness.
My favorite part of painting is watching the image emerge as I layer translucent glazes, and then create watery reflections by softly drawing wide brushes across the canvas.
Hands down, my least favorite part is promoting my work and myself - since painting and the appreciation of art is deeply personal.
The person who has most informed my work is a friend, mentor, and artist Mindy Wiesel. She once wrote to me “an artist is one who makes art. A painter paints. Period. The ‘self doubt’ never ever ever goes away. If it did, we probably couldn’t make work. There is no room for ‘judgement’ while we work. Judging is an activity in and of itself, if we’re busy judging how can we possibly be painting? Painting is losing oneself with marks that are beyond language and for some, like us, who need a place for expression.” I read the notes she’s written me, almost daily.
One of my favorites is Letting Go. It was one of the first pieces I did when we moved to Weston, soon after I gave birth to my son, Jax. It was a time filled with a lot of unknowns, new place, new people, new baby. This piece gave me a place to work through some of those feelings. Another piece I love is titled, Dear Elsie. The base layer of this piece is a letter to my grandma who passed away several years ago. She and I had a very special relationship. Writing to her and then painting this piece provided a sense of connection to her.
I love the evolutionary process of painting. I love watching a piece develop and shift over time. I love “figuring out” a new piece. I love the point at which I can let go of what I intended a painting to be or look like and allow it to become what it’s actually meant to be. Sometimes those two things are very different. I also love what happens inside me when I’m creating a painting. I grow, I am challenged, I’m forced to see new perspectives and I’m reminded to practice patience.
Creating art has always been an emotional outlet or way to express point of view. I create pieces that capture my current mood or are commentary on various subjects. This can range from life in suburbia, or a musician or celebrity that inspires me. I have always been inspired by Andy Warhol (I actually met him once outside Studio 54!) and his creative entourage from the late 1970’s in New York. I am inspired by current pop artists such as Ashley Longshore and Barnabe. I consider Kerry James Marshall a modern master.
Although many of my pieces are brightly colored, I love to remove all color and paint in black, white and grey. I think this gives an unexpected twist to the cartoon series I created and adds a modern edge.
My favorite commission to date was my most challenging. An interior designer commissioned a piece for a client with a teenage son combining three rock bands into one canvas. I was not sure it would work but ended up being one of my favorite pieces.
One of my favorite paintings is by Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Vignette) 2012. It portrays a young African American couple in an idyllic setting. There is a sardonic and sarcastic undertone to the piece.
A favorite piece that I created is titled Bad at Love. It is composed as a collage but is completely painted in acrylic. I am proud of the amount of detail incorporated into the piece. I like the use of Japanese lettering as pattern. It seems that a complicated story is behind her tears, but I leave that to each viewers interpretation.
My favorite part of creating a painting is when it is finished, I step back, and it says “POW” to me- that’s how I know it works.
Like most artists’ children my father encouraged me to be part of his creative life (he actually allowed me to wash his brushes!). My life long passion for art and design led to a long graphic design career, first as art director of Save the Children then my own company, Evans Design Associates. After 25+ years as a graphic designer I began to paint full time when I joined The Art Studio with 5 talented and supportive artists on the Post Road in Westport. (Editor’s Note: Kris Toohey is a fellow member of The Art Studio.)
I was fortunate. My professors had studied with Josef Albers whose theories on the human perception of harmony, color and contrast are legendary. The German-born Albers was associated with the Bauhaus School before immigrating to the United States where he became one of the leading pioneers of 20th-century modernism and was a hugely influential teacher. Albers’ Interaction of Color inspired me to become a Color Field painter and helped me to develop my own techniques.
The work of Color Field painters Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler are inspirations as well as Albers.
The visual vibrations that can be created with the juxtaposition of complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel such as red and green) is frequently how I begin a painting and collage. I love how magical those combinations can be in a work of art.