Art & Design Magazine

Inspirations for Artist Appreciation Month

By Ingrid Christensen

Inspirations for Artist Appreciation month

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August is Artist Appreciation Month!  I didn't know this until I got an email from Marietta Gregg, daughter of Patience Brewster, the designer of whimsical and fanciful ornaments that most of us have seen in stores around Christmas time.
Marietta asked me if I'd write a blog about artists who have inspired me.  It's a great idea and an opportunity to thank my touchstone artists.
So here they are in order of my personal chronology as an artist.  Because I started out in watercolour (only the hardest medium in the world, as it turns out), the first painters who inspired me were Joseph Zbukvic, Charles Reid.  See the influence?  They both focus on light, and have loose, bold brushwork.  Zbukvic's contre jour aesthetic still dazzles me and the economy and joy of his mark making makes me want to applaud.
Charles Reid showed me how to paint the figure in one big, graceful gesture and how to find color and color temperature within it.  These lessons weren't in person, unfortunately, but I've signed his books out of the library countless times.
Then, when I switched to oils because I wanted to explore texture, paint larger, and ditch glass framing, I "discovered" John Singer Sargent.  A few people had got there before me, thankfully, and there are amazing books available by his sister's grandson, Richard Ormond.  The plates showed me that oil could be as radiant, loose, experimental and joyful as watercolour, and they showed me that big brushes were a must.  Eventually, I got to see Sargents in real life, and they revealed a rough and ready quality that photos couldn't.  It was a surprise and a delight to see that he wasn't polished and precise as the reduced-size images implied.
Sorolla came next because of his brilliant light and color.  He wasn't a shy painter, and he painted subjects that touched me: beaches, children, summer sunshine.
And while these two were great models for what an oil painting could look like, I had no idea how to construct such a thing.  Most of the local art teachers focused on landscape painting - something I wasn't interested in - and so I looked to the Internet for contemporary painters that I could learn from.
Through many hours on gallery sites, I found Lawrie Williamson's work.  His suggestive, soft, contre jour figures touched me.  I liked his subtle palette, and his subjects: figures, water, movement, and fly fishing, a pursuit that my young son had become obsessed with.  Lawrie showed me the potential that small moments have to touch people's memories and passions.
I wrote to one of his galleries in the UK asking if he could forward my letter.  For a few weeks, I heard nothing, and then I received a long and generous letter from Lawrie Williamson himself.  In it, he outlined his working methods and color choices, and offered encouragement.  I have it, and the exhibition catalog that he included, on the table in my studio to this day.  His letter was invaluable and launched many years of work.  The starts that I make are Williamson starts.
Sergei Bongart came next because I love colour!  When a friend loaned me a book about his work, I felt I'd found my people.  The roughness, brilliance and dash of his work resonated and still does every time I look at it. I loved his figures and still life, and was moved by his words about the importance of life painting.
And lastly - though I could continue for many more pages - I was deeply and lastingly inspired by Maggie Siner.  Though I cannot be as economical in brushstroke and as restrained in palette as she is, this is an artist that I look at regularly online and whose work I aspire to collect.  She showed me that edges are a state of mind and that you can simply push past them as far and as often as you like, and your subject can still make perfect sense.  And, your painting will be thrilling for the audacity.
I'm indebted to these painters and many, many more whose work I look at online regularly.  Unlike any time in the past, artists have access to a massive range of artwork thanks to the Internet.  It can be overwhelming, but it can also be motivating.  The many great painters working today remind me that I can always do better and work harder, and that there are countless ways to put paint on canvas.
Happy painting, and don't forget to tell your families and friends to appreciate you this month!

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