The story of an artist’s career development includes mention of the life experiences that have shaped her perception of the world. Like most artists, I can say I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. Any initial talent I may have possessed was honed and shaped by my subsequent work as newspaper photographer, graphic designer and web site designer. The experience gained in these positions contributed to the organization and discipline which are essential in creating workmanlike paintings. While I didn’t recognize it at the time, those functions provided a solid foundation for my work as an artist. The life experience, feeling and passion that make every painter’s work unique needed time to evolve.
I began my career as photographer and advertising designer with the Monadnock Ledger, a small town newspaper. I used my camera to tell the stories I was assigned to cover. My work wouldn’t have competed for the Pulitzer Prize, but it was an integral part of my development as an artist. It was about being able to see that image that tells the story. My stories were those of a small New England town. They may have included the joyful face of a child at the school fair, or the proud salute of the graying veteran at the Memorial Day parade. Space in a newspaper is limited, and my photos were usually black and white only, so these factors became part of the challenge to create interesting and informative material.
I next graduated from newspaper work to magazines. I went to work as a graphic designer for BYTE magazine, a McGraw-Hill publication. There were formulas to be followed, but there were also design decisions to be made during the magazine production process. Designer work involved producing graphic materials such as diagrams, charts, and graphs, and also artistically directing photo shoots to reduce the sometimes complex subject matter to a format more easily understood by our readers. My role as designer was to take the initially dry subject matter and portray it in a way that hopefully interested the reader, without being obvious or intrusive. It was an exercise in composition.
My next career stop was as Creative Director for Appropriate Solutions, a small software company. I performed design work for print media and web sites, and continued in the role of photographer as well. Creating an online newsletter allowed me to expand beyond the limitations of print newsletters. I could utilize color, and had more space to work with. The topic of my newsletter was cooking, so the photography centered on portraying culinary creations attractively. In this capacity, I had more flexibility and freedom of expression that I had enjoyed at BYTE.
As one builds a career, the vicissitudes of life have a way of exerting an influence. In my case, as I juggled the roles of wife and mother to two sons along with my career, my mother’s health began to fail. I tried moving to part-time work, but eventually needed to give up my employment altogether to spend the necessary time caring for my mother. This was a time of transition for me. There were sad and melancholy times waiting for the next long drive, the next doctor’s visit, and the next sign that life was fragile. During this time, I returned to painting, which I found to be a cathartic and healing experience. Looking back, I was embarking on a new way of life.
While I had painted as a girl, I now approached it with more dedication and purpose. I began with courses in drawing and watercolor. No longer having the brash confidence of youth, I approached my development as an artist more cautiously. During early classes, I was told my composition was excellent. At first, I wasn’t sure what that meant. Then I realized that the design work I had done for years was basically just composition. I continued taking courses, but began to look for more specialized subjects, which led to workshops with master artists.
During this time, each new painting helped shape my style and individuality as a painter. I felt it was important to strive to accomplish something with each painting. My goal was to create, over time, paintings which would convey the skill of an artist. I would then feel I had obtained a modicum of success as an artist. I found myself creating paintings that I never thought I would be capable of.
I began to exhibit my work. In August 2005, I participated in the Monadnock Area Artist Associations, “Art in the Park” in Keene, New Hampshire. I sold several pieces, and was greatly encouraged. I felt I was headed in the right direction, but had to work that much harder to improve as a painter.
A workshop with Alex Farquharson was the beginning of my efforts to take my work to the next level. His work with light was eye opening. In my efforts to improve, I continued to seek workshops with master artists. Kenn Backhaus gave a plein air workshop in upstate New York during the winter of 2007. I found his work amazing. His focus on portraying colors accurately made a permanent impression on me.
It took me a while to digest what I had learned and experienced in the workshop with Kenn Backhaus. The next workshop with a master was with Lois Griffel in 2009. Ms. Griffel was the author of Painting the Impressionist Landscape. Her influence caused my painting to develop in a totally new way. I was stricken by her use of layering colors to show depth and vibrancy. It was a magical moment for me. Workshops are a time to experiment with new techniques. I mentioned to Lois that I had thought about the use of the palette knife. She used palette knives herself to an extent. Everything changed when I put down my brushes, and began using palette knives in my work. I felt I was beginning to develop my own style. I felt my participation in a second workshop with Lois Griffel in 2011 further refined my personal style.
During this same period, I also took a couple of workshops with Stapleton Kearns. His use of color was more subtle. He also provided guidance concerning topics as varied as composition and design to the importance of getting the drawing correct. “Color is just window dressing”, he would say. Some elements were in contrast to what I had learned from Lois Griffel. Part of the process of the development of a distinctive style includes integrating the lessons of different teachers into your own approach.
In August 2007, I received my first award, second place in the oil painting category at Manchester, New Hampshire’s “Art if the Park”. In June of 2008 and 2012, I received third place awards at the Beacon Hill Art Walk in Boston, Massachusetts. The combination of selling some paintings, and receiving awards further motivated me to apply for entry into juried art shows. Larger juried shows became part of my annual exhibitions schedule. These included shows in Mystic, Connecticut in August of 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; Beacon Hill in June of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2014; and New Hope, Pennsylvania in September of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Along with other non-juried shows, the summer circuit of shows became a routine.
The smaller juried art shows with limited space for participants was the next challenge in my career. In 2010, I was accepted into the Monadnock Area Artists Association juried art show. In 2011, I was accepted into the highly competitive biennial Juror’s Choice competition at Thorne-Sagendorf Gallery at Keene State College, Keene, New Hampshire. I also qualified for the Newburyport Members Juried Show in 2013 and the March 2014 Newburyport Art Association Juried Regional Art Show in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
In May, 2013 I opened my own gallery in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, which I named Color Notes Art Gallery. In addition to offering my paintings for sale, I conducted workshops and a summer art camp for children. One summer, I mentored a college art student as an intern in my gallery, which I found to be a rewarding experience. I found my role gradually changing to that of the teacher, but I will always be a student as well. I became the art teacher for a group of home schoolers. I organized a juried outdoor fine art show for the town. The list of non-painting jobs continued to grow.
Ultimately I had to ask the question, am I a painter or a gallery owner. The amount of time invested in the business of the gallery left me little time for painting. After four years, I decided to move on and out. Between the endless work load and the equally wearing winters, I decided to sell my property and head south. The decision really became firm while I was sitting on the beach in Hampton. It was a beautiful sunny day with kids playing in the ocean, the frigid Atlantic ocean. I thought to myself, I love the beach, and the water, but not here in New Hampshire. It’s way too cold for me. My mind also wandered ahead, Fall was around the corner, which meant another New England winter was right behind it. All things were pointing in the same direction – south.
When my thinking turned south I thought of a trip to the Gulf coast of Florida I had taken back in March of 2012 with my cousin and a friend of hers. I was in need of healing at the time and it was the perfect answer. During our stay, we took a little road trip to explore the coast. Along the way we stopped in a town called Gulfport. It had a cute, funky and inviting downtown. There were brightly painted shops, a beach along the bay and beachballs hanging from a tree outside an ice cream shop. Sitting on the beach in Hampton, I thought of Gulfport. I could live there, no blizzards, no freezing water, I could move there.
When I got home, I jumped on the computer and did some research on Gulfport. It was an artist enclave, with regular art walks, galleries and an “old Florida” vibe to it. Later that week I announced to my fiancé, “I’m moving to Gulfport, wanna come?”. Six weeks later we were on a plane looking at houses. On a snowy February morning, we began our journey down to Florida to our new home. Two Februaries later we were married on the beach. Florida is now home.