From Gail's DPW Gallery:
My interest in art was sparked over forty years ago when I was a theater production major in college and an aspiring scene painter. But life had other plans for me and more than twenty-five years passed before my passion was reignited. I worked first with pencil, then charcoal and pastels, and finally oils, while also trying my hand at portraits, figures, still life and landscapes.
I find that what inspires me the most is not so much the subject, as it is the drama that lies within. Whether it is a compelling story, an intriguing expression, or a beautiful play of light and shadow, I am always looking for that emotional response. My works have won numerous awards and have been exhibited throughout New York City and North Jersey. Many are in private collections. (click to read more)
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.
I first picked up a paintbrush in 1973. I was at Carnegie Mellon University majoring in Theater Production and was assigned to a scene painting crew. I loved it and I was convinced I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. That lasted about six years before I changed paths again. However, during that time, I had to take a test to join the Scenic Artists Union and one of the requirements was to paint a landscape. I was good at painting faux wood and marble and stenciling wall paper and making a flat piece of scenery look three dimensional, but I knew nothing about fine art. I even attended classes at the Art Students’ League in New York for a month or two. But life got in the way and it wasn’t until the 1990’s, when my children were in school, that I thought about taking art lessons again. I started drawing with pencil, moved on to charcoal and pastel and then finally to oils. As soon as I picked up a brush, I was hooked all over again.
Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?
I didn’t have any stops and starts since I started drawing classes twenty years ago, but I didn’t really get serious about my painting until rather recently. When my children were grown and out of the house, I set up a studio, spent more time in classes, and traveled to workshops. In the past, painting was just something I did when I had the time. Now it is something I want to do all the time!
|Another Sunflower Painting|
(click to view)
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What mediums and genres have you experimented with?
When I was in college, I did some watercolor copies of my favorite Andrew Wyeth paintings. When I returned to art in the 90’s I started drawing portraits in pencil and charcoal, and then soft and oil pastels. Working from photographs, I did a series of drawings called Portraits in Courage. I was inspired by those who had experienced hardship and loss yet had endured and grown stronger. I wanted to show the wisdom that was written in their faces. Feeling confident enough in my drawing skills I started painting figures in oils, but only in blacks, whites, and grays. I did a series of 30” X 40” paintings, entitled The Park Bench, depicting people from all walks of life as they took a break from their busy lives. Eventually I moved on to color and worked from live models. Now I am concentrating mostly on still life and trying my hand at landscape and plein air. I have taken a few pastel classes too, but I always go back to oils.
Which ones have “stuck” and which ones have fallen away?
I am deathly afraid of watercolors now. I love that oils can be reworked at any time long after they are signed and considered finished. I have paintings framed and hanging on my walls that I revisit years later. Watercolors are much less forgiving. I tried acrylics for about six months and hated it. I didn’t like the feel and flow of the paint and I couldn’t get used to how fast they dry. It just frustrated me.
When I started drawing I only did portraits. But I worked primarily from photographs and now I don’t find that satisfying. Although I still enjoy painting from live models, I like the control of the shapes and composition, and the play of light and shadow that I have when painting still life.
|Baby Bok Choy|
(click to view)
Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?
Landscapes, seascapes, and snowscapes are my current challenge and I want to spend more time painting plein air, rather than from photo references. I would also like to try abstracting the landscape and I am interested in learning how to use a palette knife for more than just detail at the end. I love the look of pastels and am often tempted to try them again. Color mixing with pastels is so different from oils that it’s almost like learning a new language.
Who inspires you most?
The work of Patty Nebbeling, my teacher at the Ridgewood Art Institute in NJ, inspires me to loosen up and simplify. Peter Fiore, a landscape painter whose workshops I have taken, inspires me with his brilliant use of color. John MacDonald, another landscape artist and teacher, inspires me with his beautifully atmospheric paintings. I find inspiration from many contemporary still life and plein air painters, such as Qiang Huang, Neil Carroll, Kathie Odom, Nancy Tankersley and Roger Dale Brown. I love the masters. I am particularly drawn to the drama of light and shadow of Rembrandt and the freedom and color of Cezanne and Van Gogh. And just about everything in Sargent’s paintings.
|Bouquet of Roses|
(click to view)
What inspires you most?
I am always intrigued by the play and drama of light and shadow on a still life or landscape. But sometimes it is the lack of contrast and the more tonal, monochromatic setting that inspires me. Other times it’s the colors or the strong shapes and values that attract me.
What is your mental preparation for painting?
I don’t have any preparation protocol, but I listen to books on my ipod while I paint. I always make sure I have something riveting to listen to. Right now it’s “The Alice Network”, about women spies in WWI and WWII. It’s very good!
What does procrastination look like for you?
I think I do more daily procrastinating than I do daily painting. I am getting better however. I find it most difficult if I am starting something new and don’t have a plan. Once I am working on something I find it much easier to get going.
(click to view)
What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?
For me it is like going to the gym; once I have my gym clothes on and I walk out to the car I will go and work out. I just have to get myself into the studio. Once I am there the hours fly by and the next thing I know it is evening, I am exhausted, and it’s time for dinner.
How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?
Every Wednesday I am in a class where the teacher generally assembles half a dozen setups to choose from. I might tweak them a little. Sometimes a piece of fruit or flower she has brought in will inspire me and I will do my own composition. At home I work from photos. Lately I am concentrating on landscapes and seascapes from photos I have taken during my sailing trips. Many times I will see another artist’s work and it will remind me of a photo reference I have but didn’t think could be a good painting. That will inspire me to find that photo and give it a shot. This past summer I started painting plein air from the back of our sailboat, painting whatever scene is in front of me at the time. It’s always paint worthy!
|Roses in Silver Vase|
(click to view)
How do you keep art “fresh”? What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?
I haven’t experienced burnout yet, possibly because I am always learning and trying new things. Painting landscapes is new for me, and I am just starting to paint en plein air. Recently I started using a palette knife whenever possible and I am experimenting with making my style looser and more painterly. If I feel like a particular painting is bringing me down I will put it aside and paint something else.
What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?
I am striving to learn how to simplify and loosen up and know what to leave in and what to leave out. I think that is the essence of a successful painting. I am also learning that photo references can only take you so far. You need the experience of painting from life to be able to interpret and extrapolate the information in a photo and turn it into a work of art. That seems especially true of landscapes.
What makes you happiest about your art?
I am happiest when I am learning or trying something new. I love exploring. I also must admit that I am most happy when my efforts culminate in a successful painting. And I am ecstatic when someone else is moved by my work and loves it enough to put it in their personal collection!
© 2018 Sophie Marine
© 2018 Sophie Marine