Thursday, April 18, 2019

DPW Spotlight Interview: Sara Gray

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Sara's painting "Portland Headlight - Cape Elizabeth, ME" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Sara's DPW Gallery Page:

I am both a painter and professional photographer living in Maine. My painting is strongly influenced by my 20+ years working as a photographer. The natural landscape has always been my source of inspiration and painting has given me the ability to capture the landscape in a more tactile way. I love texture, color and expressive brushwork.

I work both on location and from photographs, they both have their benefits and I don't always have the luxury of time to spend the necessary time to paint on location. Luckily I love photographing and have a plethora of material!!

Recently I have been splitting my time between Maine and Vermont. These are two amazingly beautiful states and two areas that have played a huge role in my artistic life. What brings me joy is sharing the beauty that I witness everyday with others.

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I started painting abut ten years ago I had been a professional photographer for over twenty years at that point and I had always said I wanted to learn how to paint. My grandmother was an amazing portrait artist and my father was a watercolorist in addition to being a doctor and having a Morgan Horse Farm. I was always intimidated by painting and drawing, I joked that I couldn't draw and that's why I was a photographer, joking aside there was some truth to that! My husband bought me paints and brushes for Christmas and he had arranged for an artist friend of ours to give me lessons and that's how it began.

I live in Falmouth, Maine and we have the Maine College of Art in Portland. I took many Continuing Studies classes in drawing, still life painting, figure, portrait and Plein Air. I met some wonderful people in those classes and we decided to start painting at a friends studio once a week. We had models during the winter and in the summer we would paint outside. Over the years, I took several Plein Air Workshops with some very talented Plein Air painters, the most recent being with Tim Horn, Mark Boedges, Jon Redmond and Lori Putnam. I recently completed a 6 month mentorship with Lori Putnam. I don't have a formal art degree but I do feel like I have received amazing art instruction over the years and I am very grateful to all of the artists who have helped me along the way.

Portland Headlight - Cape Elizabeth, ME
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Sara's interview.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Once I began painting, I never really stopped. It became more about the time and consistency I put into it. Three years ago, I ben to split my time between Maine and Vermont. My father had passed away six years prior and my mother was living on her own in Vermont and was at the point where she needed live in help to remain in her home. My daughter was in college and my husband was currently living in Georgie on a new business venture so I felt I had the time to spend with her. I feel like it has been during this time that I have been much more consistent win my painting. I stopped working as professional photographer to enable me to spend the time with her and painting became my creative outlet. My mother and I would go on drives, I would photograph with my phone and then I would paint from those photos while she napped in the afternoon. It was during this time I signed up with Daily Paintworks so that I had an outlet to sell all of the paintings I was accumulating!

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I began painting with acrylics but quickly moved into oils whenI began taking classes at The Maine College of Art. I have a travel sketchbook where I use pen and ink and watercolors, but I love painting with oils and haven't had a desire to switch. I feel as thought I still have so much yet to learn with the medium.

I have painted landscapes, still life and figure. Painting the landscape is what has really resonated with me. I was a landscape photographer for years so the hunt for beautiful areas and light are familiar to me and has been a part of the process that I love. light is often so fleeting. It is possible to capture many photographs during a sunset or sunrise but painting one complete painting is often not possible. This has led to many frustrating outings for me, but I am learning, I am challenged and just being outside and bearing witness to so many beautiful moments is really what makes me happy. A successful painting is a bonus, and those successes create a feeling that is so satisfying that it keeps bringing me out time and time again.

Little River - Freeport, ME
(click to view)

Who or what inspires you most?

I find my greatest sources of inspiration are being outside in nature and viewing work of other artists. We are so fortunate to have access to the internet because there is a wealth of information at our fingertips and access to thousands of artists both contemporary and deceased. Not only can you see their work but you can learn about them as an artist and their process as well. Living in Maine, I have access to some wonderful galleries and Museums. One of my favorites is the Farnsworth in Rockland. In addition to a collection that includes George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Alex Katz... It is home to the Wyeth center which has a permanent collection of three generations of Wyeth paintings. And then I can walk across the street to a local gallery where I can see some of my favorite contemporary artists, Bo Bartlett, Connie Hayes and Colin Page. The internet is wonderful but nothing compares to seeing paintings in person. Maine has such a rich history of attracting painters and I feel incredibly fortunate to have access to so many venues throughout the state where I can view amazing artwork in person.

However, my biggest source of inspiration is being outside in nature. It is so challenging to paint Plain Air, often it's too cold or too hot, buggy, windy, wet... it can be so frustrating, but it is so fun and what you see and experience becomes part of the painting. Unlike a photograph, I am painting a period of time not a fraction of a second. I have more time to put myself into the painting. I feel the painting becomes a mixture of the emotions of the session whether they are of joy, frustration, awe... it becomes apparent in the brushwork, in the colors used, in the thickness of the paint, the detail or lack of... The painting becomes so much about my personal experience with the subject, the place, that a piece of art is created that only I could've created and I think that is an incredibly special aspect of painting.

Rocks & Surf - Two Lights State Park - Maine
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you?

As wonderful as the internet is at being one of my sources of inspiration, it is also my greatest, by far, sources of procrastination. What I intend to be a few minutes of checking emails and social media can easily turn into an hour of procrastination! Also when I start madly cleaning the house I know I am procrastinating!

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I partook in three, thirty day painting challenges over the past six months and they helped me immensely in creating a discipline and a habit of painting everyday. Whether or not I was going to paint wasn't a question, the question was what am I going to paint? I had made a commitment so I couldn't paint because of travel, etc. but in my everyday life, it just became part of my daily routine. I tend to work much better and efficiently when I make this type of commitment. I have to do more work in making those commitments to myself and not having to be a part of an online community to follow through, but having a community that is right alongside me is really and inspiration and morale booster. Painting can be such a solitary endeavor and being part of a community is really valuable to me. Also having a reason to paint, whether it is a commission, painting for a show, etc... that makes me more able to make the time for myself to paint.

Mckown Point - Boothbay Harbor, ME
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

This is one of my biggest challenges. I became more creative during the thirty day challenges. Wether didn't always permit me to paint outside and I had challenged myself to paint from life everyday so I started painting still lifes. My daughter had taken a ceramics class and we had a lot of her beautiful pottery around the house that I started pairing with fruit in my paintings. After doing this just a couple of time and having to paint everyday a theme emerged that I probably would never have thought of had I not been painting everyday. I was forced to come up with new ideas. I have often found that I am not always inspired to paint but just by the act of painting, something is learned or experienced that will often lead to an exploration of a place, subject or idea.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

Watching videos, taking a workshop, using new tools, painting in new locations, trying a new genre, painting on different surfaces or different size boards, creating exercises for myself where I focus on one thing when I paint, whether it is values, painting with different color palettes, or one exercise I learned from Lori Putnam that really helped me to loosen up was to do an eight brushstroke painting before beginning my actual painting. This allows you to just concentrate e on shapes and values and not getting caught up in the details. These are all tools that have helped me in the past.

Zinnias
(click to view)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I am really trying to concentrate on painting from life now. The majority of my landscape paintings had previously been from photographs but within the last six months I have really made a shift to Plein Air. I will still use photos but I feel as though there is an emotional element when painting outside that is present that isn't as prevalent when painting from a photo I am really trying to work on compositions and using Notans to help me determine lights and shadow and to help me with creating stronger compositions. I always thought composition was a strength I had coming into painting with a photography background. It definitely helped but I still have to get over the obstacle of realizing I don't have to be so literal in what I paint. I can move things around and leave things out to make a stronger painting. It will take me time to become comfortable with this concept!

What makes you happiest about your art?

Before I began painting, I always thought how of you start at a blank canvas and begin? Now that I have been painting, I find the beginning phase to be the most exciting time of a painting. I love how I can take nothing and create something that is completely unique to me. The choice in subject matter, composition, color choice, brushstrokes, what to include and what to leave out, these are all choices and artists decisions that are unique to me. The process of painting makes me happy, meeting people who are passionate about painting makes me happy, but when I complete a painting that I am happy with and it resonates with someone else emotionally, that makes me really happy!

Thanks, Sara!

© 2019 Sophie Marine

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