From Virginia's DPW Gallery Page:
I found my place in the arts early in life, from doodles, and sand drawings on the playground to first paintings in kindergarten. To earn a living, after studying painting and ceramics in college, I pursued what was then known as "commercial art", and ultimately became a graphic designer, first in New York then California - pre- and post-computer. For several years I enjoyed creating and selling pottery, but my true love has always been oil painting. Now living in Northern California, I have enjoyed showing and selling my work in a local gallery. I hope to continue growing and experimenting and learning as an artist, and sharing my journey here with you.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.
I grew up in Southern California and had a painting class in what must have been Kindergarten where we painted standing with easels. I remember putting extra thought into a painting of a snowy mountain, when several teachers came over to admire it. It was an ego booster, and that certainly helps. Also about that time, maybe age six or seven, (long story short) I chanced to meet an old Hollywood character, a self-declared prophet, known in those parts as “Peter the Hermit”, who looked me in the eye and said, “You will be an artist!” Experiences like that stay lodged in your brain. How did he know anything about me? Did I become a painter because he told me that? That incident was strange and memorable, but more important to me at the time was the love and encouragement of two family friends I called aunts. They were both artists, and I was inspired by their work and their dedication to it.
Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?
I did a lot of painting in college, much of it experimental and abstract, then the need to earn a living intervened. I started working in the advertising department of a Beverley Hills department store illustrating shoes and handbags. In New York City, I worked as a production artist in a Graphics studio, later becoming a designer myself. Because Graphic Arts is a unique art form whose goal is selling products, I think I was a little conflicted about painting at the same time. I felt freer creatively when I retired, and started to paint more seriously.
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What mediums and genres have you experimented with?
Aside from doing graphics, and maybe as a contrast to it, I was a potter for several years. I worked in a small studio in New York at the beginning of my graphics career, then spent a summer at the Anderson Ranch in Colorado, learning from some excellent potters. Later after returning to California, I had access to kilns and wheels through classes at Walnut Creek’s excellent Civic Arts Education. My work combined slab and thrown pieces, and I specialized in table-top fountains which I exhibited there and at in a local gallery. I have tried watercolor, etching, and even played with marble painting, but oil painting was on my mind through it all.
Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?
It takes a lot of room to be a potter: lots of equipment and lots of storage space. When I retired, we moved and downsized. The long and short of it is, I gave up pottery, and started painting again. I love oil painting more than any other art form, and that is what I want to keep doing.
|Paddling the Whitefish|
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Who or what inspires you most?
In college I was in love with with Fauvism, especially Matisse paintings of that period. Think of “The Green Stripe.” Then l was into Abstract Expressionism, but more as an intellectual exercise than practice. Carol says, and she is right, that you learn by doing, and that drawing is central when it comes to painting. The teachers I had before and through college were well established, and certainly charismatic, but mostly wanted you to paint like they did, and they didn’t inspire me. After I graduated I took a drawing class at the then Chouinard Art Institute in L.A. taught by a man named Don Graham who had come from Disney. He was just a wonderful teacher whose methods caused me to approach drawing with brand new eyes - brand new understanding. He wrote a book, which I have, but being right there, learning from him in person, was game changer for me. I still spend time reading about and studying artists such as John Singer Sargent, and Anders Zorn, and am inspired by the figurative work of Diebenkorn, Thiebaud, and a long list of others. I am also inspired by painters whose work I have discovered through DPW. But I often think of Don, now long gone, and like to think he would approve of my work.
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What does procrastination look like for you?
I paint every chance I get; most days, in fact. But there are lots of distractions, and I’m often sidetracked. I have chores: meals, gardening, etc. and I have to make myself get off the computer. I am also an avid birder, very distracting, not to mention wanting to spend time with my husband canoeing, hiking. Then there’s the dog, the cat. Being sheltered in place certainly helps remove distractions, and I am lucky to be retired with work no longer being an issue. I don’t think I’m really that much of a procrastinator. I’m more apt to worry if I have enough time left in my life to do all the painting I want to do, especially when I feel there is still so much to learn.
|Bike Rack Abstract|
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What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?
It took many years before I could have the time to paint, and now I really want to paint. I want to paint right now and stop writing.
How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?
I have subjects: water, boats, flowers; and I keep lots of photos (only use those I’ve taken) as candidates. But I read somewhere that Picasso said, “I don’t seek, I find.” But finding is also an art. You have to be alert. I tend to be “in my head,” and have to remember to focus when there is something visually interesting right in front of me - usually something about light - then stop, see, and capture it. I also like using local subjects such as farmers markets. And I happen to live in a beautiful place by a river. There are subjects all around me.
|Port Townsend Harbor|
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How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?
Tough issue. It’s hard to know when you are in the “investment trap” and need to let an old dog go. I admit that sometimes I will work a painting to death. If I catch myself at it, I wipe or sand it all off and start over or give up on that subject. For me, keeping work vibrant often means simplifying it. For my way of working, too much detail kills freshness. On the other hand, I’ve painted over several paintings I later wish I had kept, and that is another trap.
What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?
I am continuously working on drawing within painting, letting paint flow more easily, staying “in the zone." I want subjects to be located in space, and for the paint to have a sort of linear movement; a hard task. I also try to be patient. I certainly am not in a place where I can do a painting a day.
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What makes you happiest about your art?
I am not a message painter. For me it is all about the paint. There is a sort of balance of line, color, space and tone that goes “Wham,” when it all comes together, and I breathe an inner “aaah.” Getting that makes me happy. Striving for that makes me happy.
© 2020 Sophie Marine