Thursday, June 4, 2020

DPW Spotlight Interview: Patricia Tomes

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Patricia's painting "Cloud Spectacle" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Patricia's DPW Gallery Page:

I make small oil paintings of big spaces focused on the rural landscape. I strive to interpret the broad skies and far horizons surrounding me with hope that the viewer may renew their own sense of place in the world.

I paint with oils, primarily on panels using painting knives and mark-making to parallel the texture of the land and sky. I began painting in a small format several years ago, mainly out of a desire to simplify and found working small is not only conducive to maintaining a daily painting practice but it also affords me a greater opportunity to achieve my goal to provide a quiet, intimate interpretation of the land. (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting?

When I was just a child, my mother had enrolled in a correspondence painting course. I suppose it was a 1950’s version of today’s on-line courses. She had assignments that she mailed in and they were returned with handwritten critiques by a handful of working artists. She worked in oils at a tripod easel and often told the story of how as toddlers, my sister and I ruined one of her pieces by using it for a finger painting. I don’t have an actual memory of that but I do remember her fascinating course books that covered everything from anatomy to still life and I used them for years as my introduction to oil painting. Later, as a young teen, I enrolled in my first formal courses at a local arts academy where we had models and I created my first color charts. My mother also introduced us to Plein Air painting at an early age. In the summer we had favorite places to stop with a picnic lunch and watercolors.

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

Though I can’t remember a time I didn’t paint, I certainly explored a lot of other avenues in the process of finding my way to the daily painting practice that I enjoy today. I received a Fine Arts degree with a focus on sculpture and at the time, I don’t believe I even considered how I was going to make a living as an artist. Most of my life, I worked in an administrative career with non-profit organizations and painted intermittently in my spare time. I have always given myself a space/place to paint and a bench to tinker at but it wasn’t until my retirement that I finally made a commitment to paint every day and I finally allowed myself to earnestly work toward and achieve the goals of showing and selling my work.

Today, I am happy to say, most of my house is studio space.

Cloud Spectacle
(click to view)

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

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

For a long time, probably half my life, I painted figurative work or still life focused on things like clothing, individual figures and even over-sized fruit. Acrylics have never been a go-to for me though I have used them for special project pieces.

I use a few different underpainting techniques and sometimes use refillable acrylic markers as well as oil sticks. I like to experiment with thick heavy textures. I rarely, rarely use a brush. Most all my works are done with painting knives and silicone spatulas, so I can go thick and use textures that follow the shapes in the landscape. That’s a sculptural connection for me.

I started painting small pieces about the same time I committed to a daily painting routine, the two go hand in hand. I live in a small house, I can easily carry pieces outside to work on a landscape and I’m not tripping all over my work here.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

I still love charcoal and leads. I can’t imagine that will ever leave me. There are times when a painting just isn’t happening so I take a break from it by sitting quietly with my sketch pad. Sometimes I just focus on an element or texture right in front of me. That’s a very relaxing meditation for me. When I lived in New Mexico I used oil pigment sticks on hardwood panels quite a lot. Like watercolor, it was a convenient medium to go camping with.

Oils of course are my first choice for doing finished works. I try to maintain a solvent free studio and rarely use any additional paint mediums. There was a time when I didn’t paint without some toxic additive, it’s nice to not be bothered with that anymore. Thick paint and painting knives are another good pairing and also less reason to have to rely on any additives.

April Showers
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

Gouache is on my list of “wants”. I think it will translate well in the small format paintings that I do. I also like the idea of using it in a sketch book. I think it will force me to bring more discipline to my marks. I just got a new bicycle and I’m thinking of rigging it with a little Plein Air set that will be a far less intrusive way to access special places. I really hope I can make it work because I just don’t enjoy dragging oil paints and wet panels around anymore. And I'm enjoying being out on my bike.

I’ve also been doing a small amount of digital work with a tablet and pen, nothing that’s ready for prime time but I could see doing more color field work in a digital format. I do use a digital tablet to work out questions of color and sometimes composition which is very convenient.

Who or what inspires you most?

The inspirational ‘what’ is easy to answer: the colors of the day, the morning sunrise, the cloud formations rising and changing in a few moments of time, the deep shadowed spaces with just a bit of light filtering through. Maybe more than anything else, some dynamic clouds will cause me to drop what I’m doing and grab the paints - or my camera!

There are so many artists who I have found because of the internet and a few I would go out of my way to see in a gallery or museum. I think the artists that inspire me the most do two things: they leave a lot of mystery in their work and they get a color/light in a canvas like I have never seen captured.

These are at the top of my list: Michael Workman can capture the atmosphere of big western space using loose, nearly abstracted mark making like few others. When I came across the work of Brad Teare a few years ago, I was instantly inspired to try some thick paint techniques. He is on a totally different level and his disciplined process is amazing. Brian Rutenberg is a hugely dynamic artist whose large, bright, thickly painted abstracted landscapes bring me great joy not to mention his many videos. If Rutenberg doesn’t get you excited about color, nothing will! He is the reason I bought my first tube of Cobalt Teal - wow!

And a few others that I find truly inspirational: Shushana Rucker from Philadelphia (and Idaho), Marcus Bohne from Massachusetts, John Felsing from Michigan, William Hawkins from Arizona, Clifford How from Australia, Stephanie Hartshorne from Colorado and Harley Manifold from Australia.

I began following Mary Bentz Gilkerson several years ago (about the same time I found DPW) and credit her videos as the original inspiration for me to make a commitment to a daily painting practice. Her message, that as artists we have a responsibility to show our work, continues to provide me with encouragement.

Heading to Town
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you?

Procrastination for me is having a deadline to get frames completed and waiting until the week or even night before. I think my pieces show better in frames and I’m not yet at the place where I can afford to have them made so for now I make them myself. I can enjoy the process but it takes time and I tend to put it off until the last moment.

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

I count myself fortunate that I’m able to get up in the morning and go right to my easel, if I have good energy going with a piece, I might not even bother with the coffee. A good painting day is four hours in the morning and another two or three hours in late evening or the reverse of that. A lot depends on the weather but I do like to start my mornings at the easel. I just recently gave myself permission to not paint for a day or even two - like a weekend break. My biggest challenge happens if I get in a rut of too many bad paintings in a row, like nothing seems to go smoothly, I think all of us have those phases. That’s when I try to get to a museum or gallery, look at something other than my own work.

Making Our Way
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I think I’m just constantly looking at the light, the shapes, the color of the landscape. In good weather I take a walk through the fields or ride my bike. I sometimes take my sketch book but not always and I’ve gotten away from doing plein air paintings much beyond my own back yard. There is still so much for me to see right outside my door. If I see something I really want to capture away from the house, I’ll take photos and work out some thumbnail sketches later and maybe revisit the location after I have done some sketches.

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

Though I live in the country, it’s an easy day trip for me to visit Philadelphia or the Baltimore - DC area, so a lot of museums and galleries are normally accessible. Without being able to actually visit I rely on social media but that’s not the same. I’m really missing that access now because of the Covid-19 shut down.

You know, the smallest things can excite me, new mark-making, new adjacent colors that I hadn’t tried before. I think experimenting with process or looking at the little secret spots in a landscape keep me engaged. I have been experimenting taking my landscapes to an abstracted level that keeps me excited. I’m trying to focus on shapes and colors found in the shadows of the landscape both distant and close. Lately I’ve been looking at the shadows in the landscape and trying to force myself to look at the smaller elements. That’s not so easy for me since I always want to paint big sky.

(click to view)

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

In my paintings, I’ve been trying to focus on the impact that edges and deep shadows have on the atmosphere of a piece, there’s a balance I feel like I’m searching for. I’m also trying to relax more about a piece that just isn’t working the way I want it to and let it go, move on to another piece.

This has certainly been a challenging year for showing work and even though I’ve had two scheduled solo shows completely canceled, the Covid-19 quarantine has given me a chance to focus on building my presence on-line, particularly here at DPW. The business end of maintaining a painting practice can be very demanding and quite a challenge. I’m really glad that DPW exists for artists.

What makes you happiest about your art?

I think what feels especially good is when a viewer gets excited enough to want to own a painting and they share with me how they have connected to it on a very personal level. That means a lot to me, that I can create an image that touches the heart of someone. That, I think, can be called success.

Thanks, Patricia!

© 2020 Sophie Marine

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