Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Tammy's painting "Bird" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.
I don’t remember a time in my life that I was not at a minimum sketching something on scrap paper. Drawing was by far my first and most-used artistic endeavor. It was my go to for many, many years. High school was where I finally got a chance to attend full classes dedicated to watercolor, drawing and oil paint. That was home for me. I always struggled feeling like I belonged somewhere, but these classes gave me exactly that, and my teachers always singled me and my work out. I sold my first oil painting to one of the high school teachers who saw my work in the art display there. And though I randomly sold commissions on and off for years, the spark for color didn’t happen seriously until maybe seven or eight years ago. It was teaching art to the kids at our homeschool co-op. There is something about teaching others that makes you hungry to learn more and more and more… I think it may have grown into a slight addiction since then!
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Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Tammy's interview.
Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?
I’m not sure I would ever call it a career exactly, for it’s never been something that could at all support me, but yes, for sure. I took a very long break from it after getting married, working for four years, then having four children and being a stay-at-home-mom who homeschools. As I mentioned, it wasn’t until I started teaching art for our homeschool co-op that I started really feeding the hunger that had been quietly stewing back there in the background all that time. But it had always been there, and I realized later that even when I was not actively painting, I was always having some creative outlet, whether it was making elaborate birthday cakes, or sewing baby quilts, or knitting blankets, or even just having fun doing intricate braids in my sweet daughter’s hair.
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What mediums and genres have you experimented with?
Pencil, colored pencil, pastel, watercolor, acrylic (fast-drying, slow-drying, and Interactive), oil paint, gouache, casein. Every medium seems to have things I love and hate about it! As far as genres, portraits of animals and people have always been what I am most drawn to (though perhaps the most challenging), though I try to mix it up with landscapes, flowers, and still life.
Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?
Watercolor and oil have been what I currently reach for, though I constantly find myself still going back to all the others on and off, usually when I am frustrated with my current choice of medium and its submission to my suggestions! Honestly, I love things about each and every one of them. I love the brushwork you can accomplish only with oil, and I love the glazing that I can accomplish with acrylics, and I love the explosions and integrations of color and glazes with watercolor. I have struggled finding myself as an artist because I cannot seem to keep to one medium or another, and I cannot seem to choose. As far as what’s fallen away, colored pencil and pastels fall into that category. I’ve done some neat things with both of them, and I love the work that other artists are able to do with these mediums. And in some ways, I was super drawn to them because you are working dry, like with pencil, which I’m good at. I like that control. Sometimes a paintbrush feels so uncontrollable! However, for me, colored pencil was too tedious, and I am not that patient. And I love the idea of pastels, but the mess is a bit much for me to bear. And it has such special needs for framing and preserving and transporting.
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Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?
I am really trying to hone in the ones that I already do, though I have been playing more with gouache and casein, and they have been a lot of fun to experiment with, though I am still trying to figure out how to take advantage of their special characteristics. I do like that they both seem to play well with watercolor, so that is something to explore and play with.
Who or what inspires you most?
Reading art books from people like Carol Marine or Mary Whyte or Patti Mollica, watching videos on artistnetwork.com or even just YouTube videos from really talented artists. I am also inspired when my work blesses someone else. It gives it purpose beyond the selfish motivation (which is not invaluable, but like a book that is never read, what’s the point). And like I mentioned, teaching always seems to inspire me to go back to my easel at home and play with paint!
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What does procrastination look like for you?
I am not a procrastinator by nature (unless it’s something I really don’t want to do, and painting definitely does not fall into that category), so I am not sure it looks like much for me in regards to painting. Frankly, I take whatever chance I can get to get a few brushstrokes in. Now, procrastinate on the pile of dishes in my peripheral vision while I am working on my painting across the kitchen? Yeah, maybe.
What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?
Painting is something that I fit into the nooks and crannies of my busy homeschooling, house-keeping, wife-being day, and some days, it just can’t happen, but never for too many days in a row. I kind of feel like it’s in me, just needing to come out. It’s just who I am, who God made me. And sometimes, it will be day after day of terrible paintings and I am sure that I have lost every possible inkling of how to paint, but I’d like to think that I am at least learning what not to do on the next attempt when that happens. Also, as far as making time, there is an advantage to having my “pseudo-studio” in the kitchen, the hub of my home. I always see it, and that paper or gessobord and paintbrushes are just sitting there out in the open, enticing me toward them all day long! More than once my kids have been waiting patiently at the table for our next school subject because I took the short break to add a few strokes to my latest work.
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How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?
My “art studio” is my kitchen desk, and sometimes the sunroom if the weather is nice enough, so I don’t have a lot of space to have a still life set-up. My ideas usually come from photos that I take, usually involving my children or pets (or friends’ children or pets), as they are the ones nearby (and awfully cute in my opinion). Shockingly, these not super-willing subjects don’t last more than about 30 seconds when I ask them to pose for me, so I have to make do with a sneaked photo when they are not paying attention. I am constantly looking for that special “moment,” or just ideas that could be made into a good composition. I do try to come up with non-figurative work too, though it does not come as naturally to me. Some of my best still-lives have come into fruition because the sun will be streaming through the windows, and I’ll use that moment to set up my still life and snap pictures of it with that dramatic light creating all kinds of fun shadows and highlights. And when I run out of decent photos of my own, I certainly rely on pixabay.com for their generous free offerings of photos to work from.
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How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?
I think just always trying to be better. Always growing as an artist. I struggle with thinking a painting is ever “good enough.” And the fact is, it never will be. But I wonder if even the best artists out there feel that way: that they wish their painting was just a little bit better. Well, to constantly be growing and learning must be our focus. There will always be a better artist out there. I find I must just focus on who I am as an artist, and build on that. As long as I do that, my work will always be evolving, hopefully for the better.
Pointe Shoe Day
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What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?
To stop fiddling. I have the unhappy tendency to overwork things, and I have destroyed perfectly decent paintings by my just-one-more-stroke mentality. I am working on being more deliberate with each stroke, with each color. Some of my favorite paintings I’ve done are the ones that I’ve spent the least amount of time on. And that was surprising to me at first, but it makes sense the more I’ve learned, because the more time I spend on it, the more apt I am to turn it all into mud instead of letting the eye fill in the more abstract but cleaner marks.
What makes you happiest about your art?
When the vision I have actually translates to the finished piece, i.e. when a painting works, and when it blesses someone’s life.