Meet 5 artists who capture the world in impressionistic paintings
This story was featured in the September 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
While she’s drawn to vintage items that resonate with nostalgia—anything from mason jars to classic cars—Jeannie Paty can be inspired just as easily by something as simple as a tube of mascara. “When my daughter was [first] getting into makeup, I was painting a lot of lipstick and shoes. Now I am painting boats and reflections and figurative pieces,” she says. But it’s all the same to her because when she looks at subject matter, Paty sees abstracted shapes, colors, and shadows.
The artist thinks of herself as both poet and composer. While she’s deciding what will go into her paintings—and, just as important, what will be left out—she’s also composing a structure: “You’re choosing how you’re going to weave the viewer around the painting,” she says. All of this serves to create a specific impression of what she experienced at the scene.
Paty thrives on the inspiration she receives from artists of all kinds. “Each artist—whether a writer, a dancer, a painter, or a musician—they each have their own medium for expression,” she says. Her own preferred medium is oil paint, with its lusciousness, its forgiving and versatile nature, and the variety of textures she can achieve with it, blending thick impasto work with thin, rhythmic passages. But for this artist, what it really all comes down to is color: “Color,” Paty says, “makes me feel like a teenager on a first date.” Her works can be found at Broadmoor Galleries, Colorado Springs, CO; Horton Fine Art, Beaver Creek, CO; and www.jeanniepaty.com. —Laura Rintala
Shannon Smith Hughes
“I react to how light interacts with a subject,” says Charleston, SC, painter Shannon Smith Hughes. Abstract shapes in water and in reflective surfaces, and the way light falls on an object, all inspire her, she says. “It’s about the shapes in light and color.” With exaggerated hues and experimental brushwork, Hughes’ still lifes, landscapes, and figurative works contain both impressionistic and expressionistic qualities. “I paint from life as much as possible. But I’m not painting the scene photo-realistically,” she says, “I’m painting my impression of it—how I would like the viewer to see it.”
Having been surrounded by art all of her life, being a painter comes as a natural progression. “My mom, my sister, and I own Anglin Smith Fine Art,” she says, “and we’re all artists.” Hughes is actually a triplet. Her identical-twin sister is a painter, and her fraternal-twin brother is a photographer. “We were always exposed to art,” she says. “My mother showed us that it could be done and gave us the courage to go for it.”
Currently Hughes is returning to painting after a short sabbatical. “It’s a rejuvenating feeling to be back into painting again. I am painting in my mind all the time. The light evokes an energy. That’s what I feel when I paint, and I hope that is what the viewer sees and feels when they look at my work,” she says. Hughes’ work can be found at Anglin Smith Fine Art, Charleston, SC; Parker Gallery, St. Simons Island, GA; Anne Irwin Fine Art, Atlanta, GA; and Coco Vivo Fine Art, Boothbay Harbor, ME. —Laura Rintala
Randall Tillery’s fine-art career didn’t fully develop until 15 years ago. After high school, he joined the military and then became an electrician until his four children grew up. But art shadowed him throughout his life. His father, a cartoonist, encouraged him in art, and Tillery continued to draw throughout his electrical career until his calling came from everybody’s favorite curly-haired TV artist. “I was watching Bob Ross on TV and thought, ‘I need to get back into painting,’” the Oregon artist says. “The next day I bought some paints and jumped into it with both feet. Now I just paint, paint, paint.” Tillery has fine-tuned his skills through workshops with Don Demers, Sherrie McGraw, Kevin Macpherson, and Kathleen Dunphy, among others.
It’s the land that inspires his works—the artist says he’s felt a connection to the natural world his entire life. “I love nature,” he says. “I do a lot of plein-air work. It’s just me and nature and the paints. It’s almost spiritual for me.” Tillery considers himself a “conservative” impressionist, enjoying the looseness of impressionism but keeping enough detail to lure his viewers to his subjects. “I like to paint a scene that conveys what I felt when I was there and leave enough unsaid that there’s viewer interaction,” he says. “I think it’s important that the viewer be an active part in the painting and not just a passive observer.” Tillery’s work can be found at Clearwater Gallery, Sisters, OR; American Visions Art Gallery, Folsom, CA; Brian Scott Gallery, Brookings, OR; and www.artbytillery.com. —Joe Kovack
When Pennsylvania painter Valerie Craig was young, she showed a natural gift for drawing, so her mother sought out local artists who offered classes in the Philadelphia area. Craig attended workshops weekly throughout high school in the 1960s and ’70s. In college she pursued a nursing degree from Georgetown University and eventually earned her master’s in psychiatric nursing. But Craig continued taking workshops and art classes on the side, keeping the flame of artistic expression alive. “I remember sitting outside painting on the Washington Mall and thinking, ‘This is what I want to do with the rest of my life,’” Craig says.
She enjoyed a fulfilling career in nursing administration until, under the intensity and stress of the job, she decided to retire early and revisit her love of art. For the past 15 years Craig has painted full time, moving from still lifes in watercolor to landscapes in oils, always working in an impressionistic style. Craig employs a painterly and loose approach, which accentuates her love of atmosphere, in her landscapes of the East Coast, Ireland, and France. “I’m very much inspired by any kind of atmospheric conditions,” she says. “[With plein-air painting] I like to get its essence into my painting. I have to feel the heat, the cold, and the discomfort because that goes into your spirit and out through your paintbrush.” Craig’s work can be found at The Laffer Gallery, Schuylerville, NY; Newman & Saunders Galleries, Wayne, PA; Art Access Gallery, Columbus, OH; Parker Gallery, St. Simons Island, GA; and www.valeriecraig.com. —Joe Kovack
The first thing to know about Kevin Beilfuss’ recent approach to his work is that he has moved his models from the studio to the outdoors. Known for his evocative impressionistic takes on the female form, the Illinois painter is now exploring the light that falls across the figure amid lush forest surroundings. “Usually in the studio there is only one light source, resulting in a clear definition of the figure,” Beilfuss says. “But the dappled light that comes through the trees hits the form in an irrational way, causing the form that is mostly in shadow to blend in with the background.”
The artist gave up a successful career in illustration in 2003 to take a full-time plunge into the fine-art world. The demands of rendering someone else’s ideas having taken its toll, Beilfuss says he was ready to capture his own visions on canvas. Early in his painting career, his subject matter of choice was the classic female form. With a lot of chaos reigning across the globe today, Beilfuss says his artistic mission is to evoke a sense of tranquility and peace through his portrayals. “Women also have been found beautiful throughout art history,” he says. “I want to capture a sense of timelessness, so the viewer doesn’t know if the painting was done today or 100 years ago.”
Beilfuss is represented by Waterhouse Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA; Gallery Russia, Scottsdale, AZ; Sage Creek Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Total Arts Gallery, Taos, NM; Palm Avenue Fine Art, Sarasota, FL; and Walls Fine Art Gallery, White Sulphur Springs, WV. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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