Portfolio | Women in Art

Meet talented female painters who create a wide range of artwork

This story was featured in the October 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  October 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Robbie Fitzpatrick

Robbie Fitzpatrick, Gentle Persuasion, watercolor, 20 x 24.

Robbie Fitzpatrick, Gentle Persuasion, watercolor, 20 x 24.

One of Robbie Fitzpatrick’s favorite watercolors unfolded the way many do for the artist: by happy accident. Upon walking into her bedroom one morning, Fitzpatrick found one of her two Rhodesian ridgebacks lying at the foot of the bed, dappled with sunlight that streamed in from an east-facing window. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the light quite that perfect as when I walked in that day,” says Fitzpatrick, who immediately snatched her camera and started clicking away. The scene set the stage for an award-winning watercolor, FOOT OF THE BED.

Fitzpatrick also frequently catches serendipitous moments among the critters who visit the land at her home in southeast Texas, including a rollicking roadrunner-in-residence that’s likely to pop up in one of her watercolors soon. When painting animals, Fitzpatrick always starts with the eyes so that she can see them as she paints. “People can talk and be intellectual, but animals are all feeling,” the artist says fondly. “I think that’s how they relate to us.”

Poignant images beyond the animal kingdom have made their way into Fitzpatrick’s work, too. She painted REFLECTIONS from a photograph of her husband, an Air Force veteran, gazing up at a B-58 in an aerospace museum in Galveston, TX. “Whenever that watercolor has been shown, people walk up to me—whether it wins anything or not—and say, ‘You know, my dad flew.’ That’s why I paint,” says Fitzpatrick. “If somebody smiles, laughs, remembers, or cries, I’m good.” Fitzpatrick’s work can be seen at www.robbiefitzpatrick.com. —Kim Agricola

Heather Lara

Heather Lara, Flamboyance, scratchboard, 8 x 10.

Heather Lara, Flamboyance, scratchboard, 8 x 10.

While working toward a degree in biology, Heather Lara took a science illustration class where she learned to draw animals. She says the class taught students how to draw every hair and muscle to make the image of the animal as biologically accurate as possible. Lara says she has always loved every living thing in nature, especially big cats. The incredibly detailed, photo-realistic animals she creates on scratchboard combine both her passion and her scientific training.

Lara, who never had any formal artistic training and began focusing on art eight years ago, says working on scratchboard can be challenging. “You’re drawing the whole piece with the tip of an X-Acto blade, which is really the finest point you can get,” she says. Lara works on large pieces of wood-based scratchboard and uses photo references of animals she has taken at zoos and sanctuaries all around the world. She says it is difficult to balance her work with her other job of caring for her two young children, as she spends 400 to 500 hours on a single piece. But her painstaking effort can be seen in every feather and long whisker that make up her realistic animal subjects. Lara’s work can be seen at www.heatherlara.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

Gail Faulkner

Gail Faulkner, Autumn Melody, watercolor, 17 x 17.

Gail Faulkner, Autumn Melody, watercolor, 17 x 17.

Gail Faulkner’s soft yet precise watercolors are reminiscent of the still-life and memento mori paintings of the Northern Renaissance. She creates crisp lines and subtle textures with the most careful touch of the brush. Faulkner says many viewers have told her that her work does not appear to be watercolor, because of the very dry and controlled style she uses.

“People have in their minds that watercolor should be loose and flowing with big splashes of color,” Faulkner says. “I always feel that what we do is a reflection of our personalities, and I’ve never been a wild, outgoing person. I’ve always been more reserved, and I think my style reflects that.”

Faulkner worked in many different careers before retiring 12 years ago and focusing on her artwork. Her paintings typically combine a variety of objects including baskets, pottery, fruit, and foliage. She says she often uses fruit and other naturalitems because “there’s just such a variety of shapes and colors, and they complement the other items so naturally.” Faulkner’s work can be seen at Tartaglia Fine Art, Ojai, CA, and www.gailfaulknerstudio.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

Ann Goble

Ann Goble, Malia’s Baby, oil, 30 x 20.

Ann Goble, Malia’s Baby, oil, 30 x 20.

Georgia artist Ann Goble wants viewers of her work to experience the power and movement of the horses she paints. She first became interested in western art through her daughter, who has been an equestrian for most of her life. The family spent a lot of time at horse shows and lessons, where Goble developed a love for the horse’s form and strength.

Goble spent time studying under fellow artists such as Jill Soukup and David Leffel. She often worked from photographs she took at various ranches, but her time spent painting from life on the Zapata Ranch in Colorado helped her develop a deeper understanding of the horse’s place in its surroundings. The artist always listens to music as she applies her underpainting onto the canvas before sketching the subject, “so that before I even start, I’ve got some energy on the canvas.”

Goble tends to focus her painterly brush strokes on the horse rather than the landscape around it. “In painting the horse, it’s my hope that I’m painting that horse’s soul as opposed to just another pretty picture,” she says. Goble’s work can be found at Gallery on the Square, Gainesville, GA, and www.anngoble.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

Marion Loucks

Marion Loucks, Texas Skies Series (2), oil, 8 x 8.

Marion Loucks, Texas Skies Series (2), oil, 8 x 8.

Marion Loucks has always felt the need to paint the landscape around her. She says she can’t explain why. Her soft paintings evoke a tranquil sense of being where viewers are entirely alone with the earth and the sky. “My paintings never have people in them. Sometimes a cow or a horse shows up. I find I’m beginning to add distant birds in flight,” Loucks says. “I think it’s the wildness that draws me.”

Loucks grew up in a family that valued the arts and was encouraged to pursue creative hobbies at an early age in Tulsa, OK. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Tulsa but ended up working in municipal parks and recreation. There she developed her visual memory, which influences her work today.

Loucks starts with an abstract design and underpainting, then adds layers to develop the landscape, letting each layer of paint dry as she goes. She says she has lived in various areas where watching the sky was a matter of survival. It eventually became a habit and then a theme for many of her paintings. Loucks’ work is available at Artisans, A Texas Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX; Fredericksburg Art Guild, Fredericksburg, TX; Texcetera, Johnson City, TX; and www.marionloucksart.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

Bonnie Zahn Griffith

Bonnie Zahn Griffith, Foothills and Wetlands, oil, 9 x 12.

Bonnie Zahn Griffith, Foothills and Wetlands, oil, 9 x 12.

The western landscape has been the apple of Bonnie Zahn Griffith’s eye since she was a child. The artist grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana and describes it as “pretty remote living in the 1950s and ’60s.” Griffith would ride on horseback “for miles and miles,” taking in the rural terrain. Her mother, an illustrator, kept oil paints and charcoal pencils in the house, which provided further entertainment for Griffith. “I loved getting into her art supplies and seeing what I could do with them,” she says.

Today Griffith lives in Meridian, ID, but she frequently returns to Montana to paint its landscapes. The artist works almost exclusively in oils and pastels, and she paints en plein air as often as possible. “I love to do studio work, too,” she says, “but there’s nothing like being out in the elements and being able to see what you’re painting in real time, firsthand, from life.”

Some of Griffith’s favorite places to paint include the Tetons and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, where she completed an artist-in-residence program last year through the Bureau of Land Management. “There’s one point not far from Escalante that I’ve painted numerous times,” says Griffith. “It’s one of those points where you can look in any direction, and whether you’re painting a vista or something up close, it’s totally different everywhere you look. That’s a special spot for me to paint.”

Griffith’s work can be seen at Pendleton Art and Frame, Pendleton, OR; Earthworks Gallery, Yachats, OR; Eagle Art Gallery, Eagle, ID; Wenaha Gallery, Dayton, WA; The Depot Gallery, Red Lodge, MT; and www.bonniegriffith.com. —Kim Agricola

Susan Sarback

Susan Sarback, River Rocks, oil, 12 x 16.

Susan Sarback, River Rocks, oil, 12 x 16.

Beauty compels Susan Sarback to paint. The New York City native grew up in a creative family and began studying art at a young age. “I tried to study other things—science, I liked botany—but I got so intrigued by the beauty of the plants while looking under the microscope,” she laughs. “So ultimately, it was the art and not the science I loved. Finally, I really committed to it.”

Sarback studied at art schools on both the East and West Coasts, delving into the fundamentals of abstract and traditional art. She also spent years studying with American Impressionist painter Henry Hensche. “It was an in-depth study of light and color in nature, of looking at things,” she says. Impressionism continues to inspire Sarback, but today she paints with a different sensibility. “I like to dive deeper into a scene because I’m interested in not just the light and color but also the abstract qualities,” she says.

The artist often completes plein-air studies of a pond near her home in California, portraying its fluidity and rhythmic movement. “What I find interesting are the exquisiteness of light and color, areas of activity and areas of rest, suggestion over description,” says Sarback. “There’s a certain vitality of life, an Asian aesthetic, that I like to capture.”

Sarback’s paintings reflect eastern and western influences, realism, abstract art, and impressionism. It’s a culmination of years of training, she says. “What I’ve learned is a language of art, and now I’m speaking it in a way that is genuine and unique to me.” Sarback’s work can be seen at www.susansarback.com. —Kim Agricola

Stephanie Reiter

Stephanie Reiter, Winter Magic, oil, 5 x 7.

Stephanie Reiter, Winter Magic, oil, 5 x 7.

Stephanie Reiter says she became a plein-air painter thanks to the beauty of the scenery around the summer camp in the Poconos that her family owns and operates. Reiter and her husband have been running Camp Towanda in Honesdale, PA, for 27 years, where Reiter began taking campers along with her to paint outside.

“From the coolest boy to the nerdiest little girl, everyone wanted to do it. It gets them growing up around art, which is great,” Reiter says. She obtained her degree in sculpture from Boston University and slowly gravitated toward painting as well. She creates sculptures of wildlife from found tree branches, as well as more abstract clay pieces, but her oil paintings have gradually taken center stage.

“I just love interpreting nature,” Reiter says. “It’s like I go to heaven and come back with a postcard, which is why I make smaller paintings.” She describes one instance when she was out painting and it began to snow, the delicate flakes sticking to the canvas and melting. “It was such a beautiful, magical experience,” she says. Reiter describes her soft, rolling scenes as impressionistic and says she is trying to portray the moment she is out in nature and responding to it. Reiter’s work can be seen at www.stephaniereiter.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

Peggy Ludington

Peggy Ludington, Fearless, oil, 8 x 8.

Peggy Ludington, Fearless, oil, 8 x 8.

Peggy Ludington could easily be called a jack-of-all-trades. While art has always been a part of her life, she has also practiced law, raised a family, nurtured the environment, and farmed lemons. She eventually returned to art through a landscape painting class that helped her develop her unique painting style of formal expressionism. Today Ludington paints some landscapes, but her main focus is animals. She paints pets, barnyard animals, and wildlife in striking, vibrant colors reminiscent of a photographic negative.

Ludington says all of her different experiences have helped to inform her painting. She says her law practice helped hone her ability to see exactitudes, while living in the country nurtured her strong connection to nature. An avid environmentalist, she says, “I think we’ve all gotten so busy, there are so many distractions, and so many people have lost their connection to the natural world.”

Ludington seeks the truest sense of character through her interpretations of her animal subjects. Strong lighting and shadows help Ludington create a mood until “the eyes speak to me.” But her main goal is to help people reconnect with nature. “There’s something about the way artists portray the natural world in an emotional way that kind of stirs the memory and restores that disconnect,” she says. Ludington’s work can be seen at www.peggyludington.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

Michelle Weber

Michelle Weber, Favorite Time of Day, oil, 30 x 40.

Michelle Weber, Favorite Time of Day, oil, 30 x 40.

Although Michelle Weber grew up on a farm in Minnesota, it wasn’t until she met her husband, whose family raised livestock, that she came to really know the animals in agriculture. “My dad grew corn and soybeans, so the whole cattle thing was new to me,” she says. But while she was working as a graphic designer and painting on the side, she started painting the farm animals and posting the images on social media. “All of a sudden, people started taking notice of me,” Weber says.

Soon local farmers and agricultural organizations began to commission paintings of prized animals and everyday farm and ranching scenes. At that point Weber and her husband agreed that the time was right for her to pursue her own art full time. “I’m not sure most husbands would say, ‘just quit your job and be an artist,’” she says, “but I have had so much support from family.” Today Weber paints similar subject matter, but the scenes on her canvases spring from her own passion for the animals and the people who work with them. “There are no better people than the people in the cattle industry,” she says with evident reverence. “Their herds are a part of their families and may have been with them for generations. To be able to capture that one cow that built their program and have them hang my paintings in their homes, that is the driving force behind my brush.”

Weber’s work can be found at www.webercustompainting.com. —Laura Rintala

Barbara Fracchia

Barbara Fracchia, Floating Kelp, oil, 18 x 36.

Barbara Fracchia, Floating Kelp, oil, 18 x 36.

After studying interior architecture design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco, California painter Barbara Fracchia continued her education with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in fine arts and then worked in graphic design, dabbling with pastels on her own time. “I always drew,” she says, but then she took a workshop from plein-air landscape painter Camille Przewodek. “From then on, I never used anything else but oil.”

Inspired by diverse subject matter, Fracchia cannot be bound by any one genre, painting landscapes as readily as still lifes and figurative works. “I like to be versatile,” she says. For her show entitled Below the Surface, on view at Montserrat Contemporary Gallery in New York during the month of October, she’s completed a series of underwater scenes inspired by photographs taken by her brother-in-law. “Lew is a nature lover,” Fracchia says. “He did a lot of underwater photography. I can’t believe the colors, the deep blues and the turquoise, and,” she continues, “the composition is fantastic! It’s sort of mystical. Most people don’t have the opportunity to see this.” Although she typically works from her own photographs, snapped as she goes about her daily life, for this show she’s working from his photography. Next up on the easel are works inspired by another of her great loves: opera.

Frachhia’s works can be found at Allison McCrady Fine Art Gallery, Orinda, CA; Montserrat Contemporary Art, New York, NY; Pleiades Gallery, New York, NY; and www.barbarafracchia.com. —Laura Rintala

This story was featured in the October 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  October 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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