Portfolio | A Sense of Place

Meet 6 painters who capture the landscape in varied styles and mediums

This story was featured in the February 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art February 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Linda Mutti

Linda Mutti, Symphony of Light, pastel, 12 x 16.

Linda Mutti, Symphony of Light, pastel, 12 x 16.

Although Linda Mutti knew she wanted to be an artist, initially she found the trends of the time were not in her favor. Entering college as an art major interested in representational work, Mutti found the focus to be on modern and abstract styles instead. She didn’t begin painting again until 30 years later, when she started taking local art classes.

In the beginning, landscapes, a staple of her portfolio today, seemed difficult and daunting. But when she was invited to work with a plein-air painting class, she found her passion. Today Mutti’s main focus in her traditional landscape works is the light. She will often visit one place multiple times to examine the way the light changes, and how that changes her feelings about the scene. “The adventure and the challenge of rendering it and how I’m feeling about it is constant,” Mutti says. “It gets to be more fun and fulfilling with every painting, even the failures.”

The artist says she is influenced by impressionism and its use of broken color—a technique she often employs in her paintings of fog and clouds to “make the gray exciting.” Mutti is a member of the Oak Group, a team of artists using their work to support nature preservation causes. She says she hopes her work shows the beauty of open space and the value in saving it. Mutti’s work can be found at Bronze, Silver & Gold Gallery, Cambria, CA; Thomas Lee Gallery, Ashland, OR; Gallery Los Olivos, Los Olivos, CA; Signature Gallery, Paso Robles, CA; and www.lindamutti.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

Madina Croce

Madina Croce, Thistles, oil, 14 x 18.

Madina Croce, Thistles, oil, 14 x 18.

Madina Croce remembers selling her first painting at age 10. She had been winning art competitions in her elementary school, and adults were even giving her commissions for animal paintings. But after her father passed away when she was a teenager, she withdrew from her passion. Croce pursued dancing and music for several years. But, she says, “I started really missing color in my life.” She took drawing classes at a community college, and her passion returned.

Croce is primarily self-taught, although she has supplemented her knowledge with workshops. She describes her style as both impressionistic and realistic, saying the two techniques have always melded together in her work. “I used to always watch my grandmother paint and, as her eyesight grew dimmer, she would put more paint on the
canvas so she could see it,” Croce says. “I feel like that got into me somehow so that when I started painting, it was the natural thing to do.” The artist often uses multiple tools to apply her paints, including brushes, palette knives, and utensils lying around her kitchen. Whether she’s painting the mountainous regions of her home in New Mexico or the dramatic cliffs of the Monterey Peninsula, Croce is drawn to backlit scenes and
dramatic sunlight. The three-dimensional textures she uses and the wide range of her palette help bring out the luscious atmosphere of each place. “The people who fall in love with my work say the sunlight gives them energy and a sense of joy,” she says. “It’s that same joy that I felt when I was creating it.” Croce’s work can be found at www.madinacroce.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

R. Gregory Summers

R. Gregory Summers, Enjoying My Falls, oil, 11 x 14.

R. Gregory Summers, Enjoying My Falls, oil, 11 x 14.

Like many plein-air artists, R. Gregory Summers thrives on a variety of subject matter, from pastoral scenes, forest streams, and waterfalls to wharfs, city streets, and mountain peaks. Capturing diverse scenery at his easel is a rather liberating treat for the Kansas native, who launched his art career nearly four decades ago at Hallmark Cards. There, he learned to sculpt in metal and worked as a master engraver for 30 years. “As an engraver, I was taking a two-dimensional design and carving it into three-dimensional metal,” he says. “It was very detail-oriented. I would spend days
working within a couple square inches.”

These days the artist is blissfully moving in the exact opposite direction. Summers—a cofounder of the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society—describes his style as representational impressionism, and at times, even expressionistic. His newfound “less is more” approach further expanded when his former mentor, the late landscape painter Rick Howell, challenged Summers to do the unthinkable: “I had been using seven colors, and Rick took three away,” he says. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’”

Despite his initial reluctance, the artist has since flourished while using the limited palette. “It’s an amazing feeling to visit different parts of the world and see all these different colors, and then try to re-create them with just four,” says Summers. “The best part about it is that I’m creating a better harmony in my paintings, and I teach it in my workshops now.”

Find Summers’ work at Leawood Fine Art, Leawood, KS; Cathy Kline Art Gallery, Parkville, MO; Folger Galleries, Midland, TX; Mr. Miller’s Art Emporium, Douglas, MI; and Papagallery Artists Association, Boca Raton, FL. —Kim Agricola

Carol Pelletier

Carol Pelletier, West Beach III, oil/cold wax, 12 x 12.

Carol Pelletier, West Beach III, oil/cold wax, 12 x 12.

Upon stepping into Carol Pelletier’s solo exhibitions in years past, many visitors have told the artist how quiet the room feels. That, says Pelletier, is precisely what she wants to convey in her landscape paintings, which she describes as minimalist and meditative. “Time moves so quickly,” she adds. “What I’m trying to do is capture one moment where time slows down.”

Pelletier maintains two studios, one on a small island in Maine and another on Cape Ann, MA, near Boston. From these locations, the artist is able to acutely observe New England’s seasonal shifts in light and color, and she documents these changes with her camera almost daily. Often, her snapshots inspire her paintings. “Within an hour I can capture a few hundred images of dramatic shifts in light and color,” says Pelletier. “I’m mainly interested in end-of-day shifts in light—the 20 minutes before sunset. Color becomes intensified, and the structure of the sky and ground are in flux, creating visual and emotional depth.”

To re-create atmospheric depth and luminosity in her paintings, the artist applies a combination of cold wax and oil paint to her surfaces in very thin layers, sometimes building up to 25 layers in a single piece. Each layer must dry before she applies another, and she also removes color as part of her process. “It becomes a collaboration with the painting,” explains Pelletier. “As I scrape paint away, I can see what one layer of color is doing to another. I’m applying paint, removing it, and putting it back. I try to pay attention to what the painting is trying to evoke.” Find Pelletier’s work at Cynthia Winings Gallery, Blue Hill, ME. —Kim Agricola

Lilli-Anne Price

Lilli-Anne Price, Here Come the Clouds, oil, 11 x 14.

Lilli-Anne Price, Here Come the Clouds, oil, 11 x 14.

Long before she began painting 16 years ago, Lilli-anne Price was already cultivating and refining an artist’s eye. She had become a seasoned sculptor of sorts, having styled hair for two decades. “As a beautician, I was always carving around the negative space,” she says. “That’s how I cut hair, from the time I was 8 years old.”

Price studied life drawing and painting at the Carmel Adult School in California for two years before setting out on her own unique path in painting in 2003. Not surprisingly, she chose palette knives as her primary tools. Today, working both en plein air and in her studio, Price seeks to capture the “abstract qualities” in nature as she layers, sculpts, and scrapes away paint on her surfaces using a variety of blade shapes and sizes. “I always begin with an accurate representation before abstracting something,” she explains. “When you know what works, you can twist it from there. Rules can be broken.”

For the past 30 years, Price has lived on the Monterey Peninsula, where the mild, oceanic clime evokes memories of her native South Africa. Thus inspired, the artist often portrays the knolls and pastures around her home in the Salinas Valley—an agricultural heartland once memorialized by novelist John Steinbeck. Indeed, Steinbeck Country and the nearby sea provide a picture-perfect setting for Price herself, who relishes “raw color” and reveres early California colorists like Armin Hansen and William Ritschel. “No matter where I look, there’s always a composition waiting to be painted,” she says. See Price’s work at Carmel Art Association Gallery, Carmel, CA, and Lilli-anne Price Contemporary Fine Art, Carmel, CA. —Kim Agricola

Jill Basham

Jill Basham, Once, oil, 48 x 60.

Jill Basham, Once, oil, 48 x 60.

It was the denial of fear that pushed Jill Basham into her art career. After studying urban planning in college and raising her family, Basham began taking drawing and painting classes in 2009. “I wanted to push that fear of change aside and not be afraid to try new things,” she says. Her background in urban planning reflects her love of the landscape and how it affects people. So it seemed to be a natural subject for her more creative work. “I’ve always been moved by certain aspects of landscape that I feel others are missing,” she says. “And I need to express and share the beauty of it.”

Basham’s rough treatment of her paint provides a more transparent view of the scenery. “I’m not a ‘sweet’ painter,” she says. “I’d rather give some emotional context where the viewer can respond to it on a deeper level.” However, she says the specific scene she is painting influences how she paints it. “If I’m painting something quiet like a misty marsh, the paint can be very thin,” she says. Recently, Basham has turned away from photographic references and paints entirely from memory. “This opens up the door for more expressive paintings,” she says. “There’s more freedom for me to create something emotional instead of worrying about it being just right.” Basham’s work can be found at Handwright Gallery, New Canaan, CT; Reinert Fine Art, Blowing Rock, NC; South Street Art Gallery, Easton, MD; Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA; and www.jillbasham.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

This story was featured in the February 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art February 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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