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Opuntia Fruit colorful Southwest watercolor Lisa Hill

Maverick Thinker and Doer — Watercolors by Lisa Hill

morning glory floral flower maverick watercolor painting lisa hill

It takes a maverick to paint what she wants, how she wants to, without listening to voices seeking to control her thoughts and actions. Morning Glories, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill.

Movies, ads, pop music– they theoretically encourage people to be mavericks, to do things their way. As My Way, the song popularized by Frank Sinatra, croons,

“What is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught.”

But in real life — not the make-believe one of movies, ads, pop music — doing it your way isn’t cool or easy, and those who persist fight against a relentless wave of mass media impelled social conformity that seeks to keep them down, submissive, obedient, boring.

“Do it our way,” is the message. “And call it your way.”

rocks colorful maverick watercolor painting texture lisa hill

Rocks aren’t just gray. But it takes a wise, creative, maverick eye to see this. Rock Solid, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill.

Watercolor painter Lisa Hill isn’t interested in this message. As a representational painter of flowers and foliage, she is fully aware of the industrial and urban art world’s decree that representational work is passe, demoded, archaic. What she hears from the “modern” art movement — which, ironically, began in the late 19th century — is that “true artists” focus on abstract.

She dissents.

Representational and Realistic

“I have always been attracted to realistic representational art,” the Richland, WA, artist says.

“While I respect and can appreciate the skill and knowledge involved in creating purely abstract or vaguely realistic art, it does not move me.

“And I take exception to negative attitudes and comments about the realistic style I love. It is often described with discouraging and depressing adjectives: belabored, overworked, too technical, muddy, fussy, tight, tedious, photographic, controlled, imitative, copied, conservative, unimaginative, stifled, calculated, rigid, stiff, not ‘fresh.'” Why not words like meticulous, detail-minded, skillful, precise, accurate, competent, imaginative, energizing, dexterous, proficient, adept, observant, and beautiful?

Several years ago, she adds, she found this statement by French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919):

“Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.”

Delicate flower floral garden watercolor painting Lisa Hill

Renoir is right: what could possibly be wrong with painting beautiful things? Delicate, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill of Richland, WA.

This way of looking at things, she feels, is a timeless one — neither contemporary nor nostalgic, trendy nor outmoded — an attitude that allows freedom of expression for artists to use their creativity in conjunction with their skills and interests, not to mention their maverick personalities.

“I have a lot of plant knowledge and thoroughly enjoy gardening,” Hill says, explaining that, before she turned to art, she spent years working in ornamental horticulture and landscape design.

“It’s natural for me that the subject I most love to paint are flowers and foliage. I don’t think that I am making a statement by painting these things — I just love them.”

Science & Art: A Maverick Combo

Another thing she loves — really, really loves — is the watercolor technique. It is a blend of maverick magic and science, skill with the willingness to play with chance. The medium requires the artist to observe, question, experiment, analyze, examine, speculate, study — in short, do everything you would expect both a scientist and an artist to do.

Opuntia Fruit colorful Southwest watercolor Lisa Hill

Definitely not ordinary but unusual — which is pretty much the definition of maverick. Opuntia Fruit, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill.

“Understanding how water behaves puts the artist in charge (mostly) of what happens to the paint on the paper.

“Why do backruns develop? How do I get the paint to spread out and dissipate? Why does this passage look streaked and blotchy when I wanted a smooth wash?

“The answers are almost always related to the water: how much is on the brush, the paper, and in the puddle of paint.”

Getting those answers, and thereby achieving success with watercolor techniques, requires a high level of scientific knowledge of the behavior of water.

Sing It, Frank; Paint It, Lisa

If she sounds like a teacher, that’s because she is. Ten years ago, Hill and her husband tore the roof off their garage and built a second-level, spacious studio complete with bathroom, kitchenette, storage, windows, and enough room for four students. She holds regular classes for beginning, intermediate, and advanced (“I very specifically do NOT mix beginners with experienced painters if I can help it”) — once a week per class, three hours at a time, over four weeks. Many students return, progressing from beginner to experienced, and this keeps her on her toes.

“I have to come up with new, interesting, challenging projects all the time.”

Not that she’s complaining, because, you see, painting itself is new, interesting, and challenging. In the world of representational art, there is no limit to the creativity, exploration, inspiration, and driving force to learn and see and capture light and color, emotion and movement.

It takes a maverick to understand and do this.

Or, back to Frank and his crooning,

“I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way.”

Or better yet, in Hill’s own words,

“I paint what I want when I’m ready.”

Wenaha GalleryLisa Hill is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from April 6 through May 3, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

ceramic terra cotta pottery platter with cow mary briggs

Ceramic Terra Cotta — Functional Beauty by Mary Briggs

ceramic terra cotta pottery platter with cow mary briggs

Ceramic terra cotta platter, with painting of cow by Mary Briggs

Mary Briggs is a woman who rarely sits. So much is her desire to keep active that she changed specialties in college because her first choice, graphic design, was too sedentary.

“I was the kid whose foot was always wiggling,” Briggs says, explaining why she became a studio potter after earning her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at the University of Iowa.

ceramic terra cotta pottery vase mary briggs

Ceramic terra cotta pottery vase with romantic landscape painting by Mary Briggs

“The wedging of clay or manipulation of clay is a physical activity that might be likened to a baker or chef — moving around the kitchen and using your arms and creating a physical end product.”

Ceramic Terra Cotta Inspired by Folk Pottery

For the Eugene artist, the completed physical end product is terra cotta functional ceramicware — platters, plates, vases, candlestick holders, mugs — inspired by historical folk pottery as well as the works of 19th century Old Masters painters. Briggs began incorporating imagery on her work 15 years ago when she observed how brush marks and drip lines formed impressions of landscapes. It was a short, but significant, step to drawing period images on her work, adding to its sensation of timelessness and meaning.

She focused upon the 19th century landscape for its calming, romantic element, likening the feeling to that inspired by a country drive.

“I find rural life and nature to be calming and beautiful. By using that imagery on my work, I hope it brings a sense of calmness to those who encounter it.

“I also hope to create an awareness of how important nature is to all of us personally and globally.”

Nature: In the Garden and the Ceramic Studio

Nature, for Briggs, is an element that factors throughout her day and week, whether she is in the studio, creating a body of work that, from start to finish, can take up to three months,  or out in the gardens of area residents, who commission her skills in this area.

earthenware ceramic terra cotta painted mug mary briggs

An earthenware, terra cotta ceramic mug by Mary Briggs

“I work as a gardener for a week and then in my studio for a week,” Briggs explains, adding that she began gardening as a side job in graduate school, finding it a natural counterbalance to the intensity of studio work.

“It’s interesting to note that most potters are fabulous cooks and gardeners,” she observes. “It was not my experience that graphic designers were much interested in either of those. It was that sense of community that also attracted me to the field of ceramics.”

Briggs’s studio is based in the garage of her home, and has been renovated with added windows and insulation, additional electricity for her kiln, and ventilation. Because there is limited space for storing inventory, Briggs keeps her work moving, and a major means of doing this is through the Schaller Gallery of St. Joseph, Michigan, which represents some of the finest functional ceramic artists of the world. Most recently, gallery owner Anthony Schaller told Briggs to add Rebecca Sive — who may or may not be the Huffington Post writer who penned Every Day Is Election Day; Briggs isn’t sure  —  to her list of collectors.

ceramic painted landscape pottery platter mary briggs

A ceramic, painted landscape platter with gilded edging, by Mary Briggs

Dedicated to the Ceramic Art

Briggs has shown her pottery in group and solo exhibitions in galleries and universities in Minnesota, Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, Montana , Wyoming, Indiana, and Oregon. Her work is in the permanent collection at Bermuda National Gallery, Contemporary Ceramics, and she has been published in Ceramics: Art & Perception, an international journal dedicated to ceramic art. Her art  also appears in the book, 500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility & Grace by Suzanne J. E. Tourtillott.

Ironically, though Briggs chose to leave graphic design for ceramics, its influence does not go unnoticed in her art.

“I think all my art classes in college have helped with my decoration process,” Briggs says. “From color theory to composition to art history: all those things are in my tool box.” Each piece is individually decorated, in accordance with its shape, size, and form, with the result that every ceramic Briggs creates is uniquely, singularly distinct.

Choosing Terra Cotta

ceramic earthenware terra cotta pottery vases mary briggs

Ceramic earthenware vases by pottery artist Mary Briggs

The very choice of terra cotta — known as poor man’s clay because it is not as dense and white as porcelain — is deliberate, with Briggs being drawn to its rustic quality and unexpected, but welcome, irregularities. It’s of the earth, after all, just like gardening.

In the end, Briggs says, that’s what it’s all about: the earth, and beautiful places, and exquisitely shaped ceramics that capture that beauty and encourage those who see the work.

“My work is not about politics or social commentary.

“It is simply meant to serve as a window into a peaceful place.”

Wenaha Gallery

Mary Briggs is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, August 14 through Saturday, September 9, 2017. 

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.