Artist Spotlight: Jayne Shoup

Jayne Shoup is a painter living in Middlesex, Vermont. Her paintings usually depict scenes or objects from her central Vermont neighborhood. Each standing or slumping barn, towering tree, or unfolding flower in her work reflects the serenity and beauty of this area of Vermont. Some paintings are of New Mexico’s landscape and architecture. She is a member of the Vermont Crafts Council, Art Resource Association, Northern Vermont Artists’ Association, Bryan Memorial Gallery, and the Vermont Pastel Society.
Interview by : Tom Waters

For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your art?

I call myself a contemporary modernist painter. What I mean by that is I’m sort of a throwback to the true American Modernists who were painting between the two world wars.

I never went to Europe so I haven’t studied any art there so I have that in common with them. In the O’Keeffe / Stieglitz school there was this celebration of nature that I have as well. And they certainly brought more emotional kinds of feeling to work than what had been showing up in a lot of the paintings in that era. I call myself “contemporary” because I’m not dead yet, obviously, but I do trace myself back to the American Modernists.

How long have you been an artist, and how did you get your start?

I started seriously in the late 1990’s. I had been a writer for a long time, a creative writer, and that’s a tough trade too. Visual arts are hard, but I think a writer’s lot is worse. Talk about being in a vacuum. You are so isolated and it’s so hard to break in. I was disillusioned with what was happening and I’d always liked visual arts. I realized what really called to me was creating a visual image as opposed to doing that with narrative, with language. So I started in the late 90’s with watercolors and gouache, and then I took a pastel workshop with Linda Hogan in Montpelier. That’s when I got serious about what I was doing. I learned in the early years how to use pastels and that sort of thing. And like many people, I tried to render everything. You know, I’d look out at a landscape and see every leaf and I tried to do that at first. Then I realized I could edit things.

Your work is very personal.  As you state in your artist statement, you “depict scenes or objects from my central Vermont neighborhood”.  Describe how you choose what to depict and why.

Path   16x12 pastel
Path 16×12 pastel

When we first moved to Vermont in 1988, we moved next door to a working dairy farm that had about 75 cows and two farmers in their 70’s. It was really different for me. I came from a rural wooded area in western Pennsylvania and then came here, which was rural agricultural. I really enjoyed that. I liked it visually. I found the landscape very stimulating.

I walk a lot, and just seeing things, like old homes, sometimes falling apart, sometimes being restored. I like seasonal changes, that became more important to me. I got used to the rhythm of the land because of the farmers next door. I’ve never been a fan of painting snow scenes, but I have done that. There is not enough color in winter, for me, so it’s not my favorite. But I like looking around my neighborhood.

I recently started work on a piece, on my easel right now, inspired by neighbors building a new house. They built it on this little knoll of land. That was two years ago. I walk past there every day, and in the meantime they’ve added a mudroom and a deck. Three weeks ago I looked at the house and said, “There’s a painting!” Nothing had really changed with the house, but the sky opened up that day. There were some clouds and the sun was lightly covered and there was a little bit of a notch in the pine trees on one side and deciduous trees were on the other. The house was sort of centered on the knoll. And that really struck me. So it’s that kind of thing where I may see a particular scene for a number of years and then it becomes a painting for me.

Also, I sometimes feel like the scene chooses me, after a while, to paint it. At first I’m not quite ready. I haven’t looked at it enough. I don’t know. But I think over time, I keep looking at it and seeing it through different seasons. Then there is just that one day where, literally, the sky will open and now it’s a painting. That was it for me.

I find that happens quite often with this area. I’m lucky because we live in this little valley with a farm in it that actually isn’t in production anymore, which I’m quite sad about. But it’s visually striking because the barn’s still here and one of those old, eight-sided wooden silos. Just seeing those kinds of things stimulates. I live in an old farmhouse, circa 1848, and both houses next to us are a similar era. It’s that old New England look and I like that.

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Jayne Shoup

Artist Spotlight: Eric Tobin

Warm Winter Day
Warm Winter Day – 24 x 36 oil

Eric Tobin is a painter from Vermont who aims to capture the beauty of the moment, the light, and the setting of landscapes. His love for Vermont can be seen in each of his works; evoking the feelings of the natural setting in which he chooses to paint. Most of Eric’s work is done outdoors, regardless of time of year, difficult setting, or rapidly changing conditions. He strives to paint the feeling of a place and particularly likes painting in the winter, spring and fall. Eric’s work has been shown in many New England galleries and is in private collections around the world.

For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your art?

 I would describe it as landscapes that are loose, semi-impressionistic. Years ago my paintings were a lot more poster-like. They had real hard edges. They still have a lot of contrast. I like sunny days with a lot of contrast, a lot of punch, but I think as I’ve painted, my edges have gotten a lot better, with hard edges, soft edges and disappearing edges. And then of course your color sense becomes a lot better. You become a lot more attuned to color variations and how they act upon each other subtly.

What are your goals in painting what you paint?

 When I’m headed out to paint my goal is to have fun. I try to capture what I see. I try to get the light, and I look for something that excites me.

In the studio I just don’t get that excited about painting. Sometimes if I’m painting from a smaller painting doing a large one it’s OK, but still, outdoors it’s fresh and quick. You only have so much time so you just get the essentials and you don’t worry about the details. You get the big light and dark shapes, the contrast, and how one thing affects the other.

Usually I look for something that interests me – when I get to a scene I say “Why does this interest me?” That’s what I’m going to paint. If you start painting then you look over and you see something on the left that’s interesting and so you put that in, and you see something on the right and you put that in and before you know it the original plan is gone. You have to try and get to a site and ask what drew you to the site, what interests you and paint that. Let everything else be subordinate to that.

When you talk about getting to a site and what interests you, is it usually a subject, a pattern of light, a color…?

Oh it’s all of the above. One day you might go out and it’s the contrast and the color of the light, another time is the subject, another time it’s the lines. Sometimes a painting is about lines, sometimes it’s about color, sometimes it’s about shapes and then sometimes it’s a little bit of everything. Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Eric Tobin

Artist Spotlight: Mark Tougias

Summer Reflections   20 x 24 oil
Summer Reflections 20 x 24 oil

Mark Tougias is a self-taught artist who has been busy painting since childhood. His earliest surviving drawings and paintings date back to when he was eight years old. From an early age he learned by studying the masters and at age sixteen he began exhibiting. Mark has exhibited in over forty galleries and has had over thirty-five one man shows. Among his numerous awards are the first Alden Bryan Gold Medal for best in show awarded in 2007 by the Bryan Memorial Gallery.

For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your art?

Thatʼs a big question! I like to think, and hope, that thereʼs a spiritual quality in my work. Something that goes beyond the non-literal. It may look like a pretty picture on first look but I want there to be more to it. For me the landscape is the vehicle for all kinds of human expression, emotion and spirituality. That could be still-lifes for somebody else, or it could be figures, for me right now itʼs the landscape. Iʼve always been an outdoors person.

Itʼs interesting that you bring up the spirituality of your work. In your biography you mention influences from: the Barbizon painters, American Tonalists, the Cape Ann School of Painters, and others, and its clear seeing a lot of those influences in your work. Some of those schools of painting, it sounds like they are trying to achieve the same thing as you through the landscape.

I think so, I think a good painter will try to achieve that either consciously or unconsciously. For me itʼs probably a little bit more conscious. It depends on the painting too. It might be a little more conscious that other painters, only because Iʼm not just concerned with a “pretty picture”. I donʼt know if my work reflects that. Iʼm not really free to judge, but I hope it transcends the scene. I have never been strictly a literal painter. For me there are a lot of other elements that come into play. Itʼs not an easy thing to talk about either because – how can you put these things into words? Although I do representational work Iʼm not a literal painter. Most of my paintings are not exact representations. Some are, and thatʼs OK. Others are changed around quite a bit to get the results that I want. Some are completely made up to get the results that I want. So Iʼm very wary of not just going out there and putting down what I see exactly all the time.

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Mark Tougias

Artist Spotlight: Susan Larkin

Across the Water November Morning
Across the Water November Morning

Susan Larkin is a landscape painter who makes her home in the Lake Champlain Islands in Vermont.  She works in oil and pastel, and has painted for over 10 years. Susan paints primarily in and around the Champlain Islands, where she lives, with an occasional trip east to the towards Mount Mansfield and the surrounding farmlands and rivers.  Her primary goal is to record impressions of what she sees in the landscape through light and color.

Susan has been displaying her work at the Bryan Gallery since 2008. As of the date of this post she has work in the Land, Light, Water and Air exhibit as well as the legacy gallery. All the images included in this post are available at the Bryan Gallery at the time of this writing.

For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your art?
I guess its kind of an expressive impressionist. I try to paint with not too much detail. I’m trying to get looser, I feel like I’m not as loose as I’d like to be, but I suppose it’s a lot looser than some people’s painting. That’s what I’m more interested in is the impressionistic quality and painterly feel. I stick to landscapes, I don’t usually have any figures in my landscapes and I don’t know why. Most of what I paint is around where I live, the area around the Champlain Islands. Water, sky, fields.

What are your goals in painting what you paint?
My goals are to do more with less. That’s probably been my goal since I started., to simplify, simplify, simplify. At least in terms of the actual painting itself. And what I want paintings to look like. I tend to gravitate to artists who do paint very simply and almost abstractly. I like to learn more about color, I seem to be really interested in how color works and how light works, and trying to teach myself more deeply about color theory. Learning how colors work differently together to create different atmospheric vibrations, things like that. I’ve found that I gravitate to explore more challenges with color.

In your artist statement you mention painting “where the landscape is illuminated by the reflection of the lake”. Can you talk about painting where you feel the light is different versus painting other places.
I used to live on Cape Cod I think when I first took my first trip up Route 2 into the Champlain Islands, I lived in Southern Vermont at the time, its very flat there and there is a brilliance that I remembered from Cape Cod. The ocean just reflects the light all over the place, its very bright, and I remember Van Gogh talking about that when he was painting in France. Where it was so bright it hurt his eyes. It was intense, and that is how I felt about the Cape and then when I went up into the Islands I had that same experience where things seem to be more illuminated. I guess its because of the reflection of light off the lake that there seems to be more of a vibration of atmosphere going on. Its hard to find words for it but I recognized it when I saw it, and that’s what made me want to get up there and live where I live now.
Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Susan Larkin