Give Her a Hand: Acrylic Artist Cary Reeder

In the spring 2016 issue of Acrylic Artist we share how Cary Reeder employs custom colors and a minimal approach to evoke feelings of home. Her paintings of houses often have shadows of neighboring trees cast upon them. These shadows have evolved into inspiration of their own coupled with the artist’s fascination with hands. The result? A new series of paintings by Reeder that employs the same restraint in color and sharp lines that is ultimately electrifying.

Acrylic Artist Cary Reeder aug2016

In Flame (acryla gouache on fluid hot press watercolor paper, 9×12)

We spoke with Reeder to learn more about her hand series, here’s what she had to say.

Acrylic Artist: Your new hands series is striking! I can see the same lines of the tree shadows that we see in your house series in these hand painting. Is this an accident or an intentional transition?
Cary Reeder: Thank you, I’m excited about them. The transition seems to be a bit of both. When I was painting the houses, I got really interested in the tree shadows, then the trees themselves and then hands because they resembled trees, especially the crepe myrtles in front of my house.

AA: Is there a deeper story that the hands series tells?
CR: As you can imagine, as an artist my hands are really important to me. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in late 2013 and I became obsessed with my hands and whether they would stop working. It’s been a difficult couple of years but I’ve finally found medication that is mostly preventing stiffness and joint pain. But even before this I was obsessed with my hands and hands in art, especially Bill Viola’s video piece Four Hands which is mesmerizing. I saw this inspiring video at a retrospective show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Florida in 2012.

AA: The hands you paint are crisp, with sharp distinctions between colors. How did you create sharp lines that curve?
CR: Unlike the house series, which had a combination of taped and freehand work, the hands are all painted freehand. I start by painting the base layer of the hand and then come back to do the detail work. This usually takes two or three layers of paint. My former life as a graphic artist helps me have the steady hand to create sharp lines.

AA: Did you draw the hands from memory or use reference photos as do with your house series?
CR: I use reference photos for these as well. I tried to take the photos myself but they were terrible so I called in a professional. I needed a new head shot so I also asked the photographer to also take a bunch of photos of my hands in tree-like poses. He acted like it was the most ordinary request in the world.

AA: In your hands series, you use acrylic gouache. Tell us about working with it, and any tips you have for first-time users.
CR: I must confess that I am having a love affair with acrylic gouache. I bought a small set of Holbein’s products line and I just love them. I never could get the hang of regular gouache but loved the way it looked. Acrylic gouache is similar to acrylic paint but gouache has a more velvety, matte texture rather than the slightly gummy feel of some acrylic paints. I just add a bit of water to it and paint as I would with acrylic paints, but instead of using canvas, I paint on Ampersand claybord or fluid hot press watercolor paper. I also paint much smaller works with the gouache since it dries even faster than acrylics. The only caveat I have is that when you mix your own colors they tend to separate on the palette if you let them sit too long, so make sure to remix before you paint. The colors are vivid and saturated. They are definitely worth a try.

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