When Lynn Maderich was a child, her grandfather gave her a sketchbook he?d filled when he was 12. “It contains more advanced work than anything I drew at a comparable age,” says the St. Paul, Minnesota, artist. Though he was unable to follow his own artistic path, he fostered creativity in his granddaughter many years later. “If artistic talent can be genetic,” she says, “I inherited mine from him.”
Several years after he?d passed away, Maderich painted Grandpa: the Artist Before Me (at left) from a photo of him taken in his kitchen. “The lighting was right and dramatic and the expression everything I remembered. I much prefer working from life, but all those hours spent painting in front of nature pay off when there?s no choice but to use photographs.
“As I worked on Grandpa,” she says, “I usually found myself in artist mode, correcting proportions, adjusting the color notes. Then I?d shift the curve of his eyelid or finesse the corner of his mouth and suddenly find myself unable to paint. That sudden emotional response let me know a number of times that I was on the right track.”
Maderich typically begins a painting with a charcoal drawing on paper, just detailed enough to establish the gesture, proportions and size of the painting. She transfers that to a stretched canvas and does a quick turp lay-in followed by pure paint. Regardless of its size of complexity she works the painting as a whole, keeping the values, color and atmosphere together as the piece progresses.
Preferring not to mix mediums with her colors, Maderich uses high-quality paints with no thinning agents and builds up several layers of paint with frugal application of retouch varnish to keep the color values honest. The colors she uses on her palette are alizarin crimson, Indian red, English red light, cadmium red medium, Cremnitz white, cadmium yellow medium, deep Naples yellow, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue and viridian green.
Though her grandfather may have been her initial inspiration, Maderich found her artistic voice at The Atelier Studio of Fine Art in Minneapolis. “When I attended Macalester College as an art major, my love of realism was rare at a time when abstract was the rule, so the value I took from my college years came from outside the art department,” she says. She?s always earned her living from art, but “it wasn?t until I discovered The Atelier Studio of Fine Art here that I finally found the exact art instruction I?d been hoping might exist.” After several years of part-time classes, she enrolled full time in the four-year program in the mid-1990s.
“I almost feel as if I?ve begun an entirely new career,” she says about the impact The Atelier had on her skills and satisfaction as an artist. “I now love the human figure, both clothed and nude, and I?ve found a new joy in capturing the life and likeness of the portrait. I enjoy the challenge of composition in a complicated still life or a multifigure interior, and have learned to see color subtleties I could only imagine before. I work almost exclusively in oil now. The elements that inspire me, glowing light effects, vibrating color, depth and atmosphere, are worth the chase and more readily achieved in the richness of paint.
“It?s the best artistic gift I?ve ever given myself.”
Mark Gottsegen is an associate professor of art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and chair of ASTM International?s subcommittee on artist?s materials.