Rabbit Sink (oil, 30×20)
One of Jade Moede’s earliest attempts at art making left his audience speechless. “I got my hands on some good, old-fashioned crayons and started running around the house, creating a masterpiece on my mom’s white walls,” he says. Luckily the Hillsdale, New Jersey, artist would go on to refine his technique, first at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey—where they instilled the art of the deadline,” he says—and then at the Art Students League of New York.
Moede remained intrigued and even humored by the subject for his winning painting, Rabbit Sink, for many years. “The rabbit kept looking at me; it cracked me up. I had to paint it.” And then inspiration struck in the form of a deadline. The rabbit would be removed from the sink in six months.
After making thumbnail sketches, taking photographs and composing an 81/2×11 sketch, he did a monochromatic underpainting on Belgian linen (he prepared the ground himself). While painting, he took breaks to glance at a 4×6 black-and-white photo, constantly considering what the viewer should read from the painting.
It may seem that the perspective in Rabbit Sink is slightly askew, a conscious effort on the artist’s part. “The eye-level and vanishing point are from the rabbit’s head,” he says. “I wanted the viewer’s eye to go there first, which was a challenge because the white sink is in more light. So, I did the rabbit’s head in sharp detail and had it fade into a less distinctive shadow. I also made one eye very much alive and the other in a mysterious, soft fog.”
The composition, which is made of two triangles that meet to form an “X,” wasn’t the only challenge for this painting; Moede had to fight his own impulses. “There was a point while working on the rabbit’s head— at 3:30 a.m., when I was on the second pot of coffee, and the rabbit’s head just came alive—it was magical,” he says. “But I kept futzing with the painting and by the time I realized what I’d done, it was overworked. So, I completely wiped off the rabbit’s head and spent the next two hours trying to get back to the magical spot where I should have stopped.” Happily, Moede managed to get back to that magical spot.
By day, the artist can be found doing broadcast graphics at a post-production facility. “I live art; it keeps me from going crazy,” he says, and quotes Salvador Dali: “‘Painter, it is better to be rich than poor, so learn how to make gold and precious stones come out of your brush.’ I may not be rich—yet—but I’m pretty happy,” he says.
When Kate Sammons placed an old, broken compass inside a cabinet, something clicked. The story for her haunting work The Hermit started to come together. To the setup she added fabric and a tassel brought back from a trip to India and, finally, the “supporting elements,” like her favorite card from a Tarot deck. “I love contrasting the familiar with the exotic and finding a combination that fuels the imagination while still maintaining a sense of realism,” she says.
It’s a strategy that, if not borrowed, was most likely polished by the influence of instructor and mentor Anthony Waichulis, with whom she apprentices. “I admire his sharp, inquisitive detail and the straightforward, practical approach he takes to his trompe l’oeil paintings,” says Sammons, who obtained her fine arts degree from the University of Illinois. She also spent two semesters in Italy at Florence’s Angel Academy of Art, followed by two years at Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia. “After studying classical art in Italy, I found the discipline to make art a career,” she says. “But I had a lot of frustrating times—and bad drawing— to get through before doing work I really liked.”
Sammons began The Hermit in a manner typical of her process: a cartoon of the setup for the first layer, followed by a layer of basic value patterns, and then a final layer in charcoal. She drew the setup from life, but since she wanted more dramatic lighting, she photographed the setup and adjusted the lighting digitally. She then printed this version out and used it as a guide to exaggerate the shadows and lighting.
“As I drew the drapery, I was surprised to have to improvise its design in order to make it look graceful. That was challenging and taught me a lot about the character of abstract form,” she says. “My favorite part was working out the individual textures for each object and seeing how they played against each other.”
Hailing from Shickshinny, Pennsylvania, Sammons names among her favorite artists naturalist painter Adrian Gottlieb and Baroque and Northern Renaissance painters like Rogier van der Weyden, Jan van Eyck and Willem van Aelst. Also a portraitist, Sammons has reached a place in her career where technique is second nature and the art can tell the story.
Nose to the grindstone—or easel, rather—is where Acierno finds herself roughly 40–50 hours a week. Initially a landscape painter, she came under the spell of still life when she undertook her first one a few years ago. “It was love at first brush,” she says.
After a handful of painting classes taken in her 20s, Acierno continued to paint intermittently for the next two decades. A single parent, she returned to school to major in graphic design. “My plan was to work eventually in a creative field while providing for my children. Luckily for me, the course involved a great deal of fine art,” she says. Around that time, she began to feel the familiar call of painting, and upon graduating from University College of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, she devoted herself full time to art. “The best part of being around the art scene is that I’m loving every style of art,” she says.
Acierno found inspiration for the sensuous Number Thirty-Five from an old crate picked up at a yard sale. Drawn to the random markings on the crate and odd placement of nails, she figured an orange would be a “natural and organic partner for the warm tones of the crate.”
For her, the process of composing an oil painting begins with a photo shoot, and while she’s arranging—taking objects away and bringing in new ones—she takes shots of various setups. Once she crops the image and does a simple line drawing on canvas, she gets just enough information on the canvas to place the compositional elements. Then she begins painting touches of black.
It’s in rendering the lighting and play of shadows that Acierno finds pleasure. “I’ve come to terms with the fact that I love to paint details. It’s where I find the most beauty,” she says.
The inspiration behind Rachel Gillen’s painting, Green Chucks, was a pair of her very own broken-in Converse All Stars. “Every speck of dirt came from somewhere I’ve been,” she says.
Typically an oil painter, Gillen sees Green Chucks as her first serious watercolor. It took 60 hours of planning, layering and building up textures but allowed her the chance to experiment with new drybrushing techniques.
Having earned her associate degree in fine art from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, she’s now a painting major at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Gillen hopes that once she graduates in 2009, she’ll be able to make a living by selling her art in galleries and teaching art classes. “If I can pay my rent and afford Ramen noodles,” she says, “I’ll be a happy girl.”
An offshoot from a series about family, The Trouble of Time features a pair of the artist’s own girlhood shoes and those of her daughter. Jansen finds that the elements which dominate her paintings act as allegories, creating abstracted likenesses of a person.
Working from life, the Albany artist bypasses the drawing stage and goes straight to painting. Not a fan of the starkness of white canvas, she covers the surface with fluid acrylic, then paints in oil.
“I have a hard time calling this still life,” she says, explaining that objects often morph into portraits and interiors become a sort of landscape. “The painting’s success isn’t much related to a particular reading of the objects, but more for the objects’ capacity to act as symbols,” she says. “We collect objects to communicate something about who we are. It’s often in the process of painting that I discover my connection to them,” she says.
As a child, Sangita Phadke’s first foray into art consisted of “drawing giant rainbows, stick figures with triangle dresses and V-shaped birds in the sky.” It was the introduction to pastels in a high school art class that solidified her preference for the medium.
Phadke pursued a degree in finance at the University of Illinois and worked for a consulting company, only to find herself drawn back to painting. A class with Rhoda Yanow, as well as the influence of Leslie Delgyer and Guy Coheleach, convinced her it was possible to become a successful pastel artist.
For Oranges, Phadke was inspired by a visit to the produce section of a grocery store. “The lights from the ceiling and the varied selection of fruits and vegetables created such beautiful vibrant images,” she says. Her biggest challenge was capturing the juicy texture of the halved fruit. “At the end of the day, the orange would dry out, so I had to keep cutting new ones to maintain an accurate reference. By the time I finished, my husband and I had exhausted our recipes for ways to incorporate oranges into our meals!”
Lisa Wurster is freelance writer in Cincinnati.
Los Altos CA
Mark H. Brown
N. Babylon NY
Long Beach CA
Washington Depot CT
Barbara S. Groff
Farmington Hills MI
Richard William Haynes
Yorba Linda CA
Garden City NY
Diane Rudnick Mann
Los Angeles CA
Fort Worth TX
Colts Neck NJ
Scott B. Royston
Dawn Evans Scaltreto
Morehead City NC
Constance M. Simon