“ . . . landscapes are a genre explored by many artists, so if you’re going to stand out, you have to do it really well – and these are landscapes on the highest level.”
— [art show] Jurors' comments about Ms. Gillmann’s work (Oct 2014)
I recently had an opportunity to view the Best of the Best — at a print signing hosted by Kathleen Best Gillman, a landscape and plein air painter from Burke, Virginia. Working in oils, acrylics, or pastels, she portrays scenes of tranquility, harmony, peace, purity, and grace. We purchased one of her works titled Glacial Moraine which reminded us of scenes we have vsited in the high Sierras in California and in the Cascades in Oregon; two places we really look forward to visiting again.
Kathleen Best Gillmann is a member of the Workhouse Associate Artists, as am I, and she recently agreed to let me interview her for this post to my blog. I had not interviewed anyone before, and had thought it would be so simple — you ask them stuff and they tell you stuff, just like every other conversation you’ve ever had, right?
Well, you tell me how well I did after you read this, my first blog-speriment in interviewing…
Q. What is “en plein air” painting?
A. Simply stated, plein air painting is painting (or drawing) outdoors; the focus of the activity being the outdoors – landscape, sky, plant life.
Q. The plein air painter will sit —literally— within her subject and paint what she sees before her. Do you ever paint from your imagination — portraying images from your visualizations in your mind’s eye?
A. Since I have so much training and experience in drawing and painting from life, I find it difficult to paint or draw exclusively from my imagination. I had one teacher at the Art League School who gave us an exercise: first, look at the model for 5 minutes. Next the model leaves and you draw what you remember for 5 minutes. It was not impossible, but it was a challenge — a good one. This is an exercise in drawing from memory. Occasionally, I paint or draw from my imagination. I think what we carry around in our heads — our imagination and visual memory — does effect what we put on canvas or paper.
A. These days there are plein air events where a painter is expected to complete something very rapidly. Plein air painting almost demands that the artist work quickly or return to the location at the same time of day for several days or weeks in a row. Typically plein air painting results in smaller works that are painted in one sitting. Some artists sell these directly. Others use them as studies for larger studio works. Some plein air artists work large and complete large works in one sitting. It all depends on the artist’s skill, experience, and intentions.
Q. You’ve worked with several painting mediums — oils, acrylic, pastels — which do you find to be the most rewarding to your Inner Artist?
A. It doesn’t matter which medium I use, all can be satisfying to my inner artist. When I am planning a work of art, my intuition often leads me to a particular medium. I sometimes do a particular composition in 2 or 3 media for the experience of working in several media and because I may want to see what the differences are, aesthetically.
Q. If you had no obstacles, where or what in the world would you want to visit and paint?
A. I seek out the amazing wherever I am. Sometimes the amazing is climbing in a shrub in my own backyard — a chipmunk. Sometimes I seek it out by driving up a mountain — Pike’s Peak, Colorado Springs, CO or to McCall, ID on Lake Payette or climbing up to the “Hanging Lake” not far from Glenwood Springs, CO. I’ve visited a lot of locations: many U.S. states, some of eastern Canada, many countries in Europe and South America. My bucket list of countries to visit includes Poland, England, Ireland, and Sweden because these people are my ancestors. I have an interest in seeing the Mediterranean — especially Greece and Italy —Japan, South Africa, more of South America, Israel, and some of the waterfalls and lakes in Africa.
Q. At the print signing you recently hosted, we saw your two cats, Snizzle and Fritz (what are their real names?). What is their contribution to your art — besides cat hair stuck to the work?
A. My cats, Feldspar and Galena, come into my studio usually with a demand — scratch my back, cuddle me, feed me, or let me out. So they provide constructive painting breaks or unwelcome interruptions. One time years ago, Galena decided to jump up onto my open palette. This created quite a commotion and messy feet and fortunately hasn’t happened since. I think we both learned a lesson.
Well, it seems Kathleen has her work cut out for her visiting, and painting, all those intriguing places! In the meantime, she is going to be the Featured Artist for March at the Associate Artist’s gallery in Building 9 of the Workhouse Art Center. Come see a fine collection of her work, titled Atmosphere, and visit the work of all our fine, Fine Artists.
The Workhouse offers many opportunities for you to expand your plein air experiences. We, the Associate Artists, are hosting a plein air session during the Workhouse-wide SpringFest, April 30th. Also, the Workhouse hosts a zillion classes all year long in all sorts of pursuits! For a downloadable PDF listing all these opportunities, go to the Workhouse website and in the ‘Classes’ tab click on ‘View Current Catalog’.
Remember what they say: The eARTh without ART is just ‘eh’.
Thank You for visiting,
P.s. What is your favorite mode d’art? How did you come to favor this particular method or medium? What would you like to try that you haven’t yet? Tell us all about it in the comments — let’s compare notes.