Artist Catherine Wagner Minnery creates painterly landscapes that bridge the gap between abstraction and realism. Visit her website to see more.
I am an observational artist who is not constrained by visual reality. I’m also a life-long artist. I don’t think my love of drawing and obsessing over colors is unusual for a child, but we who end up pursuing the arts probably hang on longer to those childish delights and consequently get addicted to this experience. At least that is my story.
When I entered college, I was unsure what to do with this calling and decided to study design. That’s where I started, but after three semesters I changed colleges and pursued studio arts. Yet after graduation I found employment as a graphic designer and illustrator. I truly enjoyed most of those years working in commercial art and learned so much about design and organization.
Creating art, however, was still my calling, and wanting to have more time to paint eventually overwhelmed me. I managed to find that time by being a freelancer and also working part time jobs that had nothing to do with art. This new schedule actually gave me the flexibility I needed to spend more time painting.
Today I continue to pursue my art. I am an avid sketch hunter. By this I mean that I am always on the lookout for possible subject matter to paint. I see possibilities almost everywhere!
When a place excites me or an idea is formed, I quickly lay it out in simple forms with a marker or pen, making notes on the drawing and taking photos. This sketch is the most important part of a future piece since it records my first impression and gesture of a place. It is a personal reminder that photos don’t record everything.
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Sometimes I will take the time to do a small study or start a larger painting on site. It all depends on where I am. Larger studies are worked up in the studio from all the information I have gathered. Then I decide if it will work in an even larger format.
In an effort to create a more personal painting, I am constantly pushing and pulling between abstraction and reality. Sometimes I find I need to go back to a place to make further observations.
In the past, I only painted on site. Over the years, I have found that the combination of on-site observation and painting in the studio works best for me.
The underlying abstraction of a place, I feel, is its spiritual core—it is painting the unseen. This is a goal that I sometimes get close to and at other times not as close as I’d hoped. I’ve realized that I will never totally “figure out” painting and that’s okay. It keeps me eager to deepen my search and work harder. There is always much more to discover.
Paul Klee’s creative credo resonates with me, “Art does not replicate what we see; rather it makes us see.”
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