Mixed media artist Theresa Wells Stifel combines a variety of elements and techniques to create contemporary pieces with vintage underpinnings. Take a closer look at the details by visiting her website.
I was lucky. I grew up in a household where my mom and dad could make just about anything. Clothes, toys, furniture, Christmas ornaments—you name it—we could make it. We moved a lot, so my parents believed in traveling light. While we always had everything we needed, we didn’t carry a lot of our past with us. It was perhaps inevitable that as an adult I became a packrat of other people’s treasure, running a vintage consignment shop and helping people downsize family heirlooms.
Weaving these found treasures of vintage ephemera and memorabilia into my art is a way to bring them new life. These snippets of paper, photos and more give a depth and texture to my work that I really enjoy.
My studio is filled with lace, papers, jewelry, metal scraps, fabric and wooden forms all just waiting to be showcased. People comment that my studio reminds them of my old shop!
Work tends to flow in arcs. One day I’ll be working on backgrounds, another day on finishing, yet another day on detail. I might paint half a dozen abstracts and then a dozen figurative works and then plunge into seascapes. While this might sound scattered, somehow my painting style and color palette come together to make a recognizable body of work.
Circles are a reoccurring motif in my work. To me they stand for the eternal—a symbol of time and life being a continuous constant.
When I begin a painting, I lay in large swathes of color and then apply interesting pieces of antique papers. These papers may remain wholly visible or they may fade into the background in subsequent layers.
I then block in the figure, or focal point, in a rough form and refine it as I go. I tend to prefer painting with a palette knife. It keeps me from getting too bogged down in details, and it keeps paint from going into the trash or water system from brush cleaning.
After refining my figure or focal point, I enjoy adding more texture with impasto paint, metal leaf, ephemera or even hand stitching.
During the past few years, I have been honored to work with clients, creating custom pieces using their own family snippets. From landscapes to portraits to abstracts, it is exciting to take forgotten items out of drawers and boxes and bring them into the light and eventually onto walls. Creating pieces that impact a room and invite you to come closer to see the details hiding within brings me joy.
The future holds some exciting developments–two solo shows, teaching opportunities and more custom work await. I am grateful to be a working artist.
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