So here it goes. As a child, I was always interested in art. My parents used to go square dancing on Saturday nights, and I had this fabulous babysitter who taught me to do portraits. She was an amateur artist, but she shared her love of art with me. I loved to color and draw, and for Christmas and birthdays, I always received one of those paint-by-number sets. I spent hours using those oil paints and filling in colors of the corresponding numbers. Later on in high school, I took art as an elective. My favorite artist, at that time, was Rembrandt. He did masterful portraits and I even copied some of his work.
|Key Bridge and Georgetown|
by Jane McElvany Coonce
Artists paint for many different reasons. I am a representational painter. I like to capture the beauty of the world. In landscapes, I look for scene that move me. I always have my camera with me, especially now that the iPhones have such good cameras. If the light hits just right, I snap the picture. Actually, I snap lots of photos. You never know which one will come out best. I've taken thousands of photos of this scene, my favorite scene in Washington. I've done so many that people identify this scene with Jane McElvany Coonce. It's my brand, in a sense.
In still life, I pick out objects usually from the past, something that reminds me of my childhood.
I love painting from a set up because you can see so much more than you can in a photo. This toaster had been my mom's when I was little. It didn't work anymore, and she was ready to throw it out. But I told her it would make a great still life prop. I still have it in my cabinet of "treasures." I may have to pull it out and paint it again.
|Mom's Old Toaster|
by Jane McElvany Coonce
Artists are also influenced by other artists. One of my favorite of all time is John Singer Sargent. He was a master in oil and watercolor. Google his name and press images. He was a genius with the brush. A contemporary artist I love is Wayne Theibaud. Google his images, too. It will make you hungry. His paintings have a much more modern look, yet he's still a representational painter.
Of course, my all time favorite artist is my mentor, Diane Testler. She was a teacher at The Art League in Alexandria, VA. She now lives in Indiana. She does both landscape and still life. She has been a great influence in my life. (Google her, too.) She pretty much taught me how to see ,which is one of the greatest challenges in becoming an artist. What do I mean by that? Look at the still life above. A person sees a toaster, some jelly and a plate with toast, butter and a knife. But an artist must learn to see more because it's the details that make a painting more interesting. Look at the knife. Notice how the toast reflects in the knife, but also notice how the knife throws a light on the crust of the toast. It's little observations like that that an artist must notice. It takes time to train the eye to even notice little details like this. But those details are delicious to see and to paint. Once you start seeing color and the nuances of that color, the world is even more beautiful than you ever knew before.
God, I love being an artist!