Older = Better
Cheers to the 10 winners of our 2014 Over 60 Art Competition! Ranging in age from 64 to 83, they share their works and stories. And” be sure to check out the vast assortment of art competitions we offer throughout year here>.
76 • Beaufort, South Carolina
In the late ‘70s our family lived in California. As a busy mother of four young children, I tried to find time for my love of painting. Since I spent many hours watching my daughter’s ballet classes through a one-way window, I began to see a story emerge. The goal of many aspiring ballerinas is to dance a pas de deux; I realized I could use the dancers’ poses to illustrate the experience of relationships. A few years later, I had a solo exhibition of those paintings called “A Search for Intimacy.”
A workshop with the famous California Scene painter, Robert E. Wood, changed my life. At the end of the two weeks, Wood could see I was discouraged, so he showed me the works he submitted for his master’s thesis: they were not great paintings. I thought at the time, “I have a long life ahead of me. If he can improve that much, so can I.”
I told him I felt that I needed to paint out the unresolved grief of my first husband’s death in Vietnam. Wood suggested I paint the varying moods of the ocean—not to expect to show the work to others.
I conceived of Memories at 98 as a painting of friendship between two ladies in a sewing group, but it turned out, at the photo shoot, that one lady wouldn’t look at the other (“She is not my friend!”), so I motioned to my photographer to shoot one subject at a time. I asked each lady to tell me a story of something good that had happened to them. Bernice, the figure in this painting, said she would tell how she got her husband to ask her to marry him.
Bernice had asked a handsome gentleman to escort her to the Harvard Club for a dance. The beau, however, went home with a flirtatious girl who had sat on his lap-not Bernice! She was furious. The next day she accused him of being “the rudest man in the world.” He said, “You are right. Come with me and we’ll have a picnic by the Hudson River.” Soon after they were married, he died of a brain disease. It’s only now that I realize the correspondences in Bernice’s and my stories. M.B.
83 • Fishers, Indiana
My son and granddaughter visited the environs of Birmingham, Ala., in 2011, to help with the clean-up after the most destructive tornado in the area’s history. Disaster in Alabama is based on a photo my son took of the area that he and his daughter helped clear; I realized the image would be a meaningful, as well as striking, subject. In fact, the photo so completely captured the stark desolation of the aftermath of the storm, I didn’t need to change the composition or colors.
Landscapes, especially those that include old buildings, are among my favorite subjects, so although this particular storm-battered scene isn’t typical of my work, I knew how to capture the atmospheric effects and depth of field. I generally work in sections, in this case starting with the sky and then moving on to the background trees, and finally the foreground. I lay in three or four layers of color, which give the picture depth.
I discovered my interest in art in elementary school and took classes in high school and while attending Butler University, in Indianapolis, through the John Herron Art Institute (now the Herron School of Art and Design). For 30 years I worked in oil, although my painting was interrupted with the birth of my children and their activities through high school. Now I work in watercolor, and I teach portrait-painting classes. Currently I’m working on a painting of children from Kenya, based on photos my minister took during a mission trip. H.D.
72 • Green Valley, Arizona
Memories come to life in my paintings. I studied ballet in New York City and, although I no longer dance, I can perform whole ballets in my mind. Often when I paint, I feel the work in the same way that I can still feel the movement of dance. I think that’s why many of my works have a strong sense of movement.
I began drawing and painting as a child and continued to do so through college. My career, however, was in teaching English, and I stopped painting for many years when I married and had a family. After I retired, I resumed painting, first creating realistic watercolors and, eventually, abstract acrylics.
I’ve long admired the work of abstract artists—Kandinsky and Klee are my favorites—but it took me some time to figure out how to become one. In local art groups, I’ve learned from seeing my friends’ works, and I’ve taken classes from Francheskaa, a Tucson artist. I begin each painting without a plan, and I paint fast and free in the early stages so that my inner critic doesn’t get a chance to utter a word. I stick with a painting until it begins to speak to me. Then I listen to the painting, and we have a conversation. The last stages take from days to months for me to complete. I look at the piece and ask myself about value contrast, color dominance, shape and balance.
In the last stages of Circuitous, I intensified some colors and emphasized the circular movement that had begun to appear. This piece not only evokes my love of movement and dance, but also expresses something I’ve learned on my journey through life: The journey isn’t linear, but circles back, bringing me to unexpected challenges and serendipitous moments of happiness. H.D.
74 • Dix Hills, New York
Influenced by my mother, who was a fashion illustrator in New York City, I painted and drew throughout my early schooling, college and post-college, until a career as an advertising art director and graphic designer and the raising of three children left no time for painting and little time for continuing my art education. I picked up painting again after I retired. Now, with my wife, Arlene, I travel throughout the United States and abroad, always on the lookout for those unique small elements within the larger view that touch my soul, speak to me and whisper, “Paint me.” As a result, I paint powerful images that bring to life nuances that would otherwise be missed by the casual observer.
Giving myself an assignment to explore possible paintings in and around a horse stable late one afternoon, I entered the tack room. The bridles hanging from hooks against an old wooden wall and the metal bits catching the sunlight with cast shadows were amazing. I knew instantly that this was the painting I wanted to complete. Often, my paintings originate from an instant connection to small segments of objects in their natural environment. Last year Bits & Bridles had the honor of being selected to be in the 147th American Watercolor International Exhibition at the Salmugundi Club in New York City.
My process of painting watercolors is perhaps slightly different than the process of traditional watercolor artists in that I paint very tightly and with many layers upon layers and many blended edges. In fact, viewers are often surprised to discover my paintings are watercolor, rather than oil. M.G.
71 • Warwick, Rhode Island
I painted All Aboard the 932 on Yupo. I find working on a slick, nonabsorbant surface allows me the opportunity to explore my subject as I explore my paper and paint, both of which move and change, allowing me to get into the process, as I explore “the story” of my painting.
All Aboard the 932 was inspired by my ride on a working trolley in New Orleans. I could imagine the workers and their thoughts, relationships with work and family, the excitement and then the exhaustion of a hard day of toil. I heard their songs and tried to imagine their customs and way of life, their dreams.
After I had taken the photo that would become the reference image for All Aboard the 932, and before I had painted it, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina turned New Orleans and all its people into a place of despair and shame because of the government’s handling of the disaster. I couldn’t do the painting for quite a while because I couldn’t possibly understand the feelings and destruction of the homes and lives of these people. Once New Orleans was recovering, however, the first trolley to be back in working order was none other than the 932. It signaled to me the hope, the rebuilding and the belief that the people of New Orleans would overcome this tragedy. M.G.
71 • Hudson Falls, New York
My art career started at State University of New York at New Paltz, and I started teaching shortly after graduating. A wife, three children and 35½ years later, I retired. Between helping raise my family, fixing up a home and building a new one, I had only been able to create artwork minimally. In 2001, I dedicated my time to art, every day spending time becoming a better painter.
Chaos is the second in an experimental series intended to put distance between what I’ve become known for: industrial interiors and exteriors. Most of my industrial paintings are of complex structures with unspecified perspectives. This new series remained complex, but the subject is organic; I decided to get closer to natural visual entanglements. This painting is nearly monochromatic, black and white with tan reeds and leaves. I find that you can go darker with a similar color whose value is deeper, instead of using black. I also find that grays made from complementary colors, plus either white or black, give me more satisfaction than grays made with black and white alone. One thing I love about this painting is the fact that it has two feet firmly planted in the real world—it existed in time—but it is unquestionably abstract.
When I began this piece, I asked myself, “Where do I start?” The answer was, “Today I will follow that strand and see where it goes.” I made several miscalculations and found myself redoing parts that got away from me, which always breathes life into a painting. I’m very good at making mistakes, but I think I’m better at fixing them. In painting, you must always be true to your original vision. If you stray from that, be willing to start all over. M.W.
64 • Bakersfield, California
During the first two-thirds of my career, my art took a backseat to caring for my family and ensuring their economic well-being. I was a basketball coach and art teacher in the Kern High School District of Bakersfield, Calif. Although I thought of myself as an artist, I’ve come to understand I was really a teacher who was learning to become an artist.
This is one of the beautiful aspects of teaching: you learn along with your students. You want them to be successful, which requires you to find ways to help them. You create your own works, and you pass what you’ve learned on to your students. As you mentor your students, you again learn from the mistakes they make. It’s a crazy cycle, but I love it!
A Day at the Beach exemplifies how teaching has helped my own art. While vacationing in Atlantic City, I snapped pictures of the six-foot grass to share with my students because, living in California, they don’t see grass that tall. Upon reviewing the photos, one image of grass, sky and three iconic beachgoers stood out, and I decided to use it, with a few adjustments, as a painting reference. That long grass, however, proved challenging. After a few failed attempts, I succeeded with a layering method, overlapping larger areas of flat color with smaller and smaller areas of lighter colors, leaving the edges unblended. I continued with this technique throughout the painting. The layers of abstract, colored shapes help model the figures, suggest texture in the boardwalk and create an illusion of depth in the grasses.
Over the years, experiences like these have helped me develop my potential as an artist. I still teach high school art students and, currently, I’m organizing an April exhibition at the Younger Gallery, in Bakersfield, Calif., of works by art teachers in the Kern High School District. H.D.
81 • Salt Lake City, Utah
Pooh’s Favorite Tales evolved from the A.A. Milne books, illustrated by E.H. Shepard, we read to our children and grandchildren. The shabby old bear, named Boo, was my childhood toy, and my own kids played with him (he was probably chewed on by a few family dogs, too). In this painting, Pooh magically steps out of the Milne books—to tell stories of his wild adventures to Boo.
I’ve always been interested in the works of the old masters, whose darks are not as black as they appear; they instead contain a feeling of light within. I, too, try to capture that feeling of light inside the darkness. I like my subjects to go from sharp edges to soft to infinity.
I compose a setup with the camera. In this way, I can control the light, creating strong shadows and softer edges, as I see fit. I may have 10 or more images to select from and, depending on the complexity of the setup, I will make detailed transfers to the ground (canvas) and begin to paint.
Pooh’s Favorite Tales required more advance sketching and modifying of Pooh’s body and gestures than most of my still lifes. I had to integrate Pooh into the composition with the stuffed bear, bookshelves and books that I had pre-arranged and lit as if on a stage. The lettering on the books I added very late in the final painting sessions.
As for advice to other artists: It’s important to have respect for your talent and hard work. Treat your painting as a business, and strive, always, to be professional in your dealings with galleries and collectors. M.B.
73 • Oxford, England
One day a little-used toaster caught my eye, and I thought “breakfast.” So I cooked two eggs sunny-side up, placed them on my favorite stripe-rimmed plate and made a cup of coffee. Here I inject some advice: more does not necessarily mean better. Imagine the eggs as the principal actors, center stage; you don’t want overcomplicated scenery to detract from their performance! Here, I eliminated toast and inserted a striped fabric to link the elements together.
After earning a bachelor of science degree in design from the University of Michigan and while working as a civil servant, I took painting courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Teaching during that period was biased toward Abstract Expressionism, while I found myself more influenced by abstract realists like Alex Katz and, for content, Edward Hopper. I later discovered Wayne Thiebaud.
What changed my life was marrying an English academic and moving to Oxford in 1975. When our twins were born, another artist advised me not to take time out from painting but to jump back in as soon as I could. By the time the children were toddlers, “Mommy, go paint” was a warning that they were up to mischief! They thought that everyone’s mother painted and even now my grandchildren, ages 6 and 3, know that grandma paints. The older one enjoys drawing. As she once said, while I was looking at her drawing of me, “I draw what I see.” The key features were my red glasses and, in contrast with the way that I would paint hair, my grandchild had my hair quite clearly coming out at right angles from my skin and then falling over—one should learn from such accuracy in one so young! M.B.
71 • Prescott, Arizona
Although my art journey began late in life, the time lost has been made up for in the emotional and visceral impact it has had on me. Growing up on a ranch, I’ve always had a deep admiration for vast landscapes. My home is in the West, and I feel compelled to create a visual representation of what inspires me, whether that is landscapes or wildlife. Despite a lifelong love for art, I’ve had no formal art education. Just a few workshops along the way and painting en plein air have been my teachers.
Maynard Dixon Country was, in fact, done from a plein air study that I did in Mt. Carmel, Utah, the home and studio of Maynard Dixon, the famous California Scene painter, whose work captured the scope of the American West. It’s a beautiful country and I paint there as often as I can. I believe that studies en plein air are effective in the process of creating. I do my best to jot down little notes about the time of day, the weather, the colors I see. I find recalling these details incredibly helpful as I work on studio pieces. M.W.
Paul Baldessini, Glen Bruns, Will Bullas, Susan Goodmundson, Denise Hawkins, Gigi Horr Liverant, Heather Hughson, Cara Jankovich, George Kramer, John Lawson, Tom Lockhart, David Manje, Laura Mitchell, Craig Pursley, Cynthia Rosen, Arlene Steinberg, Chris Stubbs, Lynn Wade, Deb Ward, Derek Zietsman
Learn” all about our art competitions and how to enter here.>