Artist of the Month

'Chickens,' etching with Chine-collé
‘Bluejay,’ etching with Chine-collé

‘I draw inspiration from the familiar in nature. My etchings are a close inspection that reveal a whimsical character, and my landscapes portray scenes for which I feel a deep nostalgia.’

— Karen Kemp

 

Karen Kemp

By Irene Ruddock

A native of Long Island, artist Karen Kemp recently moved back from Boston, where she maintained a studio for 10 years. She studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and at the University of New Hampshire where she earned a degree in art history and has received numerous awards for her work in painting and etching. Her artwork is collected worldwide in private and corporate art collections. I recently had the opportunity to interview Kemp and welcome her back to the Island.

Why did you decide to move back to Long Island from city life in Boston?

There are many reasons for moving back, but one huge reason is that I wanted a home where I could have a larger studio space and a yard for gardening. And being closer to my parents was a big factor too!

What did you miss most about Long Island in the years that you were away?

I missed the open farmlands of the North Fork, the proximity of the shoreline and the marshy inlets of the Long Island. They inspire me to do more plein air painting.

‘Two Boats,’ oil on watercolor paper

I see that you were trained in Italy. What was that experience like?

It was a living fantasy! Shortly after graduating from college, I saved up enough money to live and study in Italy at a school for fresco painting, a process of painting on a freshly applied, damp surface with water-based pigments. I do few frescoes these days, but the process of layering and building up color all continue to inform my work today.

Did you study art conservation?

Yes, in Italy and also in New York City where I spent time apprenticing at a painting conservation studio from which I developed an appreciation for using archival materials.

Some have said that your landscapes in oil have a peaceful feeling to them. How would you describe them, and how are they different from other oil painters?

I try not to make an exact replication. I say that my paintings are representational, but not realistic. I attempt to evoke a calm mood, a setting or a sort of dreamscape. I am very sentimental about Long Island, and perhaps that comes out in the painting. My oil paintings are different from many painters because I paint on gessoed watercolor paper or matt board, which is easy to prepare and transport.

‘Mousewatch,’ etching with Chine-collé

You also are known for your etchings, which have been described as having a whimsical charm to them. Would you explain what etching is to people who may not be familiar with that art form?

Etching is one of the oldest methods of printmaking dating back to the 15th century. It is a technique involving a metal surface such as zinc or copper, and an acid-biting material that “eats” or “etches” into the surface creating a design or image. To print, ink is rubbed into the etched lines, and, with paper, it is run through a press. The image is then transferred to the paper, but in the reverse form. It is much more involved, but this is a simple version.

The background of your etchings often have what is called Chine-collé? Can you tell us about that technique?

Traditionally Chine-collé was used to create a tonal background for an etching using thin tissue or rice paper. The paper and the printing of the etching are run through the press together to create the finished image. Through experimenting, I have updated the technique using origami and patterned papers to achieve a colorful background for my subjects.

Your mother is the much-admired artist Flo Kemp. How has she influenced you growing up? 

My mom, master etcher that she is, taught me quite a bit about etching, and we still spend time in the studio together. I lived and breathed her work for so long, it naturally manifests itself in my work too. Mom has always encouraged and supported me along the way, providing me with etching advice and giving me business advice too.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to develop my paintings and etchings even further. In responding to your questions, I’ve learned a few things about myself that I hadn’t stepped back to consider. I realize how much I enjoy processes and techniques, and how much they inform the style of my work. These will continue to influence the evolution and progression of my art.

What galleries represent your work?

Danette Koke Fine Art in NYC, who has carried my work for almost 20 years, Radius Gallery in Montana and Ogunquit Museum in Maine. I also show yearly at the Gallery North Outdoor Show and with the Setauket Artists. You may view my work and order etchings or landscapes at www.karenkemp.com.

'Long Winter Shadows'

By Irene Ruddock

Jane McGraw Teubner

Artist statement: ’Painting with pastels captures light in nature with a brilliance and mystery that takes me on a journey to the creative process!’

Jane McGraw Teubner is a Master Pastelist in the Pastel Society of America, as well as a Master Circle Recipient from the International Association of Pastel Societies. She is on the board of directors of the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, which exhibits each year in the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park in New York City and is a Resident Artist of the famed Salmagundi Art Club, also located in the city. Recently her painting was on the cover of PleinAir Magazine, an international art journal devoted to outdoor painting. McGraw Teubner, who resides in East Northport with her husband Rich, recently answered some questions about her art.

Why are you drawn to pastels? 

I am drawn to pastels because of the immediacy, vibrancy and permanence of the colors. Originally, I worked in oils but I was working full time, with limited time to paint. The paint would dry out on my palette and I was lazy about cleaning my brushes. When I discovered pastels about 30 years ago, it was the perfect medium for a busy person. They are already dry, no mixing of colors, no chemicals, no brush cleaning! The effects you can achieve with pastels are not matched by any other medium.

Can you describe your process for painting a pastel?

‘Autumn Splendor’

 

It is an incremental approach. I start each painting with a small study of the composition. If that works, I go to the next step to create a value-based underpainting, usually with one or two colors to achieve the correct lights and darks. If I am pleased with that, I continue on to placing colors.

Where do you like to paint?

I love painting outdoors. I do a lot of studio work too, but that studio work is heavily influenced by working directly from nature. You cannot duplicate the colors of nature with a camera. The lights are usually too light and the darks too dark. My “go-to” place is Sunken Meadow State Park.

What is it about an ordinary scene that you can transform into an extraordinary painting? 

I try to put magic into my paintings. When someone looks at my work, I’d like them to say “How did she do that?” I like to take a scene and put something personal into it, my own vision and atmosphere. I use a limited color palette that helps enhance the serenity of my work.

I know that you teach pastel classes in your studio, as well as at the Teaching Studios of Art in Oyster Bay. What is the most important thing you can teach your students? 

I teach my students to not be afraid to fail, that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes.

Are there any secrets that you can share about your process?

‘Lavendar Field’

Yes, when I am working in front of an easel, I am living in the present, appreciating every moment, not wanting to be anywhere else. I consider that to be one of the secrets to a good painting or a good life — being mindful of what you are doing. I not only get a true sense of accomplishment for the finished product, but even more from the journey that took me there.

How can someone who is not able to come to a workshop with you learn about your process?

A few years ago I made a DVD with American Artist Magazine, which is available through www.northlightshop.com. It was filmed in Colorado and it’s about creating a painting outdoors.

One of your paintings landed on the Oct./Nov. cover of Plein Air Magazine along with an extensive article. What was that experience like?

It was very exciting to have been chosen to be interviewed for the magazine, but to get on the cover was a special gift I never imagined that would happen. It was a matter of being prepared for the opportunity and luck. Steven Doherty, the editor, chose one of my paintings from my website and submitted it to the publisher, along with three other artists’ work. That’s where the luck came in when Eric Rhoads picked mine.

After winning so many national and local awards, is there one award that you consider your most memorable?

‘Tidal Wash’

I received the Gold Medal of Honor for Pastels and Drawing from the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club a few years ago. It was a national juried show with artists participating from all over the country and it was my first national award. I have also received two awards from the Plein Air Easton competition. Just the process of getting accepted into the most well-respected plein air show in the country is an honor, with hundreds of people applying for just 50 spots, but to win an award is an outstanding accomplishment.

Where can we see your work?

People are welcome to see my newest work, upcoming exhibits and latest painting adventures by visiting my website, which is www.janemcgrawteubner.com. I am represented on Long Island at the William Ris Gallery East in Jamesport.

Are any of your hobbies related to painting? 

Running has been my main form of exercise for over 35 years. Learning to paint is like training for a marathon. Each single step is important. Running taught me to take baby steps and have patience with my painting. With much practice, you will get better.

'Back Porch Pumpkin' by Al Candia

By Irene Ruddock

Artist’s statement:  I hope that my paintings create a deeper sense of the relationship between ourselves and the splendid world in which we live, and are moving through too quickly. — Al Candia

 

Al Candia

Al Candia, a Stony Brook resident, has been interested in art since childhood. He began painting seriously while teaching English at Commack High School, continuing his studies of art at Stony Brook University. His workshops and private study included courses with many noted artists, including Joseph Reboli. Candia has become an award-winning artist exhibiting extensively in galleries all over Long Island. Chosen as Honored Artist by the Setauket Artists in 2015, Candia is October’s Artist of the Month at The Long Island Museum.

Can you elaborate on your artist’s statement?

I concentrate on the immediate world around me. I try to avoid “grand” subjects and tend to focus on the common, ordinary things that I find meaningful, but that we are sometimes too busy to notice: a farm fence in an open field, ancient beach chairs frozen in the snow, a jetty marching down into the ocean, flowers stuck in an old bucket, a small pumpkin on the steps.

How did you learn to paint?

The most important teacher is “the doing.” I can’t tell you how many acres of canvas I went through to arrive at a level where I began to consider myself as an artist.

It has been said that your paintings ‘touch the heart’ and are soulful. Why do you think that is?

Perhaps by going through life so fast, people might secretly yearn for a simpler way of life. They may enjoy slowing down a bit to “take a breath” and see the ordinary and realize it can be extraordinary.

You were an English teacher for 36 years before becoming a full-time artist. How did teaching influence your work?

For me, there is wonderful connection between fine art and literature. Writers and poets deal very much in the creation of images. An image can haunt us, fill us with joy. It is what makes a written work alive and vivid. It is what made me want to become a painter. I would see something — a broken seashell, a window in the late afternoon shadows — that would move me deeply and would be heavy with meaning. I very much wanted to celebrate that in a painting.

‘Back Porch Pumpkin’ by Al Candia

How do you find inspiration for a painting?

Robert Frost said that a poem begins with a lump in the throat. He was talking, of course, about being moved or shaken by something — an idea, an experience, an object — that needs to be expressed. That is true for me also. Recently, I came across a pumpkin on the worn steps of a back porch. I was so taken with this simple object that hardly anyone would see. I thought of the person who placed it there out of a some personal gesture. I thought it would make a touching painting that reveals some small aspect of our humanity.

What is your method?

I usually begin with a bunch of photos. I take these back to my studio and begin to work up a drawing idea for the painting. This is an important step where you design the composition, simplify, arrange the elements, and begin to think of color and light. From there, I proceed as many oil painters do by washing the canvas with a thin mixture of warm color diluted with mineral spirits. Next I begin to lay in the large shapes. Essentially I am carrying on a dialogue with the canvas, finding out what is working and what is not.

Why have you chosen oil painting over other mediums?

I think the medium choose me. It somehow fits my personality. Oil painting is slow moving and deliberate. It often will take a few days to allow the painting to dry before moving on to the next step. During these intervals the painting is percolating in my brain, trying to make the painting as good as it possibly can be. I compare it to a child with a wind up toy, winding that toy as tight as possible in order to release it to its maximum effect.

What is the biggest difficulty you encounter in the creation of a painting?

After working with a painting for a couple weeks, you can lose the sense of it, you lose perspective. You can begin to doubt yourself: did I make all the right decisions, is the color just right, did I overwork it, does it still capture what you set out to do? At this time, for me, it is important to have honest feedback from others. My wife is an important part in keeping me on track.

‘Hydrangeas in a Bucket’ by Al Candia

After all that work and effort, it must be difficult to let a painting go.

Not at all. I love the entire process of painting from the initial moment of finding a subject, to creating a design, through the struggle of execution. And hopefully someone will come along and appreciate the painting enough to buy it and hang it in their home. For me that completes the cycle, and the painting begins its life.

Beside the Visitor’s Center at The Long Island Museum in October, where can we see your work?

I will be exhibiting at the Setauket Neighborhood House in the 37th annual Setauket Artists exhibit from Oct. 22 to Nov. 20. People are always welcome to visit my studio by appointment. You can contact me by visiting my website at www.alcandia.com.