Q.         Congratulations on becoming a full-time desert resident. What are you working on currently?

A:         Thanks! After several years of living here seasonally, my husband Dan and I have decided to make La Quinta our permanent home. Since we moved to the desert, it feels like my painting has risen to another level. There are various factors at work - the feel of the desert, the continual changing color of the mountains, always different, the friendliness of the people. I feel like I have finally come home. To me, the desert has a unique soul and that is what I am putting into my paintings.  

I have been working for some time on a body of work focused on the desert from the Indian Canyons in Palm Springs to Box Canyon, La Quinta and Borrego Springs. These are paintings that emphasize the color, light and natural beauty of the desert, and they are executed with brushwork that is characteristic of plein air painting. The smaller works are painted on location; the larger paintings are created in my studio, using the location paintings as studies. I also have been working on a number of still life paintings, most of them painted from floral arrangements. These works have the same general brushwork approach, although there are some that have a more ‘finished feel to them.  

Q.         How do you choose your subject matter?

A:         It’s important that I paint scenes that have an emotional appeal for me. Color and feeling are the primary considerations for me, whether it is a desert scene, a mountain landscape or a floral piece. I have painted extensively in the Pacific Northwest, as well as in the desert. My preference for the unique light and color of the desert has grown considerably over the years, and I have finally bid goodbye to the grayer palette of the Northwest. With each painting, I am striving to achieve the color harmony that is true according to the light at that moment in time.  

Q.         How do you approach a new painting? 

A:         I first look for a subject that contains a good combination of light, shadow patterns, and color. The design of the objects needs to be interesting, and many times some simplification is required. At that point I am using mental images of the potential design or making quick sketches to determine what will work the best. Next, I determine the direction of the light and do a black-and-white comparison of the values - light, medium, and dark. 

            As I am mixing colors, I constantly compare how they relate to each other as cool or warm notes. I begin painting with large abstract shapes, model form, and then finish with the small details. I use vigorous brush marks to describe form, and also to express my emotional involvement in the subject. When I’m working on location, the light is constantly changing. This means that I have less than two hours to finish a painting. In the plein air style, this single-sitting approach to painting is referred to as alla prima. In my studio, though, I will commonly spend two weeks or more on large canvases. 

Q.         Would you say that your current painting style is more evolutionary or revolutionary? 

A:         It has definitely been an evolutionary process, and it continues with each new painting. It has taken me over 30 years of study and practice – and thousands of paintings – to develop my craft. I believe that an artist’s best work comes when spontaneity takes over and the painting just ‘happens’. But an artist will never reach that special point of being completely in the moment without first learning the fundamentals. Planning and control can never be ignored. As John Singer Sargent said, it takes endless study, practice, and “miles and miles of canvases”.  

Over time, I have learned how to find my way back into that perfect moment where I have total involvement in the creative process. I lose track of time. It is a solitary and very personal time, when the only thing that matters is the painting process itself.  

Q:         Does that ‘perfect moment’ you spoke of describe a heightened state of awareness? 

A:         Yes. There is joy, excitement, and an awareness of everything that is there. An artist needs to be excited about what is being experienced and translated to canvas. It can be a majestic vista or something as simple as seeing the way the light strikes a blade of grass. A well executed painting can open the eyes of the viewers to something that they either missed or haven’t seen in that same way before. My creative expression is a means for me to appreciate and be thankful for life. My paintings are a way for me to share those feelings of joy and gratitude with others. I believe that this awareness allows me to add a nonverbal subtext that enhances my work. When I am painting outdoors, it is the feeling of the wind, the smell of the dry desert air, a bird’s song – all these elements become part of the painting. 

Q:         You have spent over 30 years developing yourself as an artist. Were you born an artist? 

A:         I believe that in some respects, yes, I’ve been an artist all my life – ever since I was that young child drawing at the kitchen table. I studied art in college, but that was during a period when professors didn’t really teach. It was not until 1979, when I quit teaching elementary school that my painting career really began. That was a tough year; I lost both my parents in a tragic automobile accident. Painting was a way for me to work through the grieving process. It didn’t take me long to become serious about painting. I found that I had an intense desire to be able to draw and paint in a confident and beautiful manner.  I must have taken lessons from 10 different artists. Each one always managed for me to come home with a pretty picture, but I was left without any idea of what I did or how I might apply it to my own work. Then later, I was introduced to painter Ron Lukas. That experience was the beginning of a lifetime of serious painting and learning. 

Q:         Wasn’t Ron Lukas a protégé of the great Russian Impressionist, Sergei Bongart? 

A:         Yes, Ron taught me the basic but critically important principles of fine art, but I am very fortunate to have had many workshops with Sergei, who taught me how to see and paint color. He believed that an artist needs to learn how to draw, to study values, understand how to relate to color and compare color differences - and not paint like a person filling in colors in a coloring book. Sergei thought that painting should be visual poetry. He introduced me to the Russian artists whom I believe are true masters at creating classic impressionistic works that have color, form, and extraordinary emotional value. Of them, Isaac Levitan, the Russian landscape painter, is my favorite.  

Q:         What other artists have influenced your work or inspired you? 

A:         I broke down and cried in front of the first Rembrandt painting that I ever saw. I admire Andre Zorn, from Sweden, and the Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla because they are masters in painting the color of light and shadow in all types of lighting situations. More recently, I have developed an interest in William Wendt because of the emotional feel of his work, and his design and color. 

Q:         Who are the artists who have had the most influence on your desert paintings? 

A:         I’m inspired by quite a few artists who painted the southwest, but the ones whose work I study are Maynard Dixon, Paul Grimm, and Sam Hyde Harris. I also have great respect for contemporary landscape painter Matt Smith. 

Q:         You also offer a series of painting workshops – it seems that you are both student and teacher. 

A:         I have two great passions; one is painting, and the other is teaching. For the past 30 years I have been involved continually in teaching workshops all over the U.S. and in foreign locations.  Each time I teach, lecture, or demonstrate, I believe the sharing that takes place is an inspiration to my own work.  Traveling in Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America have all given me a wealth of enriched experiences that I bring into my work. 

My husband and I have traveled extensively throughout Asia. I organized and led a tour to Shanghai and Hangzhou, China, for artists to study for 2 weeks at the Zhejiang Provincial Fine Arts Academy where Chinese artists study with a professor of the Russian School of representational art.  In Africa, at Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, I taught a workshop and demonstrated at a gallery. I also had the opportunity to teach 75 street children art projects at a Red Cross Center. In addition, we purchased property in Eastern Washington to provide a facility where internationally known artists could come to teach and lecture. Many of these artists were from the Bongart School. 

Q:         Lastly, what are your thoughts on the importance of art in our culture? 

A:         I believe that art can truly enrich the soul. A good painting should make the viewer feel a little bit better about everything. I have always felt that the artist can imbue a painting with an emotional interaction that the viewer can experience again later. This is why art is so important as a communicative medium. It can reach far beyond the limits of spoken language, and into an area of intuition and emotional narrative that connects directly with the human spirit.