The Language of Color

By Judy Feldman |

This winter, I took a trip to San Miguel, Mexico. This colonial city bursts with color, and it’s not unusual to see homes painted in bright yellow, reds and greens, enhanced with beautiful foliage. The many shops display handcrafts that reflect Mexicans love of color.

The Colors of San Miguel
Judy Feldman
30" x 36", oil on canvas
When I returned here to the desert, I realized that our homes are painted to blend into the landscape, so color must occur inside.

That’s where art comes in. Many painters, especially those at Wilde Meyer, enjoy expressing themselves through the use of bright color. The gallery is known for its artists’ love of a strong palette, expressed in a variety of styles.
For Evermore
Cathy Carey
25" x 21", oil on canvas

Cathy Carey describes herself as a “contemporary expressive colorist,” and says that she strives to “use color to create emotional meaning and visual depth.” Although Cathy paints landscapes, she doesn’t use much local color. Instead, her goal is to communicate what the scene feels like to her, using strong hues. Cathy is very knowledgeable about color theory, and works with contrasts, such as warm against cool, light against darks, and brilliant hues adjacent to neutral tones. Her painting entitled “For Evermore” illustrates this technique. The purple mountains and vegetation pop against the bright yellow sky and paler yellow foreground. The tree trunk texture is created by warm hues against cool ones. Adding to the vitality of the painting are her beautiful brushstrokes, which remind me so much of Van Gogh. 

Sounds of Life
Cathy Carey
30" x 24", oil on canvas
Cathy told me that she is very influenced by the impressionist and post-impressionist masters. She said that Monet’s writings about color and composition are of particular importance to her. “I’ve learned to use diagonal shapes to guide the viewer’s eyes, and to circulate a color throughout the painting to create a unified look,” she said. You can see these ideas expressed in her painting entitled “Sounds of Life.” The diagonal movement of the painting images takes our eyes upward at first glance; then we can focus on the shapes, and see the animal curled up among the plants. Cathy uses her blues and greens in different areas, which unifies the painting, and the pop of red/orange against the greens enlivens it up. Her energetic brushstrokes, reminiscent of Van Gogh’s, really make the painting appealing to me.
Jack Roberts also strives to create a visual sensation through color. He, too, wants to stir the viewer’s emotions, and says that his abstract paintings are about pushing color and shape buttons. Jack works on a large canvas, on a flat surface. He says that he likes to paint wet-on-wet, so the paint is always moving. He uses many different implements, from plastic spatulas to push brooms and house paint brushes. A garden hose is used to remove paint in some areas, and reveal other dry paint underneath, to create the layers he wants.

Jack Roberts
50" x 50", acrylic on canvas
I’m a person who thrives on color, so I’m very drawn to Jack’s paintings. As you can see in his painting entitled “Acoma,” his colors are very clear; he mixes beautiful opaques with jewel-toned transparent hues.

Pow Wow
Jack Roberts
50" x 60", acrylic on canvas
“Pow Wow” is another burst of color. Jack said that he was inspired by Native American dancers’ costumes. “What you see here are the garments, and a suggestion of figures moving,” he said. “But, I’m not interested in a linear interpretation. I like to work freely and go where the paint takes me. Although I want my work to look spontaneous, each painting requires considerable thought, to make sure that I achieve the proper composition and color relationships.”

 An interest in color also drives the work of Theresa Paden. Her paintings convey her love of animals, but they are not the usual wildlife art. They’re vivid and exciting because she employs energetic colors that aren’t traditional in any way. “When I’m painting, I enjoy experimenting with different color combinations,” Theresa said. “First, I do a drawing, based on a photo. Then, I do several small color studies to see which combinations depict the feelings I want to express.”

Bison on the Move
Theresa Paden
30" x 48", acrylic on canvas

Like all of us color-obsessed painters, Theresa says that she is inspired by the Fauves and Post-Impressionists. She adds that her color palette had been initially inspired by a trip to Santa Fe, when she was so enchanted by the light and the colors of the city, especially turquoise, red and coral. You can see this influence in her painting entitled “Bison on the Move.” The bright turquoise on the animal’s head and light yellow on its back tells us that it’s in sunlight. These colors, along with warm reds and browns enliven the painting and give it a contemporary look.

Theresa Paden
20 X 20", acrylic
Theresa’s paintings are fresh and modern because she’s not trying to set her animals in a traditional wildlife environment. Instead, she creates abstract backgrounds with bold strokes of color. “Meandering” is a good example of this technique. “I’m trying to show dappled light coming through the trees on to the animal,” she said. “These backgrounds also set the animal apart and enable me to work in looser shapes and brushstrokes. I like to do something the camera can’t do.”

 Playing with color enables artists to explore creative possibilities and convey their emotions. Even though people say that “art imitates life,” I think that strong color can make art much more interesting than what we see!

You can see more work by Theresa Paden, Jack Roberts, and Cathy Carey at Wilde Meyer Gallery.


Morning Shadows
Judy Feldman
36" x 30", oil on canvas
Can dilly-dallying help the artistic process?

By Judy Feldman |

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while. But different commitments and distractions have gotten in the way. Is that procrastination? Sometimes, that happens before I start a painting. Then, I can really procrastinate, with laundry, gardening, cooking, whatever is a good stalling technique. When people ask me how long it takes to do a painting, like “Morning Shadows,” I guess I have to add a few hours to the process.

Why do creative people procrastinate? Is it productive? I had to ask some fellow artists.

Zebrid Display Tactics
Timothy Chapman, 16" x 20" acrylic on panel
Timothy Chapman admitted that procrastination is part of his personality. “I know it’s there, and I just have to deal with it,” he said. But, he explained that for him, procrastination is like drawing your bow to get ready to make art. “I need some time to reflect,” he explained. “I’ll go into my studio and clean up a bit, then play a quick game. But once I get going, I get into the zone, and paint for hours.”

Timothy studied biology in school, and is fond of depicting animals in his own way., which, according to him, is “basically inaccurate, by using humor, irony and a surrealistic sensibility that is not available to a scientist.” So part of his process involves looking through reference material – often Victorian animal portraiture – and then doing some sketches, before going on to a canvas. “Sketching deflects procrastination,” he explains. Great idea!

Evening Guardian Ritual
Timothy Chapman, 36" x 48" acrylic on panel

Once Timothy examines old animal engravings and starts riffing on their weirdness (these illustrators rarely saw the real thing), he gets his ideas. How to explain “Zebrid Display Tactics” except to note how wonderfully the red blanket shows off the black and white stripes. And, what about the flying? “Gravity is optional is most of my paintings,” he says. Levitation is also present in “Evening Guardian Ritual,” a mélange of species and patterns. Timothy says that these patterns develop as he is painting, as do the drips that dribble down from the sky.

Landscape #868
Albert Scharf, 36" x 48", oil on canvas
Albert Scharf has a ritual he performs before painting. A student of Kabbalah, he tries to guide his thoughts beyond barriers to creativity. “I think about the energy of the day, and try to open myself up spiritually” he says. “In Kabbalah, creative thinking is closest to wisdom, the path to seeking unknown knowledge. So, procrastination can be productive.”

To get started on a project, Albert says he often visualizes a color palette, and then puts paint on his canvas. “Then, I’m off and running,” he says. “I work back and forth to fix mistakes on an unconscious level. Ultimately, that becomes a painting.”

Landscape 802
Albert Scharf, 54" x 42", oil on canvas

Albert’s luminous cloud paintings, such as “Landscape 868” convey a dreamy state of mind to me, stimulated by a beautiful sunrise or sunset. His very low horizon, with just a hint of land, gives lots of room for his ethereal clouds. Looking at “Landscape 802,” I feel as if they are moving across the canvas. The glowing highlights on the ground below seem to reflect the setting sun.

Another arsenal in his combat against procrastination is to work on three or four canvases at a time. “I focus on a main one, but if problems arise, I can go to another, without getting off track.” He also has other, more playful projects, to “work in a different creative mode and lighten up the tendency to get into a rut.”

Jeff Cochran, the third artist I called, seems to have a good handle on procrastination. “I basically make myself sit and drink coffee until I can’t sit anymore,” he says. I’m guessing that enough caffeine will propel him into his studio. Since his move to Taos, New Mexico, Jeff has been painting landscapes of areas surrounding his home. So he does need to muster up the energy and enthusiasm to load up his van and get out to do the plein air studies he paints, before doing the larger ones in his studio.

Ray of Light in the Pasture (study)
Jeff Cochran, 48" x 50", oil on canvas

“I try to do eight or nine paintings outdoors,” he says. “I like to work near my home, since I really don’t want to drive very far. Painting is a full-time job for me so I do work every day, unless I struggle, in which case, I wait for the next day.”

Looking at Jeff’s beautiful landscapes, I can sense his love of the painting process. “Mountain Range in Autumn,” for example, shows his knowledge of color and his energetic brushstrokes (caffeine-related?) transform a quiet scene into something exciting. Jeff said that sometimes, he’ll create a scene that reflects his outdoor observations, then he adds more drama, as in his painting entitled “Ray of Light in the Pasture.”

Mountain Range in Autumn
Jeff Cochran, 48" x 52", oil on canvas

Jeff is single, so he can do things like make his recent impulsive trip to the Baja in Mexico, set up camp and paint a while with no distractions. But, maybe I’m just rationalizing. Maybe some of us creative types are just super skilled at creating techniques for delaying the work we love.
In closing, I’d like to quote from a line by Ellen DeGeneres: “Procrastinate now, don’t put it off!”

You can see more work by Timothy Chapman, Albert Scharf, Jeff Cochran, and Judy Feldman at Wilde Meyer Gallery.

What Fuels our Creativity?

By Judy Feldman |

I just finished reading an amusing book called “Steal Like an Artist,” by Austin Kleon. On one of the first pages, he says “What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”

36" x 48" oil on canvas
Judy Feldman
Afternoon at the Cote d'Azur
40" x 30"  oil on canvas
Judy Feldman
Almost all artists have their muses, and I think it’s so interesting to see how artists can take inspiration from work they admire, and then incorporate certain elements into their own uniq...ue style. I also believe that inspiration comes from the subconscious, from experiences we’ve had and places we’ve been during our lives.

For me, it’s always been the post-Impressionists – especially Matisse! I admire his amazing use of color, his disregard for the rules of perspective, and his emphasis on his reactions to what he saw, and how he transmitted those feelings in his paintings. Can you see his influence in my painting called “Treats?” Other painters, such as Bonnard and Gabrielle Munter also have inspired me. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in France, and I think that this, too, shows up in my paintings, such as “Afternoon at the Cote d’Azur.”

Following this theme of influences, I phoned a few Wilde Meyer artists to see who their muses were. Here are their responses:

Ryan Hale said his biggest influence is the work of the abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. “I particularly like his color field paintings, he explained. “I agree with his theory that color can expressfeeling, and admire his technique of painting thin, then building up layers to create soft, as well as defined areas.” You can see Rothko’s influence in Ryan’s painting entitled “Earthbound.”

60" x 48" acrylic on canvas
Ryan Hale
Ryan is very interested in aerial imagery, and he refers to maps to provoke ideas about “where civilization ends and nature takes over.” He likes to play with the contrast of organic, unorganized shapes, contrasted with the geometric restraints of the city grids. He explained, “I’m trying to organize chaos.” I think that “The Elements of Nature” expresses this effort.

Elements of Nature
48" x 48" acrylic on canvas
Ryan Hale

Barnett Newman is another muse to Ryan. He, too, is known for his color field paintings. According to Wikipedia, “His paintings are existential in tone and content, explicitly composed with the intention of communicating a sense of locality, presence and contingency.” Newman’s influence appears to me in Ryan’s painting entitled “The City Sunset.

The City Sunset
60" x 72" acrylic on canvas
Ryan Hale

Sushe Felix lives in Colorado. Her southwest landscapes have a distinctive style, which she claims is derived from her interest in American abstract painters from the 1930’s and 40s, as well as the modernist and cubist movements. “In particular, I’ve been influenced by Raymond Jonson, who led the Transcendental Painting Group in Santa Fe,” Sushe explained.

Summer Afternoon 
 20.5 " x 20.5" acrylic on panel
Sushe Felix 
I looked up the group on Google, and discovered that the aim of the Transcendental Painting Group was "to defend, validate and promote abstract art. They sought to carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world, through new expressions of space, color, light and design."

Sunlit Canyon 
29.5" x 35.5" acrylic on panel
Sushe Felix

Thomas Hart Benton, who was at the forefront of the Regionalist movement, also influenced Sushe, as did the southwest regionalist painters, who took the local landscape and abstracted it. She has her own spin on this inspiration, with a strong focus on forms, shapes and color. You can see her unique style in these paintings, entitled “Summer Afternoon” and “Sunlit Canyon.” Sushe has a favorite color palette, using strong complementary colors to draw attention to areas of interest for her.

Oranges I
30 " x 22" acrylic on paper
Rudie van Brussel
Rudie van Brussel’s artistic inspiration stems from his very interesting background. He grew up in Surinam, originally a Dutch colony in South America. Although he was first educated in a Dutch school, he was greatly affected by the deep colors of the tropics. Imagine Vermeer and Rembrandt in South America! When Surinam became independent, Rudie and his family moved to the United States, and Rudie attended ASU, obtaining a degree in engineering. But, that was not satisfying, and so after traveling the world, he starting painting, recalling the images and memories of his island life.

Fruit Table
 45" x 61" oil on canvas
Rudie van Brussel

“Fruit Table” shows Rudie’s love of color, tempered by a soft layer of shading that reflects the influence of the Dutch masters. In another series, instead of the formal portraits done by the Old Masters, Rudie has chosen to paint animal portraits in a formal, yet whimsical style.  I think Rudie also has been influenced by the magical realism of South America, when I look at his somewhat surreal paintings such as “Feathers” and “Tumbler.” As I said previously, our inspiration often springs from our subconscious – a mix of current and past experiences.

53" x 36" acrylic on canvas
Rudie van Brussel
48" x 36" oil on canvas
Rudie van Brussel

I think we all have muses in our lives – people we admire and who inspire us in our pursuits, artistic or otherwise. And, someday, we may be an inspiration to someone else!

You can see more work by Rudie van Brussel, Sushe Felix, Ryan Hale, and Judy Feldman at Wilde Meyer Gallery.

Collecting for a Cause

By Judy Feldman |

Bruno Waiting
Judy Feldman
In June, Wilde Meyer is hosting its 100 for $100 show. Now in its fourth year as an annual event, the gallery at Marshall Way is displaying the work of many Wilde Meyer artists, and each work of art will sell for $100. In addition to offering original artwork for an amazing price, much of the proceeds will go to several animal charities.

Cinnabar Green
Judy Feldman
“This is a great way to get acquainted with many different artists,” said owner Betty Wilde. “it’s always easy to find a place for a small painting or sculpture, and at this price, you can even make a grouping of several pieces without spending too much.”

I’m excited to be participating again. This time, I’ll have several paintings in the show, including “Cinnabar Green” (I found an awesome new tube of green paint), and “Bruno Waiting.”  And, I’m looking forward to seeing what the other artists are showing. I may collect, too!

Here’s a small sample of some of the works that have been brought in for the show.

Please know that this event has been so successful, that the gallery will be selling more than 100 works of art through a lottery system. The images will be emailed to all of you; you can put your name on a list for a particular painting starting Thursday, June 2, and a name will be drawn for each painting on Friday, June 3. I hope you’ll participate and enjoy some wonderful new art!

Be on the lookout for additional information coming up via email soon!

Where does your eye go?

The power of the horizon line

By Judy Feldman |

A few weeks ago, while driving up to Flagstaff, I felt as if I were enveloped in a mass of fluffy grey clouds. It was pleasant, and yet, disconcerting. Something was a little off, and I realized that it was because from my perspective, the horizon was so low. My view was all about the sky and its atmospheric effect.

Landscape #715
50" x 60" oil on canvas
 Albert Scharf 
Painters use horizon placement as a technique to convey their story. It can orient the viewers to where the artist wants them to be. A low horizon, like the “cloudscape” I saw, suggests a deep, open space; whereas a high horizon places the emphasis on the foreground. If the horizon is basically in the middle of the canvas, then the eye will be drawn more to color and shapes.

Landscape 802
54" x 42" oil on canvas
 Albert Scharf 
When I was pondering the low horizon line, I immediately thought about Albert Scharf, a Wilde Meyer artist who lives in Santa Fe. Looking at Albert Scharf’s beautiful cloud paintings, you can really sense the vastness of the sky I was feeling myself. When I spoke with him, he said that he finds that clouds are an interesting subject because of what they do to the light, and since they have abstract shapes, he’s not bound by form or structure.

“Clouds have an amorphic shape that enable me to pursue my interest in the emotional content of color,” he said.  “Also, the manipulation of their hard and soft edges gives great energy to the paintings.”

At first, Albert just painted clouds, but he then decided to add the thin slice of land below as a counter balance which, he noted, makes the sky look even larger. This is the effect of the low horizon that intrigues me. You can see how this happens in Albert’s painting entitled “Landscape 802.” (Yes, he numbers all his paintings.)  In “Landscape 715,” he has increased the size of the ground and textured it with a palette knife, which separates the land and sky and gives the painting a completely different look.

Landscape 852
60" x 48" oil on canvas
Albert Scharf 
Although he has seen many beautiful Santa Fe skies in the 30 years he has lived there, Albert does not use local color; rather he prefers to present his ”skyscapes” in analogous saturated hues that transcend through the conscious into the subconscious. “I want to take my viewers to a place where they feel good,” he said. A great example of this technique can be seen in “Landscape #852,” where the sky bursts with hues of pink, gold and violet.

On the other hand, Larry Taylor’s interest lies in the beautiful gardens he paints, so he purposely keeps his horizon line high. He says that it’s his personal preference, “just the way I look at the scene.”
The Well Traveled Path
 35" x 35" oil on canvas
Lawrence Taylor

Since the 1980s, Larry has made periodic trips to England and Wales, visiting the gardens of the British National Trust. The photographs he takes on site are used for inspiration in his paintings. In his work entitled “A Quiet Place,” Larry leads the viewer’s eye up the steps to the horizon, and along the way, we are treated to a gorgeous display of red tulips, purple irises and mounds of golden hued flowers. I just want to walk right into the scene!

Quiet Place
40" x 44" oil on canvas
Lawrence Taylor

“The Well-Traveled Path” is another example of Larry’s technique of getting the viewer to travel from the foreground to the end of a path near the high horizon. His clusters of blooms vibrate with color. Although our eyes are initially attracted to the brilliant red flowers in front, we still want to go up the path and see what’s going on at the house in the background.

Is horizon line placement always important to create drama? Not necessarily. Judy Choate is more interested in perspective and balance when painting her stylized landscapes. The excitement in her work comes from the brilliant colors and somewhat abstract shapes she uses to convey her impressions of the mountains of the Southwest. Judy has observed their interesting formations for years, while living in Sedona, on driving trips, and, now near her home in Tucson.

Approaching Storm
 48" x 60" acrylic on canvas
Judy Choate 
In her large (48”X60” painting entitled “Approaching Storm,” the horizon is actually in the middle of the scene. She catches our eye in a different way, by painting dark shapes in the foreground as a foundation, describing the mountains in warm pure hues in front and in more opaque colors behind. The slash of deep blue defines the horizon and adds more depth. Then our eye goes up to the whirling shapes of the sky.

Judy often lets the shape of a canvas determine her design. For example, in “Approaching Sunset,” the 20”X60” format dictates a wide-angle view of the mountains. We see a piece of the horizon line behind the golden shapes, where the sky swirls upward.

Approaching Sunset
20" x 60" acrylic on canvas
Judy Choate 
Some artists do away with a horizon line altogether. But, that’s another story, another blog!

You can see more work by Albert ScharfLawrence Taylor, and  Judy Choate at Wilde Meyer Gallery.