This week, NH Watercolorists set up an exhibit at Breaking New Grounds, in Portsmouth. Coffee and art has never looked this great together before.
A doe had twins in out yard last year. Since then, the family of three would visit on and off, and these days, they come by one at a time. One of the two yearlings I named Martha, and she did her morning stroll through my garden this morning. The magic of it all, is that instead of running off, the young deer approached me and stood only about ten feet away, watching me watch her.
As I sit with Aline Lotter in her studio in Mancherster, one cannot doubt that this is a living space of an artist, with a paints’ pouch in the back of the room, artwork purchased from other talents on the walls, and an unfinished portrait waiting on the easel. Five cats express varying degree of curiosity, watching our conversation unfold.
What was your path to the life of an artist?
From making paper dolls and attending art club as a child, I always enjoyed art. But I didn’t pursue it until much later. I was a housewife, then earned my degree as a lawyer and that was part of my career path, until a few years ago. I took a course at New Hampshire Institute of Art with my granddaughter. She’s very talented, but a little shy. The rest is history.
What subjects inspire you?
I love working on location on landscapes, and often join the outings with the local plein air group. But I also enjoy portraiture and figure painting. We have a group that works with a model and meets regularly just for this reason. For a period of time, I also explored floral arrangements, although, not quite as in depth as I would have liked. Overall, I’d say working outdoors on a figure in a garden setting is one of my favorite things to do, and in general, much prefer working from life, rather than a photograph.
What media do you favor?
I paint mostly with oils and draw with charcoal. I briefly experimented with acrylics. Oils remain my favorite.
What was the best acknowledgement of your skill that you’ve ever received?
I was proud to have been accepted to be part of the show at the museum with my lab painting, “Sparkle.” It was part of the exhibit at Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Art Center in Dowell, MD. And, of course, I felt quite accomplished when Don Stone juried an exhibit at Rockport Art Association, and accepted my artwork.
Do you offer classes, workshops, or work on commissions?
Most of my commissions are pet portraits, and of course, my artwork is for sale and can be purchased at a number of locations. I don’t teach classes, because I would find it personally a challenge to separate my style from teaching the skill itself.
Do you have any current exhibits or shows coming up?
I’m on display at Massabessic Audubon Society with two other artists, and have an ongoing display at the Bartlett Inn, and looking forward to the Inspirations exhibit at Pease Library in Plymouth, as well as Alumni exhibit at Cornell University. Lastly, on June 22nd, I also have the opening for the Petals to Paint event coming up at La Belle Winery, in Amherst, NH.
If someone would like to reach out to you to place a commission or inquire about purchasing one of your a pieces, what is the best way to contact you?
I met Sharon through our joint love of outdoor painting, when I discovered her NH Plein Air group for the local artists. Her many talents are well worth sharing, and if you don’t yet, I hope you follow her facebook page, listed at the end of this interview.
What has been your path to becoming an artist?
I have drawn and painted for as long as I can remember. My mom worked and I would sit at my Grandmother’s kitchen table and color or paint in one of those old “paint with water” books while she ironed or made dinner. In 3rd grade my teacher gave me an F on an art project because “no 3rd grader could draw that well” (parental intervention with the school resulted). As I got older, I would trace over items in magazines and newspapers to get an understanding of how the line feels, then draw it on whatever paper was available. When teaching, I created many of my own bulletin boards and also did the drawings for floats in our annual town parade. I didn’t become “an artist” until much later. I’d been taking ceramics classes at 2 studios and had household utility items (butter dishes, lamps, teapots, etc) in several gift shops, then both teachers retired at the same time and I needed a new creative outlet. That was around 1998. While in my son’s dentist’s waiting room, I found an ad for adult art classes with what turned out to be one of the best art teachers in existence, and here I am – all because of her instruction and encouragement. I’ve taken many workshops and classes with other artists as well.
What mediums have you experimented with? What is your favorite?
I have worked in acrylics, colored pencil, charcoal, crayons, india ink, oils, pastels, and watercolors. I’ve dabbled in sculpture with a variety of clay types and have tried wood carving and wood block printing. On the craftier side of the arts I also crochet, glass paint, knit, latchhook, needlepoint, sew, and do wood burning, and have also done quilling, quilting, and scherenschnitte.
With painting, I love each of the mediums in different ways. When painting en plein air, oil is my go-to medium. I love pastels because they are the easiest for me and work up quickly, but I hate the dust. But when it comes down to it, watercolor is my first love because I love the flow and how you can be simultaneously loose and free and then tight in the same picture.
Do you have a creative routine?
HA! Not really. I don’t actually have a studio, although I’ve designated a small space for that purpose in my home but it’s barely a workable space and I work most frequently at the kitchen table (if it’s clear) which means that I can’t leave projects set up for multiple sessions. That’s one reason that I’m primarily a plein air painter – I get OUT to paint!
Many artists go through stages when they favor a certain medium or topic. What stage are you in now?
Oil. No wait – watercolor. Ummm … it varies from season to season (watercolor “calls” me in Summer) and from piece to piece. Some scenes just practically beg to be pastel while others say “Pssst – do me in watercolor!”
As to topic, I’m primarily a landscape painter but have also done some portrait, pet portrait, and house portrait work. I’m not a fan of still life, but have done some of those as well. It all depends on what “calls” me at any given moment. For example, I did a still life of water glasses on a dinner table because the play of candle light on the glasses and the colors of the reflections were so intriguing!
What is the best acknowledgement as an artist have you ever received? Has there been a particular award, show, or a comment that made you feel accomplished?
I have won awards for my acrylics (including a best in show in acrylic), pastels, and watercolors and also for my ceramics way back then. Sometimes being accepted into an important juried show feels as good as winning an award, and definitely having a major gallery email for advice because “we know that you’re the go-to person in that field” feels really good!
Do you have any exhibits or shows coming up?
I almost always have exhibits or shows coming up! I’ll be at Art & Antiques on the Green in New London in late June, in the “Beyond the Visible” exhibit at Azure Rising Gallery in Wolfeboro in July, at The Fells Artist Weekend in July, at the Sunapee Landing Trading Company Fine Art Exhibition in August, at Stroke of Art at Harborfest in Boothbay Harbor in September, and at the VINS Plein Air Festival in late September. I’m also part of the NHPleinAir Artists group exhibit at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in North Conway and plan to enter the upcoming show of the Mt. Washington Valley Art Association. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something!
What advice can you give to anyone considering career path in the arts?
Learn the business end of an art career as well – the marketing, the business cards, the networking, the display techniques. Then make sure you have another source of income, supplement your art sales income by teaching if you can, be choosy about where you allow your work to be displayed, don’t give your art away for free, and avoid auctions. Beware of events that try to lure you with “great exposure.”
Do you offer classes or workshops?
I do not currently offer classes or workshops as I don’t have a space to teach. I did private classes at students’ homes for awhile, but transporting all the supplies necessary is too cumbersome and there are often interruptions so I don’t do that anymore.
How can someone get in touch with your, if they would like to place a commission or visit your studio?
I don’t have a studio to visit, but patrons are welcome to spend the day on plein air outings! To commission a painting it’s always best to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I prefer to work on location and from my own photos, but I will also work from a client’s own photos to create a painting for them.
My Facebook Page is: https://www.facebook.com/SharonE.AllenFineArt/
I also have a variety of home décor reproductions, everything from “prints” to phone covers, to duvet covers and shower curtains and everything in between at:
I met Kimberly Meuse thanks to the wonders of Facebook, when she started looking for people interested in forming New Hampshire Society of Watercolorists. And when we met in person, it didn’t take long for me to grasp what a talented artist stood before me. Her skill is apparent in every piece I’ve seen, from her life-like animals, to her luminescent still life.
Kimberly graciously agreed to answer a few questions for my new Blog feature – interview with an artist. And I hope you will enjoy getting to know her, and will follow her work on social media and the website linked below.
- I know most artists say they’ve been drawing and sketching since they were little. Does that reflect your story? When did you become an artist?
I started at a very young age, as well. My first memories are of an old tin canister of crayons and drawing paper. I became “the artist” in the family in those early days and it suited me; an artist was what I felt destined to be. I won an art class competition in the 5th grade and the prize was a semester class at the art center across town. That was quite a validation of my artistic skills for me, and I loved the art teacher – a man who retired from teaching after suffering a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair. His gentle manner, encouragement and enthusiasm for my artistic abilities was really where I feel I turned the corner as a budding artist and felt that my life’s purpose would be forever tied (happily) to creating art. I was very shy as a child – the youngest of 4 children and often easy to overlook as I sat quietly drawing in whatever space I landed in, so the guidance of this wonderful mentor at such an early age was life-changing for me.
- What mediums have you experimented with? What is your favorite?
At the art center, my instructor introduced us to wire sculpture. At age 11 I created a wire sculpture of a cowboy on a horse. That was my preferred subject – horses – and moving from drawing horses with pencil to creating a 3-d wire sculpture of a horse was intriguing and expanded my visual sense of the horse’s body. I’d like to try my hand at that again, more so than changing my painting medium. When I started out, I focused on drawing in graphite, then tried pen and ink, oils and acrylics. Watercolor was the last medium I experimented with and I’ve never looked back. I love the clean transparency of the pigment. I don’t care for the heavy toxic smell associated with oils or the heavy plastic feel of acrylic. I see painting with watercolor as the reverse of how I painted with heavy pigments of oil and I love that quality. With watercolor, I start with the white of the paper and work in layers (glazes) to achieve the depths in detail and value, whereas the opposite was true with oils and acrylics. Even with the amount of glazing in my paintings, I feel that working with watercolor maintains a luminous quality I haven’t found in other mediums. Watercolor is definitely my favorite medium and has remained so for over 4 decades (wow, I feel old!)
- Can you talk a little bit about your process?
I work primarily with still life, so my process starts with the imagining and re-imagining of my elements and how they fit together in a composition. I have years of collecting estate sale treasures to work with in my studio – my favorite being polished silver pieces and glassware. Sunlit reflections in silver and refractions through glassware has always mesmerized me. Even a glass of water on a counter is fascinating to me when the light hits it just right. Seasonal flowers, spring and summer growing seasons are motivators for generating the most productive work months for me. I am inspired when the blossoms break through the shell of winter.
Once I’ve settled on a still life set up that suits my eye, I take reference shots to capture the lighting (I use natural sunlight for my still life) and start drawing the details of the setting onto paper. I keep the set up in place as I work and draw from life.
I create a highly detailed sketch before I start to ensure I capture all that I want before starting my wash. And then I go from there – a light wash to bookend with the graphite drawing, and glazing layers upon layers of pigment from there. The process, while seemingly tedious to anyone viewing it, is actually quite meditative for me; the details emerging from the white blank page never fails to bring a thrill.
3. Do you ever have self-doubts about your work?
Sure. I think most artists do at some point or other. Trends in art change constantly, just like trends in clothing or hair style, and at any given time it can feel as though your genre/medium/style is not sought after or in vogue. Unfortunately, fine artists are not paid a living wage to create – we are generally compensated only once the work is done, if even then, and our work is valued by way of a subjective audience. (It’s why so many of us need day jobs to survive.) I paint because I’ve always been compelled to create. The self-doubts set in when I question why I chose this career if I’m not compensated in the same fashion as corporate employees or granted an hourly wage like an employee anywhere else. We value art to maintain a level of humanity and culture that is desperately needed in this world, but we don’t ensure that creativity is nurtured and encouraged and cared for in a manner that would keep those creative avenues open and healthy. I find self-doubt the wall that stops the flow of creativity and I try hard to avoid it when I can. We are artists and we must continue to move forward with our work in whatever means is available rather than allow conditions of our environment, economy and our own insecurities to shut it down.
- What is your favorite thing about your studio?
That it is in my home and overlooks the water. I find water eternally soothing and inspiring. But even when I had a small studio in my former home in CT overlooking our backyard and driveway (and the neighbor’s yard and a perpetually barking dog beyond), the solitude and meditative qualities that I gain from painting are extremely satisfying. I’m not necessarily a loner by nature outside of my painting and studio time, but I definitely prefer painting alone. I drift in my head when I paint – I listen to music or books on tape, and mull over the life I’ve lived and the people in it. An avenue opens when I paint that allows for ideas and revelations to take seed and grow. It’s a near religious experience for me to be in my studio – just as close to heaven as it gets. That said, outside of my studio I do enjoy an occasional plein air session with others, but studio time is jealously guarded!
- What is the best acknowledgement as an artist have you ever received? Has there been a particular award, show, or a comment that made you feel accomplished?
The experience of an opening reception for a body of work is both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. This is when I’ve heard the most important acknowledgement and feedback of my career as an artist. The outpouring of sentiment from the average art lover and fellow artists is genuine and worth more to me than accolades from all the gallerists I’ve worked with and art connoisseurs together. While I value the professional comment regarding my work, there’s just something about the hearing it straight from the heart of an art patron.
I’ve received awards over the years, but I think the very first juried show I entered was when I was 12 and won First Prize. That was one of the best moments I had as a young artist! The other artists in the show were college students and adults of varying ages, so it was a special moment for me. One of the most interesting comments made – not to me but a gallery owner representing my work – was from another watercolorist who remarked that I wasn’t “doing it right” when I painted with watercolor. Both the gallery owner and I found that comment so fascinating – who ever sees creating art as falling into line and ‘doing it right’? Isn’t art about pushing the envelope and removing barriers? It wasn’t an accolade, for sure, but I felt that I’d accomplished so much with a medium that doesn’t easily get pushed to the limits I aim to go beyond, and his comment reinforced in me that I was going into unknown territory and felt I was “doing it right” for me.
- Do you have any exhibits coming up?
I’m in several group shows over these next few months. I am showing in a one-woman exhibit in Concord between September and October at the Chamber of Commerce. Looking forward to a new body of work show next spring at the NHAA in Portsmouth if I can get on the schedule.
- How do you connect with the community of artists?
I belong to several art memberships. The most active is the New Hampshire Art Association in Portsmouth because I can volunteer by gallery sitting. Others are further away and often too far to remain active outside entering shows. I’m looking towards painting more plein air with a local NHAA group and Plein Air group this summer to step outside of my studio a bit more. I am hoping to start a NH watercolor society in the future and started with a FB group to create a gathering place for interested NH watercolorists. I also work in volunteer opportunities like the Portsmouth-based Arts of Recovery that pairs artists with artist-patients of the Seacoast Mental Health Group.
- What advice can you give to anyone considering career path in the arts?
The best piece of advice I’d pass along is that when considering a path in the arts, take a business/marketing course, or minor in business. I didn’t do that when I was attending my college’s art program and have long regretted it. We need to be smart about the business of our work, and taking a few courses will help an artist in the end when it comes to marketing your work.
- Do you offer classes or workshops?
Not at this time. Perhaps in the future, and I’ve been looking into online classes to offer.
- How can someone get in touch with your, if they would like to place a commission or visit your studio?
My website provides a means to contact me directly: www.kimberlymeuse.com
My phone #603-373-8709
I’m sorry, if you missed it! Location, accommodations, and weather were splendid.
You’ll be happy to know that 2018 dates are set, and you are welcome to join us. To learn more and register visit our Creative Retreats page.