Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interview with Laura Barton @ Kooma

I met Laura at her home and studio in the borough of West Chester. I have to mention borough because it’s always cooler then just saying, “West Chester.” I have known Laura for about twelve years when we both showed at DeBott’s Gallery. I arrived late as usual and she was patiently waiting outside. We walked briskly into town chatting about graphic design art and clients. We were headed to Kooma for lunch. Laura and I walked and talked for about ten minutes and were totally caught up. I would say Laura has one speed – “GO.” But that has been over used. She has an energy yet an appreciation for the country and outdoors that evens everything out.

This can be best experienced in her paintings. Plein air paintings that capture light and atmosphere with quick energetic, confidant brush strokes.

That’s all I have, I can’t find a seguay into how we ended up at Kooma but we both thought sushi was a great choice. We sat down and ordered the make roll lunch special choosing any tray of spicy salmon, spicy tuna, shrimp and again spicy tuna rolls for $13. I ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Black from South Africa to prime her for the speed questions that always follow questions and light conversation. Let the questions begin!

1.     How did you get started making art?
My mother had us finger painting at 2. She was so good. She was a frustrated artist because she started painting again at age 72. All these years I’ve been buying her paints and pencil sets and all kinds of stuff and she hasn’t even touched it. Then she just decided on her own to get back into it.
2.     Did you receive any formal art training? Where and what did you major in?
Yes, I have a BFA from Moravian College
3.     Can you describe your work in general for the readers?
It’s wonderful! It’s an impressionistic landscape; I guess that’s it for the most part.
4.     What is plein air painting?
It’s when you paint on location.
5.     Better yet, let’s rephrase that question. You paint in plein air, describe what plein air is.
To paint in the air. It’s when you get into your 96 Geo Prism and you go all over the roads in Chester County and you’re like, “oh oo oo look, I like that!” Then you pull over to the side of the road, and you don’t get hit, and your dog jumps out with you. You get all your stuff put it on your shoulder, make your dog carry your water, find a little spot where nobody is going to bug you and paint what you see.
6.     Why do you like plein air painting?
Because it’s an excuse to be outside. Because I need to be outside. I need my nature fix everyday and getting your nature fix and painting at the same time is like a high I’ve never had before.

7.     What do you prefer Oils or Acrylics? why?
Oil. The smell. Because I can mix them really well. They don’t dry as fast for me, I can go back into it, or scrape off. I think for how I work they are more conducive.
8.     For me the world is too big, how do you focus on something to paint?
Well usually it’s how the light is hitting something, or the condition of the building. So I tend to paint things that are dilapidated or taken for granted or unnoticed. So my eye is drawn to that kind of stuff. I see a little shack that is about to fall down and the sun is hitting it just right and I’m like, “oh oh oh that’s it.” That’s what I am going to paint today.
9.     Are you done when the sun goes down or do you finish it in the studio?
Sometimes I finish it in the studio. A lot of times what I will do is I think it’s done out in the field and then I get it home and I look at it. I put it up on the wall in my dining room so I pass by it a million times a day and every once in a while I’ll say “oh my God that’s what’s wrong with that thing.” So I’ll sit with it for a couple weeks, and I might take it back to the studio and rework something, so until it’s framed its not done.
10.   Tell me about some of your favorite techniques...
Well, I love using a palette knife. And how I paint is I do an under painting in a warm transparent red color and I get all the lights and the darks that way the shadow the values, then the composition just so and I start filling it in with color. Lately I’ve been using a bigger brush and not focusing on one part of the painting. You know how you blur your vision a little bit and you just go from one part to the other, you’re more in the tactile act of painting then you are in the thinking act of painting.
11.  I hate when a viewer asks is it done? So I’ve ask every artist “How do you decide when an artwork is done?"
Because I walk away from it and I don’t want to paint anymore, I just have a feeling about the painting. I just know when It is done. I have a painting in my house I did about 10 years ago, and I was just noticing yesterday and I was like, “you know what, I don’t like that line in there.” If that had sold it would have been done for all eternity, so it is unfortunately in my house, it’s going to get worked on. I hate when someone asks me, “How long did it take you to do that?”
12.  What’s your answer?
All my life.
13.  Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
My mom. I guess actually it is my parents, both of them. They’ve always been like “Whatever you want to do you can do.”

14.  What inspires you? Really gets your creative juices pumping?
You know what actually, there are so many things. Well I get real jazzed up when it’s a nice day out and the light is right and I don’t have to put on ten layers of clothing and I go out paint and paint and paint. For some reason that air just gets me going. New Mexico, Arizona, Utah the light out just is like, it keeps me going. I just love it!
15.  Do you have any habits or morning routines you do before going to the easel?
Yes, lots of them. Well, I walk the dog. That is first and foremost. If the dog ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. Then I make a pot of coffee actually get a workout in have some breakfast. Then I’m off and running.
16.  What time are you up?
Probably around 7. I’m out walking the dog at 7:15 then a work out at 8 then eat and drink coffee and then I’m usually in the studio by 9:30.
17.  What tip do you have for painting, lets say…light?
I guess I would say forget that its light or forget that you are looking at a peach in the light and paint the color that it is. Like that’s a bright red, or that’s a dark red and don’t get hung up on, oh that’s a peach. Paint the color and the hue, paint all that you are seeing instead of what you think you should be seeing. 
18.  What are you eating right now?
Spicy salmon roll, which is delicious, a tuna roll, and a shrimp tempura. I love ginger!
19.  What is your favorite food?
Right now its sushi. I love Mexican. I love anything fresh, fish I love fish. I was a vegetarian for 13 years and then I became a carnivore in 2002. I’m never going back. I love meat!
20.  What does home mean to you?
Well home is how I feel with my husband. That’s pretty much all I need.
21.  Your proudest moment?
I don't really think I'm all that prideful. But, if anything I'm proud of is that I work for myself and I've been doing so for 22 years. To know that I can support myself while not having to work for "the man" is a pretty great feeling!
22.  What was your mother right about?
I should have taken a business course
23.  Where did you grow up?
Ewing, NJ
24.  What is the last book you read?
I’m reading right now The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
25.  You collect?
Diamonds. I see a feather I like or a really cool rock or a pine cone. I used to collect cows. I used to paint them a lot. And people would be like “oh you like cows and for Memorial Day for grandparents day they’d give me a cow. 
26. A smell that reminds you of your childhood? Lilacs
27.  Your best birthday?
I’ve had a lot of really best birthdays. Two years ago we went to Death Valley, Sequoia national forest, and Yosemite.

What was your first word?
Booze! No… My first word…I don’t know what my first word was. My first word was probably "mom." My mom always said that the first sentence I ever said when I was 2 was, “I’ll never get married and I’ll never have kids.”
Beach Boys Endless Summer
Chris at the high school cafe
Plane ride
To Michigan to visit my childhood friend
Piece of art you sold
Summer isn’t over ‘til the fat lady sings. It was a line drawing of a fat lady on the beach in ’84.

We finished the wine and our plate of sushi in sync signaling lunch was over. We reminisced about our past exhibits and how West Chester was changed for the better or worse. We discussed age and getting older, being a gentleman I won’t divulge her age. She reflected on some of her accomplishments like establishing the West Chester Film Festival and being self employed.
We briskly walked back to her studio just in time to let her dog out and get back to work. Not before I got her to answer my speed round questions. Check them out.

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