COLBORNE – I had a remarkable visit with Elizabeth Hutchinson in her studio last week! Walking into her quiet work space is like entering a jewel box, with tiny representational paintings lined up on shelves. She shared some thoughts about her feature show, “Daily Practice” at the Colborne Art Gallery that is slated to open in early March. I even got to view some of the paintings that will be exhibited.
I have to be honest here; strict representation is rarely my cup of tea – but these enchanting oil paintings pulled me right in! Her subjects for this show are mostly quiet, domestic still life scenes, some lively studies of birds, and also watercolour sketches.
When I asked her if she is strict about the observation as opposed to more abstract expressions of the world, she answered, “ No, but I select the things to emphasize and leave the rest. Really you are seeing light. You don’t want to share all that muck a muck in the shadows. Otherwise you haven’t made any decisions; it can have a suffocating effect and feel constricted.” She explained this idea further, “photography is completely democratic – everything is described. With painting you share with the viewer the things you notice particularly. Put light on anything and it’s gorgeous! It’s a conversation about the shadow mass and a specific area of local colour – usually it’s right where the light hits the objects – and if you aren’t connected to this process in an emotional way, how can you expect the viewer to be connected?”
Elizabeth was generous with sharing her process. She begins with a tiny, prepared board. She explained how the pace of painting really changes as she progresses: first, laying out the bones of the composition is fast and energetic. She explained that you shouldn’t make decisions about the edges at the gate. “If there is too much fuss at this stage things become static; you put in the dark and light idea which is the big idea.” Then, as she focuses on those magical edges that get the light, everything slows down.
Elizabeth Hutchinson’s training was thorough and academic. She first attended OCAD in Toronto, later at the University of Guelph. She then spent many years in New York City completing a Master’s at the New York Academy of Art, continued study at the New York Studio School and at the Art Students League. In the end she has made departures – “I am grateful that I did all that, but now I find it so deadly!” Elizabeth is finding her own way, including a return to live in Carrying Place, Ontario where she grew up. A few lucky students study with her and she makes painting trips abroad. She is clear about her choices, “This is my life – this is my stuff. The birds are here everyday. My studio is a spare bedroom, and this is the way I want to be painting!”
Her feature show, Daily Practice, opens March 8 at the Colborne Art Gallery, along with a small show of new Annie McDonald ceramic works entitled Thaw and works by gallery artists. There will be a reception from 2- 4pm with artists present. All are always welcome to attend and admission is always free!