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Selective Focus: Linda Naughton

Linda Naughton just opened a show of her intensely bright and beautiful watercolors at Lakeside Gallery. The show will be up through July, and Linda talks about the work.

L.N.: For painting, I start out with transparent watercolors. But I want my work ultimately to express the joy of exuberant color. If I’m happy with the initial result, then I don’t add anything else. But if the painting isn’t as dynamic as I want, then I might add India ink or alcohol ink or both. If I still think it needs more oomph, I will add acrylic ink, colored pencil and/ or oil pastels. Finally, if all else fails to thrill, I have a large supply of hand painted collage papers, handcut stamps, and stencil designs!

First Single Poppy 7×7” watercolors, india ink.

I bought my first artist quality watercolors, Arches 140# CP paper, and good watercolor brushes in 1979. My mother-in-law at that time, Betty Naughton, had just started painting in watercolors and this was something I had always wanted to learn since childhood. She encouraged me to give it a try.

I didn’t have time to do much painting when I was working full time running the Print Shop at UMD; but I kept the supplies handy and still have that original palette and brushes.

Poppies on Purple & Green, 2016, 12×12”, watercolors, alcohol ink & oil pastels.

Fast forward to the 21st century…approaching retirement age, I moved to a more accessible home with studio space and decided to try painting poppies – inspired by the ones I planted just outside my back door. That was 2008 and since I hadn’t painted much over the years, that first attempt at poppies was a failure! I washed off the paint under the faucet a couple of times. For the third try, I added collage to help things along and a hand cut stamp created the background. Eventually this was transformed into my all-time favorite piece of artwork. It hangs above my dresser and I fall in love with all over again every day!

Brilliant Trio 7×9.5” watercolors, india & acrylic inks.

Like most watercolorists I started out learning graded washes and to keep everything quite transparent. I really did try to “follow the rules” and keep things light, but my heart wasn’t in that! An early influencer was Lois Larson of Cook, MN…and Lois always included some nice drama with Sepia Black (no longer available, sadly).

I never forgot the beauty of those very dark passages in Lois’s work. Retiring in 2012 and painting regularly, the biggest hurdle was deciding what to paint and finding great teachers and workshops. Carla O’Connor came to the Art Institute that year. She advised us to be careful who we studied with and I took that to heart. The next year, the Institute brought in Ted Nuttall to teach painting the figure.

In 2014 & 2015, I studied a more expressive figure painting style with Pittsburg artist Jeannie McGuire at Madeline Island School of the Arts. I was hooked on painting people, yet still wanted to master those poppies.

In January 2016, I concentrated on that favorite flower at the annual Paint-In sponsored by the Lake Superior Watercolor Society. Those experiments grew into the 25 floral works that are showing at Lakeside Gallery this month. Nineteen of those paintings are depictions of poppies, so I guess you could say I finally mastered that subject!

Blue Pitcher of Poppies, 2008, 11×14 watercolors, collage papers, acrylics.

For me one challenge is what to do with the stuff I make. To improve and master the medium, I need to paint regularly. Then, how can I actually let it go after investing so deeply in the process? I wish to keep painting as a lifelong pursuit, and have decided to work at a slow pace. The reward is the thrill of mastering a very difficult medium in my own style. Plus, it takes my mind off politics!

Lakeside Gallery is showing my watercolor works for the month of July. You can also follow me on Instagram at @redheartmn.

I am currently also studying surface pattern design, and illustration techniques.

Big Splotchy 9×12 watercolors, india, acrylic & alcohol inks.

1 Comment

Linda Naughton

about 2 months ago

Thanks for the spotlight today!

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