Shelley Breitzmann is a landscape painter who like many artists in the area, draws inspiration from Lake Superior. From her website: “It’s hard to live near Lake Superior and not be fascinated with its weather and how it impacts the life around it. To try to get that feeling on canvas is pretty compelling.” Her paintings feel huge and vast, and while she works, she pushes and pulls things in and out of the misty, foggy atmosphere of the paintings.
SB: I’ve been working with acrylic on canvas for about 10 years, after working primarily with watercolor since high school. The change really resuscitated my connection with art and the painting process. Since acrylic dries fast, it’s probably not the best medium to achieve the soft, foggy landscapes I’m drawn to, but blending and manipulating it is a challenge I really enjoy. The change in humidity from summer to winter alters the painting process pretty drastically and is something to adjust to throughout the year.
I typically lay the canvas out on the floor and work fast to get the under-painting down, using big, wide brush strokes and a lot of paint. Once it’s on the easel I can begin adding in the suggestion of details. Finding that point where the suggestion of a thing leads the viewer to see it, without actually painting it in, is half the draw for me. I love that part. It’s fascinating how the human brain “finishes” the suggestion laid down with paint. It can take weeks of adding/subtracting until I actually get the “essence” of a specific day there on the canvas.
The fact that I can paint with acrylic in a corner of my living room and have the pieces on the easel right out in the open where I can see them every day has turned out to be a real benefit, and it makes it easy to drop whatever I’m doing (goodbye laundry!) and pick up a brush. It’s also been important to live with each piece for a while before deciding they’re finished. Even though I seem to be constantly painting in my head, if not actually on the canvas, I try to paint every day. Finding the time can be the difficult part but is so worth it.
Living in the northern part of rural Wisconsin all my life, and witnessing the effects of Lake Superior on our weather up here, has had a definite impact on subject matter. The fog, the rain, the storms over the big lake are pretty compelling to try to capture on canvas. It still fascinates me, even after all this time.
In the past, painting was one of those things I did only for myself, but sharing it with the public these last few years has been really fulfilling and I’m grateful for the generous support of our local art community and art collectors across the country. When a piece connects with someone, that’s really gratifying.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be included in regional and international shows, and currently have a piece in the Arrowhead Biennial Exhibition at the Duluth Art Institute (through April 2019).
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