Merla Tootle

I have found painting plein air with artist friends is what I enjoy most. I am sad that I will no longer be able to paint with Bonnie Roth Anderson. We last painted a year ago in Bristol Rhode Island.   Diane Carey Thomson, Marion LeMoal, Bonnie and I stayed at the summer home of artist Janice Antinucci. Here is a painting and sketch in the area where we painted together.  At the end of the day Bonnie would critique our paintings.  She was a great teacher and we all  learned so much from her.  I also took her portrait class and hope to paint my grandchildren with the skills she taught me.  Such a loss for the art community.

Marshes (above) was an earlier Cape Cod painting that Bonnie purchased... the highest compliment is when another artist buys your painting.

Above are pictures of memorable places painted en plein air (L-R): Georgia O'Keeffe home in Abiquiu, Giverny, France and trees in Taos, New Mexico.

 

For more information about Merla, visit her Artist-in-Residence profile

This is part of an ongoing monthly series featuring a Maryland Hall Artist-in-Residence (AIR). Check Maryland Hall's website every week for a new post. Each month we will feature a different AIR. Click here to visit the Maryland Hall AIR page.

I have chosen my Christmas Amaryllis to show the progress of creating a painting.  I have it set up in my studio and I have taped a large piece of paper and use blue tape to crop where I am going to paint.

 

I put out fresh paint on plates that serve as my palette, and lots of water that I replace often to keep colors clean and fresh. Next: I do a quick sketch of my subject to define some colors and composition.

 

I usually start painting on the paper with colors and do not start with a detailed pencil sketch. On the right is after two hours of painting. The painting is finished and I will show you how I keep adding to the flower.

 

As I continue I keep defining and adding detail to he painting.  

 

I have finished the painting or I should say I have stopped.  That is the key to water color, knowing when to stop.   I added a light background to surround the flower.  I look at my sketch and loose design with pen & ink. It  is more  the feeling I want to convey of this flower. I can add ink or strong pencil line that can be washed to create more of the a linear feeling.

Many artists are not satisfied with the progress of a piece of art.

My Amaryllis is gone,the petals have dropped.   I can start it again on a new piece of paper,  I will not use photos, but reference the painting and the sketch I have.  

I hear my muse speaking to my art soul "it is just a piece of paper".

 

For more information about Merla, visit her Artist-in-Residence profile

This is part of an ongoing monthly series featuring a Maryland Hall Artist-in-Residence (AIR). Check Maryland Hall's website every Monday for a new post. Each month we will feature a different AIR. Click here to visit the Maryland Hall AIR page.

 

Maryland Hall Artist-in-Residence Merla Tootle takes you on a tour of her studio in Studio 305.

Studio 305 divides into 3 studios. Enter the main door  and  come around to the 2nd entry  to the far left and you will be in my studio.  The wall holds a small gallery of my paintings.   Next you will see a still life set up and a tabouret with oil brushes and supplies. 

 

1) My art altar displays my plants and décor.  It is focus in my studio. I have a strong  Asian influence in my art. 2) The bookcase holds a variety of supplies;  brushes, different paints, oils to pastel.  Necessary items are mediums, cleaners, art books and periodicals.

 

 

On the wall next to shelves hangs a large oil painting from college, a study in color planes .  I have my carry-on suit case available ; always ready  to travel to paint to my next plein air destination. Adjacent is  hand painted watercolor chart.  Someday I will frame the chart as a work of art.  

 

My watercolor table set up, brushes and water... the dark handled  brush on the paper is irreplaceable.  It is a handmade squirrel brush from a craftsman, “The Brushman,” who is  no longer making brushes.

 

The last wall is all windows….I use part of the ledge to hold older oils that  I painted while studying with John Ebersberger.    I learned how to see color and the importance of light how it defines shape.   Light is the narrator of a painting.

 

1) A larger view looking out my window wall.   These windows are my source of wonderful  light and I have a view of MD Hall’s new refurbished windows. 2) My window sill serves as an extra shelf. Vincent Van Gogh is one my favorite painters and Picasso is always lurking in the background as my abstract influence. 3) “Namaste” My wooden manikin in the foreground of  my impressionist  landscape painting.  It will appear it various places as my “elf on the shelf”

 

Sitting at my work table for water colors, but I never paint sitting down.   You need to put your whole body into a painting.

 

Looking at my wall of unfinished paintings, statements of color, and calligraphy words to inspire.

 

1) Working on oil painting from still life using the brush for small detail. 2) At the easel with the palette knife.

 

Travel Sketch book with paints, brush  and carrier.   With these items  I have journaled my travels for  the last few years.  Up the coast of California, from San Diego to San Francisco. Also Yosemite,  further on to Canada and  Alaska. On the East coast, locally, and  north to Rhode Island, Cape Cod and Maine.

 

The method used is gesso and a pallete  knife on canvas. The winter scene totally painted with the knife.  The  other; flowers are partially  painted  with brush and knife. This can be  joy  for a watercolorist; the canvas can be mounted and sprayed and framed without a mat or  glass.  

 

 

For more information about Merla, visit her Artist-in-Residence profile

This is part of an ongoing monthly series featuring a Maryland Hall Artist-in-Residence (AIR). Check Maryland Hall's website every Monday for a new post. Each month we will feature a different AIR. Click here to visit the Maryland Hall AIR page.

Interview conducted by Gallery Director, Sigrid Trumpy.

Where would you like to start?

I will start with  a description of my art materials. I am a painter and recently, it's been almost 10 years , I became a watercolorist. So my tools that I use are paint, either oil or watercolor and brushes; but I found that I like to use the palette knife. I learned to use the palette knife with oil and then I learned how to use it with watercolors.

How do you use a palette knife with watercolors?

I was taught that you can mix gesso with watercolor and you spread it just like oil paints. It has a very slick consistency so that you can use it with a palette knife.

Why do you prefer watercolor to oil or acrylic?

I was quite surprised that I would enjoy it.  I took watercolor as a student and I hated it. It always became muddy & just was a mess. Over the years I found it was my impatience with the medium  that made it so hard to be successful. Years later I have now attempted watercolor, I have a different attitude on life and painting now. I have found with watercolor I'm able to be very expressive about what I am painting. I will usually paint flowers but also enjoy painting landscapes.

What is your earliest memory of art?

I remember when I was in second grade my teacher came to me and asked me to be part of the mural painting that they were doing for the school. It was all grades and I felt really special that I was chosen to be part of this special project.

Obviously that was a very pleasurable experience for you as a child. Did you continue to create throughout your elementary and high school years?

I was always painting or sketching. I was an only child and spent a lot of time with adults so in that time I always chose to draw.  I always took art classes through elementary, junior high and high school and then decided to continue and major in art in college.

So you've been making art almost your whole life. Who is your muse and why?

 I actually found my muse right here in Maryland Hall. . I had a demanding job and painting in oils consumed too much time.  I decided to take a watercolor class and change my direction. I knew Erika Walsh from where I worked in the art gallery and I admired her work. I met her while she was still living in Germany and came to deliver work and always enjoyed seeing what was in that portfolio she carried. She opened a new world to me.  I find her a total inspiration, for her strength and her teaching ability to appreciate watercolor. As I said I had a very dissatisfying attitude towards watercolor but Erika changed that totally and now I find watercolor is what I prefer to create with.  Through Erika I learned not to obsess with the painting, but paint loose and fast. Just let the painting develop.  As my muse one of her favorite phrases comes to me “it's just a sheet of paper”.

What is your ideal creative activity?

I have enjoyed and have had the opportunity to paint en plein air with my artist friends. I've traveled to France and many places in the US and Mexico.  I find it inspiring to paint with other artists and painting plein air is always better than painting from a photograph. I have been blessed that I have painted in Giverny with the gardeners. I applied to paint on the day that only artists are allowed to paint in the garden and spent the whole day with two other artist friends. It was like Monet was there with me.

The other opportunity I had recently was that I went to Abiquiu, New Mexico to see the George O'Keeffe home and her art. There was a seminar coming up for a limit of six people where we could paint at her home.

What did the seminar include?

We were asked if we preferred to paint in the morning or afternoon. Morning painting consisted of getting up and being at the pick-up spot ready to go at 6:30 am. I knew that I could do that. I wanted to be up and out at her home. We were not actually allowed to paint in the house or the courtyard where her famous door painting was done, but we painted on the grounds. It was not a class but just an opportunity for you to paint and envision and be there and see what she painted. The class ended with lunch.

Also another amenity to this class was  we went into her bomb shelter that is not part of the tour. She was an amazing woman. She had planned a total bomb shelter for her staff and her to be able to live if there was ever anything you need to be protected from. I do not regret painting early in the morning because the afternoon class was all thunderstorms which are so typical of that area.  I had talked to the curator earlier and he recommended painting in the morning and he was right.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am looking forward to having a show here in Maryland Hall in September. I have to go through the decision process of what to paint.  I know t's going to be a watercolor exhibit.  It will be with nature because flowers and landscapes are what I love to paint and I have to somehow combine my love for abstract painting.

L-R: Infiniti, Pansy Orchid, Sea Nettles.

 

For more information about Merla, visit her Artist-in-Residence profile

This is part of an ongoing monthly series featuring a Maryland Hall Artist-in-Residence (AIR). Check Maryland Hall's website every Monday for a new post. Each month we will feature a different AIR. Click here to visit the Maryland Hall AIR page.

 

Maryland Hall has selected Sheila DeLaquil and Merla Tootle to become Artists-in-Residence (AIR). Their one-year terms will begin on July 1, 2014. Visit our Artist-in-Residence page to read more about them and the other eight AIRs.

Sheila DeLaquil

Merla Tootle

The goals of the MHCA’s AIR program are to provide a supportive atmosphere for artists to create new work in a collective setting and to educate the public about the artistic process through their interaction with artists and access to their work. 

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