Oil painter, Lindsay Hawfield Jones, has studied modern landscape and abstract painting at The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria VA, The Carlton Gallery in Banner Elk NC and, most recently, at Braitman Studios in Charlotte NC. Lindsay minored in Studio Art at Wake Forest University and participated in an independent art study at Casa Artom in Venice, Italy.
TSS: Lindsay, what inspired you to become an artist?
LJ: I went to Wake Forest University and had a wonderful freshman advisor named, Dr. Peter Weigl. He encouraged me to take my first oil painting class, even though I had never really had painting instruction before. I always enjoyed “creating” things but this was my first foray into a rigorous fine arts class. Page Laughlin, who is a fantastic professor and painter, taught the intro to painting class at Wake and had a reputation for the high-quality of her work and her instruction. So, I signed up only to realize upon the first day of class that I was the only student who was not an art major or minor taking the class. I was so intimidated and, as a freshman in college, overwhelmed. After the first class was over, I explained the situation to Page and expressed my desire to drop the class. She said, “If you are willing to work hard and the class seems interesting to you, I’m willing to teach you.” So, I did. End of story - or maybe beginning of story! I ended up minoring in Studio Art, with a focus on painting.
TSS: What is your creative process for creating landscapes?
LJ: Most of the time, I start with a layout - mountains, beach, marsh, woods, river, cityscape, etc. - that I think will make a good painting. If the layout doesn’t work, the painting will flop no matter what colors I use. The ingredients of a layout that will make a good painting include a defined foreground, mid ground and background, and a mechanism for getting the viewer into the painting. As examples, a mechanism could be a tree line with the trees diminishing in size as they go back into the painting. It could also be the tide lines, where the water meets the marsh grasses that guide the viewer into the painting and to the horizon. Whatever the element of layout/design, it needs to help the viewer and tell them “how” you want them to “consume” or view the painting. Once the layout is identified, I sketch it on my canvas with charcoal, mix up all the paint I think I’ll need for the first layer of the painting and then begin. I also do my best work when I am painting with a time constraint. It allows me to lose myself completely. I don’t have time to mess around. I forget where I am and the images just spill out from within me. I don’t overthink the elements of a painting but instead trust my instincts. Typically, they lead me in the right direction.
TSS: What inspires the scenes that you paint?
LJ: I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and have returned home after living other places in my life. Charlotte is close to the mountains and the beach. Each of these destinations hold dear memories of when I was a child discovering these places and more recent memories of enjoying them as an adult. Each of my paintings draws on a feeling I had in the place and a longing to go back there. I try to capture the beauty of the moment that is often so fleeting in nature. Even when I am not in the mountains or at the beach, I am constantly observing the world and thinking, “How would I paint that cloud?”Or, “Look at the light on those trees! How could I do that?” My phone and camera are filled with every day scenes that will one day end up in paintings.
TSS: How did you come to primarily use oil paints?
LJ: Ah…oil painting is just awesome. I’ve painted with acrylics before but my true love is oil painting. At first, I painted in oil because that was what my first painting class used. Over time I’ve just fallen in love with everything about oil paint. Here are my reasons: The colors. The colors in oil paint are so rich and satisfying. I enjoy mixing paint together to make different colors that don’t come in a tube. The texture: Mixing rich oil paint with a palette knife into a rich creamy (yes, think butter) texture is one of the most satisfying activities for me. Depending on what I’m painting, I use various mediums to change the viscosity of the paint. Do I want it thick, thin, runny, globby? Do I want to to dry faster, do I need a drying agent? These are all questions to ask when achieving the perfect texture. The flexibility: Since oil paint typically takes a long time to dry, I find that it gives me more flexibility. If I don’t like something, I have more time to adjust it and change the final image. The permanence: When oil paint finally does dry, it is durable and has a sense of permanence, high-quality and timelessness. I know my clients are purchasing a painting that will last.
TSS: Do you like to work in other mediums?
LJ: I enjoy playing around with acrylic paint, especially when painting completely abstract paintings. However, most of my artwork is in oil. In a past life when I worked primarily in public relations and marketing, I did some graphic design work.
TSS: Why do you create your landscapes in abstract as opposed to realism?
LJ: I enjoy painting abstract landscapes because it gives the viewer the opportunity to participate in the artwork. They have to stop and think, what is that? What does that mean? On average, people only look at paintings for 10-15 seconds. I want to give them reasons to linger and look more closely. I also think that technology and the ease of capturing a photo makes realism always within reach. My goal is to give people a way to see something differently than a photograph.
TSS: How do you incorporate your passion for nonprofit work into your art career?
LJ: I previously worked in the nonprofit space and have enjoyed giving back to causes that are important to me. I donate pieces to art auctions, silent auctions and charity benefits. However, I find the most satisfaction in creating art with children. I’ve had the opportunity to do this with Arts For Life at Novant Hospital, Blume Cancer Clinic and Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. In each setting, Arts For Life gives volunteers a chance to provide art education to children in healthcare settings. Sometimes I worked with patients. Other times I worked with siblings of patients or even parents. In a world of doctors and diagnoses and uncertainty, being able to create and have control over the outcome of something is important. More than anything, when I have the chance to work with these children and their families, it is a reminder that art transcends circumstances and breaks down barriers. It brings joy in instances where there was no joy before. It allows a sense of control and accomplishment. It invites you to live in the moment and enjoy it to the fullest.
TSS: Did the time you spent in Italy influence your work?
LJ: I went to Italy for a semester abroad with Wake Forest and participated in an independent art study while I was there. It was an amazing experience but there were obstacles. First, there were no art professors on the trip with me so it was completely self-directed. I developed the curriculum and requirements in partnership with my professors prior to leaving and then presented my work for critique upon my return. Secondly, I carried all of my supplies for the semester in one big backpack so oil painting in Italy was not a viable option given my limited luggage. This was actually good for me because it required me to explore other mediums - pastels, water color, photography, colored pencil and collage. Both of these obstacles influenced my work in that they helped me learn how to work through issues using my own, personal evaluation and skill rather than relying on classmates or a teacher to help me. Collaboration is important but this experience helped me learn I can produce on my own. Without this experience, I might have kept painting but more as a hobby than a full-time career.
TSS: How would you describe your personal style?
LJ: I really don’t know about this one…I feel like my style continues to change and evolve so much. The way I painted last week is different than the way I am painting today, different than I painted a year ago.
TSS: Who or what is your great influence?
LJ: In Charlotte, if you are an oil painter, most likely you’ve heard of Andy Braitman’s studio. Andy is a fantastic painter in his own right but he has a gift for teaching others that is unmatched. He sees the potential in students, encourages, pushes and guides without squelching the unique voice found within each artist. When I first painted with him, I truly painted some terrible paintings. Now I realize, I had to paint the terrible ones to find the pretty good ones hidden inside. Andy’s teaching (and enthusiasm even when I painted “bad" paintings!) helped shape me as a painter, more so than any other person. Eventually I learned that there is no bad painting or dead end. You can always paint over a painting, rip off the canvas, reuse a stretcher and start again. My best paintings have always been on top of ones that weren’t so great. Andy, helped me get there. I also would not be a painter today without the support and interest from my family - my husband, parents, sister and children. Each of them has provided countless hours in support of my career choice and I am forever grateful. I am living my dream.
To enjoy Lindsay's collection of abstract landscapes in oil, visit her Artist Collection page.