Still life oil painting by Joan Farrenkopf
Landscape watercolor by Lucy Portlock
Don’t miss the chance to see the newest work by two distinctly different St. John painters at Bajo el Sol’s monthly opening reception on Friday evening, May 2, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Mongoose Junction gallery.
The show will feature work by St. John watercolorist Lucy Portlock as well as oil paintings by Joan Farrenkopf, who will be celebrating her first Bajo el Sol show.
Portlock, no stranger to St. John art fans, has been capturing the island’s beach and water scenes as well as underwater and land life, for decades. For this Friday’s show, however, she has been experimenting in both size and technique.
“This year, I have been totally into painting my ‘Lucy Lites,’” said Portlock. “These are 4-inch by 5-inch cards of tropical scenes, intended for tourists who want a unique souvenir of their trip to St. John, but can’t afford or are not able to carry back bigger-sized art pieces.”
“Painting these has been great fun for me and has allowed me to try many different things,” Portlock said. “In fact these work for me on many levels, as I’m impatient and cheap. I can paint a small one in a few hours and if I ‘ruin’ it, I’m only throwing away 4-by-5-inch piece of paper and a few hundred drops of paint.”
“If you mess up a 24-inch by 36-inch painting, you have really messed up,” she said.
While creating work accessible to travellers, Portlock also opened the door for experimenting with her painting style as well, the artist added.
“I also began reading a book about non-traditional approaches to water color painting; putting paint on paper in other ways than just a brush,” Portlock said. “So I am trying some of those methods which will be seen in my show. I will also have several traditionally painted pieces.”
Now fully enjoying her miniature work, Portlock has been turning her attention away from the popular beach scenes, she explained.
“Now having come to love to painting of the miniature pictures, I couldn’t stop and have painted a series of them that are definitely not for the tourist,” said Portlock. “I have been painting some outre’ subjects as well as more earthbound subjects. These used a paint pouring technique which may have taken three to eight or more pourings, as well a touching up with a brush to finish fine details.”
“Most of these little guys took days and days to complete,” she said.
More than anything, Portlock is still having fun with her paintbrush and hopes to delight viewers as well.
“I am not an organized painter with a plan, I just jump in and play with color and hope that I get light included,” she said. “It’s a sort of learn-as-you-go school. I have been known to stop in the middle of a picture and totally change the technique or the subject.”
“While I love realism, I also appreciate well-executed abstracts that have just a hint of reality, or that are so well balanced in colors and forms that they satisfy something in the soul,” said Portlock. “So I hope, because my display is so varied this year, that many people will find something to appreciate in my show.”
In a very different hand, Joan Farrenkopf’s brush is focused on light and color vibration as this oil plein air painter strives to bring energy to her canvases.
“The thing I love about this island is that people come here and they live in nature,” said Farrenkopf. “We often get separated from nature, whether it is our nature or the natural environment. But on St. John, you can’t help but be close to nature.”
“Here you are not as much in the box and you start appreciating nature as the teacher or as the main influence in our lives,” Farrenkopf said. “For me it’s like the philosophy of the I Ching; it’s all about nature.”
While Farrenkopf took her time finding her current passion of oil painting, she has long studied fine art and been fascinated by color vibrations, the artist explained.
“The focus is all about color and light,” said Farrenkopf. “To me it’s about if you really start looking and feeling and seeing, that’s my study right now. I come from a very humble place and way of being that strives to look and see and ask, ‘what are we really seeing here.’”
“What happens with color when we perceive it in a painting is different from when we perceive it in nature,” she said. “And the challenge of an oil painter is to try to some way have the experience, not just to represent the color.”
For Farrenkopf, successful paintings have a way of dancing to the viewer.
“The most successful paintings have a vibration where the color dances or moves because of the quality of the light,” she said.
Farrenkopf works completely in the plein air style, meaning she paints outside looking at her subject manner. While she often draws attention, the artist sometimes disappoints passers by hoping to see a completed canvas, Farrenkopf explained.
“My work is plein air, meaning everything that in the show was painted out on location,” she said. “I might go three or four days and do a painting. I remember being at Cinnamon a few weeks ago and someone said, ‘I can’t wait to see you paint.’”
“I told them I really wanted to just watch the light all day and that’s what I did from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” said Farrenkopf. “I was this amazing light show and it was a direct connection with nature. I’m going back Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. and I want to see what the sun does.”
In her first Bajo el Sol, Farrenkopf, who also shows select paintings at Michael Banzahf Studio as well as Maho Bay Clayworks in Coral Bay, will showcase both still life paintings as well as studies of water and sky.
“There are some still lifes in the show because I was tired of getting drenched in the rain so I went out and got some tropical fruit and painted them,” said Farrenkopf. “There are other rainy day projects like this bench that I could not get over. And there are studies of water and sky and the quality of water meeting rocks.”
Don’t miss the opportunity to view these exciting new works by Farrenkopf and Portlock on Friday evening, May 2, at Bajo el Sol. The opening reception will run from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Mongoose Junction gallery and also feature classical guitar music by David Laabs. Work by Farrenkopf and Portlock will be featured throughout the month of May.
Bajo el Sol is located up the stairs at Mongoose Junction and regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more information about the show or Bajo el Sol check out www.bajoelsolgallery.com or call (340) 693-7070.