Lynette Clay writes the blog, Original Art By Lynette Clay . She has the most incredible way with trees and the night landscape. Her work can be whimsical and fun as well as quite serious, and her range is very broad. You probably know Lynette already as she is very generous with her comments on so many people’s art. She is always seeing something which is not seen by many in a lot of work. I am very blessed and honored to have Lynette agree to have a conversation with me today. Please, go get yourself the beverage of your choice, sit back and enjoy our conversation.
Rainbows on the Bluff
K: Lynette, I know you have a BFA from Western Kentucky University. Was painting your focus there?
L: Hi Kim, first off I would like to thank you and say that I feel very honored that you wanted to do an interview with me. Your artistic talent is wonderful and I always look forward to seeing new posts in your Creating Space blog. Thank you Kim, you’re an inspiration to us!
Yes, I did graduate from WKU in 1984 with a BFA, but I actually took a detour when attending college to join the US Air Force from ’76 –’80. After I got out of the service, I used the GI bill so I could finish getting my degree in art. Ever since I was a young child, I knew I wanted to become an artist someday, so art was the only choice of a major in college. I did try taking business courses one semester, but disliked it intensely and quickly changed my major back to art.
Actually I only took one painting class in college. Looking back on it, I have to be honest and admit that the painting professor wasn’t one of my favorite instructors. I sort of delved into painting with acrylics on my own back then and although I didn’t care for the professor, I did feel that I learned a lot in that class. I took lots of other classes related to art though, including drawing, sculpture, airbrush, printing, photography, technical illustration, design, art history, drawing, and especially ceramics. I loved throwing on the wheel and always told myself I would love to work in clay again someday.
K: Well, Lynette Clay, it should be clay you work with (laughing). You know I think any of us who have had the opportunity to study anything in the art field have had some disastrous experiences with professors (instructors). I know I have had my fair share, too. So basically you have used your studies of other mediums and general art to self-teach yourself acrylic painting. Now how cool is that?
You threw a real surprise into the mix here with your military experiences! Do you find that experience finds itself into your life still? Back in those days using the GI bill to foot the Educational bill was financially a wise thing to do. I don’t think I could have been that patient with being told what to do all the time, but I am glad you could.
Thank you, also for you ever so kind words. You always have the sweetest things to say to everyone! But you know it takes all of us here to make this whole idea of blogging work. I credit everyone.
L: I was very young when I joined the service, and to be honest, I rarely ever think about it now. I did my four years during times of peace and looking back on it now, I'm very grateful for that!
K: Yes, I can imagine you are. Those were peaceful times. I was a student at Va Tech, then. Look how far that has come, too.
Can you tell us a little bit about your years before WKU? Your childhood and those influences?
L: Woo Kim, that was a long time ago. J The first time I think I fell in love with art was because of a gift that my Mother gave me. It may have been a birthday present when I was around 6 or 7 years old. I’m not sure because it was so long ago but I can remember the feelings of excitement like it was yesterday. She gave me a paint by numbers set and I was just enthralled with the picture as I painted in more and more of the little blue numbered sections. To see a flat piece of cardboard turn into a seemingly alive, three dimensional colorful scene was just pure magic to me and I was hooked from that point on! I became interested in the history and life stories of the famous artists, Van Gogh for instance, and enjoyed reading about them and looking at photos of their work. I was fascinated with it all and knew that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up someday. All throughout my school years as a child, I probably doodled thousands and thousands of little pictures in my notebooks while the teacher was talking. I still managed to pass school with pretty good grades though.
K: Well, I suppose in reality, you heard more because you were doodling than you would have if you had of been doing what they thought you should be. And I , too remember those paint-by-number kits! I can just see a tiny Lynette there working away being awed by the developing picture.
Jewels in the Cornfield
You talk about loving to work at night and being influenced by the moon and waxing and waning light. You seem to love painting trees and I have noticed a lot of cultural/holiday/seasonal influences, too. Would you say you are influenced by the cycles of life? Would you talk about that a little bit?
L: I guess there are several reasons that I enjoy doing my painting late at night. One of the reasons is the house is nice and quiet and I can get into that special ’zone’ of high energy and creativity. I can paint in the daytime, but I can’t give it ‘my all’ for some reason...phones ringing, housework, husband awake and talking to me. I’ve always felt more energetic and alert later in the evening and after I’ve had a couple of cups of coffee, I’m ready to go. Sometimes I will imagine a scene in my mind and picture how I want it to look. I will study and think on it for several days until I know what I want to paint. That burst of creativity always seems to come at night and I‘m flying into my little studio (spare bedroom) to put it on canvas or paper. Ha, for some reason my muse has always visited me at night, usually late at night when I‘m wide awake!
Kim, you asked me about being influenced by the moon. I’ve always loved stargazing, and seeing the moon glowing up there in her different phases has always fascinated me. To look outside and see the yard, which should be in darkness, eerily and softly illuminated by a full moon is wonderful! I feel my strongest creative urges on such nights. Being a woman, the monthly phases of the moon has been a strong influence throughout my life. Something funny, the other week we had a full bright moon and I was attempting to sketch the ‘face’ on it created by the craters and shadows on the moon. I am going to try painting that face I saw one of these days. What struck me as funny is the fact that the face I was seeing definitely looked feminine to me! J I was thinking to myself, “yep, the moon is a woman”!
As for painting so many trees in my work, I think part of the reason may be because I grew up in the lush state of Kentucky and I‘ve always loved nature and being in the country where there are lots of trees with many interesting shapes and even personalities. I challenged myself to really see the shape of a tree and not go by a preconceived notion of how they ’should’ look.
K: Wow! Now there is a ton in those few paragraphs! Of course, I am really with you on the fact that the moon is a woman. Oh, please do paint that painting, I am now very eager to see it. Kentucky is indeed a very lush area of the United States! And all of those lovely hardwood trees dotting the landscape is very inspirational. In your paintings it honestly does come through how you study the natural form. What comes through, though is the whimsy of the personalities you give each tree…they are so much fun and really show how much you care about trees. It must break your heart to see so many trees being cut down these days. Phases…of the moon, of trees of woman, of life! Yes, that comes out in your work so clearly.
Since you prefer to work at night, would you talk about your studio and what you can’t work without and the things you need in order to paint? What is your studio like?
L: I would love to have a large airy studio with great light, but my ’studio’ is just the smallest spare bedroom in the house with one window on the north side of the house. It’s chock full of painting supplies and works in progress and a desk lamp for extra lighting when I paint. The white curtains in there are pretty well dappled with paint but I enjoy it anyways. My necessary painting supplies are just acrylic paints, a bunch of different sizes and types of brushes, canvas or paper and my 2 plastic Folgers coffee cans…one with plain water and the other with soapy warm water. I found out that when I do landscape types of paintings, I have to have a tube or bottle of florescent orange acrylic paint. I put a wash of it over spots in the green areas to imply the touch of the sunlight. I discovered my need for this color by accident and in a humorous way, thanks to my husband Rob. He used to enjoy going to turkey shoots in the fall of the year. They would shoot at paper targets and try to win frozen turkeys (He‘s won several of them around Thanksgiving, which came in handy LOL). He had painted a dot of the orange on his gun site and had the whole tube left over that he gave to me. One day, I gave it a try and loved the effect of the orange wash over areas of the green.
K: Now that is fabulous! What a story and what a great tip! I love it so much when things happen in that way! Rob sounds like a real keeper! Does he need more colors? It sounds as though all the great artist have bedroom studios J You know what I mean…
What inspires you other than night?
L: I find that beautiful scenery, such as the Smokey Mountains to be a real inspiration to me. Every year we drive from central Virginia and all the way through the Appalachian mountains to get to Kentucky where my family lives. It is just so awesome to see all the huge lush mountains with layers of misty blue fog. Some of the vistas just take your breath away! I paint countless pictures in my mind when we are traveling though there.
K: Ah yes, I too am inspired by landscapes. I grew up in the mountains so I understand what you are talking about. When you travel back to Kentucky do you take any art supplies with you or just your camera?
L. The only thing I take on those long trips is my camera. I try to capture those wonderful scenes in my memory to use when I get back home. Usually we have so many suitcases and stuff packed in the vehicle and I don't have time to draw or paint until I get back home.
Holiday Through the Window
I know you have heard this question before from me, but what do you think has influenced your visual voice?
L: Woo, probably many, many things! The people I see, the scenery of the landscape, colors, shadows and bits of light I see in the trees and grass…the blue of the sky and shapes of the clouds, etc. I could name lots and lots and lots of things here Kim!
K: I hear you…just about anything which crosses your path!
You are so kind and generous with your responses to other people’s art. Is this something you have thought about and are you always so positive?
L: I don’t consciously think about it, but I do enjoy looking at other artist’s works and commenting in a positive way. In almost every piece I look at, I can find something that I like, such as a technique, certain use of color, texture, etc. If I see a piece I really don’t care about, I usually just don’t comment. Honestly, it may be some one just starting out on their artistic journey…maybe it’s their very first painting. Sometimes if I feel that it would honestly help them, I do sometimes try to make a constructive comment, but in a positive way. I know how good it makes me feel when someone comments in a good way on a piece I‘ve done. I’ve noticed that artists are unusually sensitive when it comes to their work!
K: Well your kindness has probably helped so many artists get going with their careers. When it all comes from the goodness of your heart, then it is good for the whole world.
Silver Moon Blue Night
What would you say is your greatest artistic success?
L: The very first painting I ever sold through the internet. A lady in Arkansas bought it for her office at work and I was really excited and pleased about that!
K: Oh, I can imagine that would have been the greatest feeling! I can imagine that woman at her office enjoying your painting each and every day.
You clearly like to play with materials. Will you talk about the mediums you like to use and your favorite ones…colors, mediums, etc.?
L: My favorite medium has to be acrylic paints. I like to paint with them very fast, wet and spontaneously because of the quick drying time. I like how the colors mix together at the edges and I think I’ve probably done more paintings with blue shades than any other color. I’ve recently discovered the delights of the special effects colors, such as the pearl iridescent acrylics.
K: Oh, I like the pearl iridescent too! A really fun product.
What will be your next project? What are you looking for ward to next?
L: I still have that sketch I did of the ‘face’ on the full moon and I am planning to try and capture that in an acrylic painting soon.
K: I can’t wait for that one.
What other artists inspire you?
L: Back in the college years, I discovered the amazing work of Caspar David Friedrich, the 19th century German Romantic painter. I just fell in love with his dark, eerie, mystic landscapes, so he has probably been an influence to me as an artist.
K: I can see the influence! Yes!
Will you tell us about any interesting experiences you have had with your art? With galleries, commissions, educational experiences, the web, etc.
L: I had been painting and selling some of my tree ACEOs through the internet when two people contacted me to do commissions of my trees in the four seasons. One person commissioned twelve ACEOs, three of my trees in each season. The other customer, all the way from Australia, commissioned four of my tree ACEOs, one for each season. That was an exciting and very busy time for me, and to be honest a little stressful too! I finished all sixteen of the little paintings successfully and they were happy with them, whew! I am still trying to get up my nerve to contact a gallery someday and have been collecting some paintings for that purpose.
K: Well I think you should get that nerve up, girl. I don’t think you would have any problems at all creating a market for those wonderful trees!
What kind of art do you not like?
L: I appreciate all kinds of artistic expression but if I would have to pick one I didn’t like as much, I guess I would say it would be some of the ‘Primitive’ art I’ve seen. Maybe it just hasn’t spoken to me yet, I’m not sure.
K: I get that. In a way, I feel the same way about primitive art. I wonder if it has anything to do
with what we saw so much of as kids?
Silver Tree and Heart
What genres are the most interesting to you? Do you like other forms of art or is painting the main thing?
L: Painting is it for me, although I have enjoyed other types of art too. Sometimes I use pencils or charcoal to sketch on paper. Not long ago, I found an old art set that I had given my daughter when she was younger. There were some oil pastels I found and enjoyed giving those a try. Back in college years, I did take several ceramics classes and really enjoyed throwing on the wheel. It’s been so many years though, sigh. My favorite thing was to pick the glaze and then do the second firing in the kiln. It was almost like Christmas morning to see how the glazed piece would turn out and agony to have to wait so long for the kiln to cool. Sometimes the results would be a wonderful surprise and other times disaster!
K: I have the greatest admiration for anyone who can throw a pot! It was my worst art subject ever! Seriously! My daughter has her wheel stored here and I could be using it, but it is just not my medium. Do you still have some of your pots?
L. Kim, I still do have some of them and I agree that it is very tricky to throw on the wheel! Some of my pieces look pretty 'clunky' but I really enjoyed making them!
K: You have my greatest admiration in working with clay on a wheel!
Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
L: Ha Kim, I’ve probably gone on way too long about everything already and I really appreciate you asking me to do this interview! You’re a special lady, thanks so much!!
K: No, you haven’t gone on too long! Not at all! I could listen to what you have to say for a long time, yet.
Believe me, Lynette, the pleasure was all mine. I feel honored you were so willing and want to thank you for working with me here this week. You are a joy and a good friend to know.
You can find Lynette's art at her Etsy Shop and at her Saatchi Gallery. Do visit her work there. She is also a frequent commenter at the Wet Canvas community. You can find her often in the Abstract/Contemporary forum.