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Who Arted?: Painter Laura Collins

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Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 4:16 pm | Updated: 4:18 pm, Mon Aug 6, 2012.

“I found I could say things with colors and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way- things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Would life be as good without deception via our selves or others? I am certain I will have more time next year for home projects. I am pretty sure that blonde in the produce section is eyeing me with as much interest as she is the Anjou pears.

Standing in front of Laura Collins’ coastal paintings, it’s almost impossible not to embrace her generous deceptions with the heart and earnestness with which she creates them – a swipe of burnt umber becomes the alluring storm-carved headland cave that you’ve explored, a brush heavily loaded with titanium white dragged and slowly skipped becomes an utterly convincing line of breakers. For some reason known only to themselves and scientists, our brains happily fill in the details. Realism or impressionism? Fifty-fifty. Her results are often immensely successful- she gets us to do half the work ourselves, then she’d like us to pay for the framed completed canvas, take it home, and be delighted with the entire process. With her beach scenes the scheme works to perfection.

It’s not easy to have paintings like this appear easy. Laura has studied with international artists such as George Carlson, absorbed the work of past masters, attended any number of workshops and sessions with peers, and above all worked whenever possible, preferring to paint plein air- outside in the elements- despite rapidly changing light, wind and blowing sand, curious civilians, enthusiastic retrievers, shifting fog, rain cells, dropped brushes, soggy sandwiches, lukewarm coffee and sneaker waves.

“Somehow the inspiration, immediacy and excitement of every painting is best conveyed at the very moment I absorb those elements. I am really always painting light. Light is what gives form and reality to everything. Its elusive, infinite, delicate effects create the challenge.”

Art deceives to expose truth, about our world or ourselves. Laura writes more about herself and her goals in her artist’s statement, but for me her strength lies in the economy and simplicity with which she reminds us of the paradise which surrounds us, in pleasure taken in and given and received. Hers is a timeless style at home in this century or the last or even a bit earlier. Though she does not mention them as personal inspirations, her paintings exhibit a facility and lack of fussiness that remind me of John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer.

This is high praise. She earns it with the skill and elan with which she paints headlands, beaches, water in its many moods, atmospherics and reflections. The “there-ness” of her work can be amazing. The viewer feels as if they are there with her as she lays in the last stroke. I want to be there in the scene every time I walk past “Hug Point” or “Minus Tide at Oceanside” or “Goin’ Clamming”.

“Painting is a mental illness“, Laura says. If so, she’s been dealing with it for some time- her list of juried shows, one-woman shows, awards, studies, professional organizations and galleries is as long as the felony and misdemeanor page in her hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune. In eighth grade she recalls discovering in a museum of natural history that art is important to the human soul, and enduring. Since then art has been part of her life through decades of homemaking and rearing children and jobs as varied as accounting and lumber grading.

Collins’ hopscotch west to her easel on the beach and her new home here on Whiskey Creek has been long, including a move with husband Michael four years ago from Montana. I think and hope that she has found her place. I say this because- maybe based on personal taste- I don’t believe she is quite as reliably accomplished and unique when she moves away from the tide line, or at least water, for subjects. Given her skills, work ethic and determination, this will no doubt change soon and you may well disagree already. She tells me she is moving upstream lately to search for inspiration in rivers. There ought to be plenty there and she possesses the talent to do nature and viewers and purchasers more than justice. I was amazed after enjoying her work for many months to learn that she was not raised smelling the sea and hearing crashing waves. I hope that she kicks the sand from her shoes after a morning of painting on the beach many a time to come.

Laura’s work can be seen at Wild Rain Gallery. Her website is laura@lauracollins.com, her email privatebeach66@yahoo.com.

I am always interested in hearing about visual arts personalities, venues or events in Tillamook County. Seward Whitfield wildraingallery@yahoo.com 503 842 6405

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