By Jill Basham & Kim VanDerHoek
What happens when two artists realize that they have a similar interest and compatible styles of painting? Kim and Jill decided to see what would happen if they attempted to combine their two styles into one painting.
Having met one another originally through Plein Air Easton years back, the two became friends in spite of the distance between them. Jill is from Trappe, MD; very close to Easton, while Kim lives in Southern California. Both are represented by the nationally respected Principle Gallery in Old Town Alexandria, VA. Kim was visiting the area in 2018 to drop off work to the gallery at the same time Jill was dropping off work. When both artists saw their work side by side they felt the paintings went so well together that they should develop a two person show concept.
After some discussion, the two decided on the concept “From Above,” a unique exhibition focusing on paintings with an aerial perspective. While the majority of the work in the show is in each individual artists style, the pair wanted to see what would happen if they attempted to combine their styles into one special painting for the show and share the story of their progress on social media.
Can you imagine the challenges involved in creating a dual painting when both artists reside on opposite sides of the country?
First, both decided that the painting needed to be on the larger side. They settled on a 24” x 36.” Next, they selected a reference photo that both wanted to paint.
The two also had to agree on a surface to paint on. Did you know that there are a wide variety of surfaces artists paint on? Jill prefers linen while Kim prefers wood panels. The pair settled on a wood panel which would allow Kim to apply thick paint with a palette knife which is an integral part of her style.
How would they begin? Jill agreed to take the first half of the challenge, which meant prepping the surface of wood panel with two coats of clear gesso, sanding between coats. Before she could begin painting the artists discussed how they would layer the paint in order to make sure it would be stable over time and not crack.
When oil paintings are not layered properly using a technique called “fat over lean” the surface eventually develops cracks and in some cases the paint can flake off over time.
Artists combat this effect by layering the paint, the first layer is thinned with solvent and subsequent layers are built up by adding higher and higher ratios of oil to the paint.
“I started the painting by blocking in the shapes, a strong initial design is very important to me,” said Jill, “Brushes are not the only thing I will use when painting. For this, I employed brushes, palette knives, paper towels for blending as well as a squeegee. I’ll use whatever works in order to get the marks that I’m looking for.”
After Jill completed the first half of the painting, she allowed it to dry completely before shipping it across the U.S. to Kim.
The artists agreed not to show one another their progress as they worked so that when Kim opened the box from in her California studio it was the first time she’d see the painting.
“I wanted our joint painting to be a challenge. If I’d seen Jill’s progress beforehand, I would have had time to plan and figure out what direction I wanted to take it,” said Kim, “What I received from Jill, was more than I could have hoped for. Her start was so beautiful that it was extremely intimidating to paint on top of it.”
Taking the second half of the project, Kim had to strike a balance between adding her style on to the existing painting while not obliterating Jill’s efforts completely. After working on the painting for a day Kim quickly realized that Jill would need another opportunity add any final edits to the painting.
In the meantime, the clock was ticking down to the deadline for their show. The painting needed to be completely dry before Kim could ship it back to Jill in Maryland and with her thick application of paint, the piece would need at least a week or two to dry and it wasn’t drying quickly enough. Remembering something she’d learned from fellow artists at Plein Air Easton, Kim decided to “car bake” the painting for a few days.
What is “car baking?” There are two things that will significantly speed the drying time of oil paint – heat and UV light. Some Plein Air Easton oil painters will place finished work in a car parked in direct sunlight to speed dry time. “I didn’t want to place the painting in my car, for fear of it being broken into, but, I did place it on my back patio during the day to catch some UV rays,” said Kim.
The painting dried just in time to ship it back to Jill and make it into their show at Principle Gallery.
“When first opening the box and seeing what Kim had added to the painting, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and flowing integration of Kim’s work with mine. Her thick, juicy paint application and sparkling lights created energy and drama,” said Jill.
The opening reception will be held this Friday, September 18th
from 6:30-9pm and both artists will be in attendance.