A Painter’s Place: Among the Sea, Sky and Wind – Insights from Claire Bigbee

Words from Claire Bigbee…

“Painting,” he said, “is just getting one spot of color in relation to another spot…. Let color make form, do not make form and Color it.” “Anything under the sun is beautiful if you have the vision — it is the seeing of the thing that makes it so.” 

This is one of my favorites quotes from Charles Hawthorne. It can be found in his book, Hawthorne on Painting. I always find myself pulling his book off the shelf to review his many painting pearls of wisdom.  

He talks about spots in relation to each other and looking for the brilliant colors in a landscape and making them a bit brighter than we see it. Rather than reproducing nature outdoors, which is almost impossible, he says to approximate by convention. 

My paintings are inventions of nature through careful observation of the color relationships when a piece is underway. I prefer this approach rather than the idea of reproducing nature. Staying open and in the moment gives me opportunities to see the accidents which can occur and can thrust a painting in a new direction. Those are thrilling moments when I’m on the edge of a piece, and I get lost for a while. There’s a certain amount of anxiety and tension that brings the painting alive. I take significant risks in those moments, and it always seems to pay off, the art starts to sing. It’s a dialog between me and the painting. The narrative of the view diminishes, and my voice becomes more apparent. 

I use color spots to create a view, not unlike the pointillist technique of painting small, distinct dots of color applied in patterns to form an image. My dots are much more significant. For tools, I use paint, a variety of palette knives, and short handle Princeton bristle brushes for my wide-sweeping marks, hands, or fingers. Almost anything works for mark making. 

The horizon line in my paintings establishes a point of reference to create distance. I use dramatic scale and color to create depth rather than value transitions. This flattens the picture plane, so color relationships create a luminous visual harmony. Music influences my painting sonnets. When I put down the first big, bold color stroke, it affects where I go next with color. I leave out insignificant details, so the viewer engages the painting. Getting caught up in the details is easy to do when painting plein air, but it’s narrative is too constricting for me. I like my paintings to capture vast spaces of color and large shapes to translate Maine’s beautiful monumental views. 

My approach is from an abstract viewpoint to achieve something solid, concrete, and permanent from nature. 

The views around me are classic Maine, a lulling sea with long-range tides, windswept clouds, all framed within Maine’s unmovable rocky coastline. There is comfort in the permanency of the Maine landscape. It’s a place I grew up and have been painting since I was young. I always come back to it for that reason.

Inspirational Artist Quotes

I try to construct a picture in which shapes, spaces, colors, form a set of unique relationships, independent of any subject matter. At the same time I try to capture and translate the excitement and emotion aroused in me by the impact with the original idea.– Milton Avery

 Nature is my springboard. From her I get my initial impetus. I have tried to relate the visible drama of mountains, trees, and bleached fields with the fantasy of wind blowing and changing colors and forms.  – Milton Avery

Follow these links to learn more about Claire Bigbee and her available works at Maine Art Hill

SUMMER SHOW with Liz Hoag and Julie Houck 2020

More Artist Insights from Claire Bigbee

All Available Works from Claire Bigbee