A real privilege for me as a new blogger was being invited to the art studio of this week’s Guest, Linda Hendrickson. I am a huge fan of highly saturated color in the space where I live and work, so a trip into Linda’s studio was like a little trip to heaven for me. Fresh, bright colored, whimsical artwork EVERYWHERE! It was magnificent and I never wanted to leave. That atmosphere was so inspiring to me and just boosted every bit of good energy that I possess. I am so grateful for the visit because I can go back there, in my mind, any time I need to. Love. True Love.
Linda Hendrickson is an acrylic mix media artist who calls herself a “whimsical impressionist”. She explains, “I like the whimsy of subjects, or I try to find the personality and the whimsy in subjects that I paint.” Shying away from people, the subject matter for the majority of Linda’s art are pets, but she also creates landscapes, and florals that are to die for. Pet portraits are worked from photographs, but get elevated to a fantastical level through Linda’s artistic process and amazingly, her landscapes are done mostly from memory. Through Linda’s creativity, she highlights the important landmarks, but interjects local interests and wildlife. I found that I didn’t even need to be familiar with the towns that she was painting to get drawn in to their charm and energy.
Linda grew up in Minnesota with a flare for art from the start. She was fortunate and grateful to have a mother who was not afraid of messes and would encourage Linda and her three brothers to experiment with paper maché, finger painting, and many other art mediums. Even as a child Linda would draw whatever was around her and even worked her way through the entire series of “How to Draw” books. Continuing on her artistic path, Linda earned her degree of a Bachelors of Fine Arts as well as an Education certificate which allowed her to teach art for K-12 students. She went on to earn her Masters which expanded her expertise and teaching certification for Home Economics.
Linda taught junior high school art and home ec for years. Her teaching career began in Schweinfurt, Germany, at the Department of Defense schools, but because her husband was in the military, they were required to move often. Linda jokes, “Art teaching positions are kind of hard to get, and once people get in they kind of have the position ‘til they die.” She goes on, “It was not an easy, portable job, so I started offering classes to friends. We would do everything from crafty to fine art. And then I kind of put art on the back burner for a while, once I wasn’t teaching.”
It was about 15 years ago, when Linda took a workshop in Bethany Beach, DE, from Tara Funk Grim that she was introduced to the color palette that she currently works in. (Thank you Tara!) Linda shares, “It just brings me such joy to work with the bright colors that the dull earth tones disappeared. Every once in a while I’ll put a little gray in, or there’ll be a neutral background like in ‘Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors’ (a work in progress during my visit). It’s hard for me to think of what life would be like if I didn’t have all this painting to do. It just is my passion.” (It’s a beautiful passion.)
Linda’s studio is peppered with multiple works at different stages in her artistic process. She works in mixed media where paper or canvases are layered with paint and collage. Having multiple pieces in progress allows each step to completely dry before she adds the next layer. Says Linda, “I have a whole stack of canvases that are gessoed; ready to go. Then I do a “doodle start”. Sometimes there are a bunch of layers of “doodle start”. Often it’s the way I begin and end a day. It’s kind of my warm up and my cool down.” Linda describes her artistic process, “I begin each painting with what I call a “doodle start.” Using an analogous set of acrylic heavy body paint colors, and lots of water, I cover the canvas with intuitive marks using a broad brush and many splatters of paint. While the paint is still wet, I add bubble wrap, plastic wrap, or other texture makers and allow the piece to sit. Once dry, I tear off the plastic or bubble wrap to see what happy experiment may have occurred. Often this entire process is repeated a couple more times to develop pentimento and a beautiful, intuitive toning of the canvas. Each step of the painting covers areas less pleasing to me and preserves some of the first layers to give a finished piece.”
I told Linda that I’d love to be in her mind to see all of the creative ideas that she has going on. Lucky for me, she could SHOW me! Linda has an extensive library of sketchbooks where each of her ideas get recorded. Linda shares, “I have about 30 little sketch books here. They are always with me. We often take a little printer with us on trips, print pictures and put them in the sketchbook so I can get the essence of the place, or I take a few notes and put the picture in so I can really go back to what it actually felt like to be there. So if I’m ever hard up for ideas, I can go back to my sketchbook and find things.”
Pet portraiture is what Linda refers to as her heart song. She is taken with the innocence and expression on the sweet faces of animals. But make no mistake, her florals and landscapes are no shrinking violets. In addition to doing commissioned art, Linda also offers art classes and shows her work in several galleries and museums. Linda shares, “My class attendees are generally grandmas that have more disposable time and income, or maybe even moms with older kids. I would say the drink and paint phenomenon has hurt because people want a quick, inexpensive girls night out. That is not what I’m in to. I want serious art students, or somebody who’s always wanted to blossom that way and just hasn’t had a guide.” Unexpected proud moments for Linda have come when she sees her students succeed. She says, “When my students put on their own show and they’re doing it their way and stepping out; that’s pretty neat.”
Linda explains, “Art is practicing teaching your eye how to see. You’re teaching something very subjective. I’ve done it for a lot of years and I’m very proud of a bunch of my students who are now professional artists. It’s very wonderful to see that.” She goes on, “I did a lot of teaching when I first finished building out my studio, but living back and forth between Virginia and Montana, it’s been hard. It would be much better if I just stayed in one spot, but then life wouldn’t be nearly so fun.”
I have experienced and even written about my own creative transformation. It was extremely interesting to be able to visually see Linda’s own artistic evolution. Linda’s attributes her big turning point in her career to the Tara Funk Grim workshop that she took 15 years ago. She admits, “Having an art background, maybe I already possessed more of my voice when I first took Tara’s class, so it quickly popped out. The addition of mixed media would probably be the next biggest jump.” Although her color palette made it’s transition 15 years ago, it’s the addition and building up of mixed media that Linda has recognized the most change of her own work. “For example,” she says, “the first “topsy turvy” (which is what Linda calls her landscapes) is very crisp and stylized, versus one for an upcoming show in Flathead Valley, Montana that is a lot more fluid rather than precise and stylized; more painting and less focused on being line oriented.” Size is also a huge change in Linda’s repertoire. She shares, “I discovered that I wanted to do size.” Linda put together a collection of large paintings for a museum show to be held out in Montana in February. But her proudest professional moment was having several of her pieces purchased for Nemours/Dupont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, DE. There you can find the very large, 5’ x 5’ versions of images from Linda’s collection of pet portraits. Her long term goals include opportunities to do more large scale projects. Linda shares, “I think it’s really cool to get things placed in a Children’s Hospitals. It brings joy in so many ways.” Linda also would love to get into more galleries so she can spend her time painting and traveling, but commission work will always be part of her life as well. Her desire to grow a consistent student base would round out her professional goals.
Although Linda admits that she’s not very big into imagining the future, she does have a “pie in the sky” dream. She and her husband own 20 acres in Montana that looks out over the mountains. Linda would love to have a simple home there; maybe two main bedrooms with a kitchen in the middle and a walk out lower level that houses her studio/workshop area. She says, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have different sorts of tiny houses on the property and have artists come for a week’s retreat?” That would be fun! She goes on, “I think that there are a lot of people out there who would benefit from art as therapy. I know what it does for me. If I can’t paint, I get real crazy and not very easy to live with. I think there are a lot of women, that once the kid raising stage is over with, they need it too.”
A new question that I like to ask my Guests is what advice or encouragement would they give to their younger self? (See I’m evolving too!) Here’s Linda’s sage advice, “Learn how to say no, and don’t listen to the nay sayers. Just don’t listen to that because it’s just going to drag you down. It’s a challenge to stay up in the midst of all that. And try to tune out the shoulda, woulda, coulda.”
Linda shares, “I guess I’m living the dream. This is pretty good. And I’m never hesitant to share my creativity with students. I tend to learn more from them than I share. It’s not like I have to guard it with a wall, but I do think you have to guard your heart because that’s where the fountain can get stopped and depressed and traumatized.”
Linda believes that everybody has creativity in them but feels that it’s something in our educational system that has gotten squashed early on. She shares, “When I’m doing demonstrations, I like to ask a child, “Are you an artist?” and they’ll say yes. The older they get the less likely they are to say yes because somebody took the pencil out of their hand, or didn’t put the latest picture up on the refrigerator, it’s still the one from 3 years ago which is huge in a kid’s life.” Her wish is for each of us to encourage creativity in each other. But she warns, “You have to kind of unplug to develop it, and for kids that’s huge, but it’s so important.”
1 Photos and photo images of Linda’s original artwork by Jeanette Burkle, Galie Photography
2 Photo images of Linda’s original artwork by *Cayenne Pepper Studios (*Formerly Sandrine Brubaker Photography)