Name: June Stratton
Medium: Oil, Silver Leaf on Aluminum
Describe your work and the process at which you arrive to a finished piece: I start from an idea I have in my head then find the appropriate model and collaborate with them. I take hundreds of photos and sometimes my initial idea evolves into something completely different once I review them. I create a photo mockup complete with the surrealistic elements like clouds, water and natural that is my coastal environment. Using this mockup as a guide I go to my easel block in the composition with paint. When that layer dries, I add silver leaf. What follows is multiple layers of paint with many adjustments. I finish with varnish which brings out very rich color.
How long have you been a working artist? Since 1989
How long have you been living in the South? Since 2010
How does the South influence your art? Abundance of natural beauty. The coastal estuarine environment is sublime. (Also paint dries faster 😉 )
What role does the artist have in our community, and do you believe arts funding is an integral part of creating a vibrant and successful city? There is a saying “The artist portrays what cannot be said.”. Arts like writing, music, painting, etc. are projecting ideas or stories that inspire creative thinking. Savannah has so much going for it around every corner. Funding is essential to keep this environment vibrant and growing.
How has your practice changed over time? When I lived in Seattle I was known mostly for my dark moody tonalist landscapes. When I moved, to the South I used the change of environment to reinvent myself as an artist. The funny thing is in my current surrealist work the landscapes have crept back into my paintings. My husband would roll his eyes over this question and say when isn’t my work changing…I believe that if you are not pushing yourself then you’re not creating.
Any shows, galleries, or publications where our readers can find your work? Representation: Robert Lange Gallery Charleston SC (Solo Show August 2017), Reynolds Square Fine Art Savannah GA, Distinction Gallery Escondido CA (Solo Show April 2017). Publications: 2016 American Art Collector, Cover, October Issue, 2016 American Art Collector, April Issue, 2016 Fine Art Connoisseur.com
Would you tell us some things about yourself? Please include a few little known facts about you as well. I was conceived in the Territory of Hawaii and was born in the State of Hawaii… I have no clue where my birth certificate is ; -). I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. I was fortunate that my family valued the arts of all kinds.I remember as a kid sitting on my grandmother’s floor in Berkeley paper and pencil in hand (no coloring books allowed) drawing birds in a very childlike automatic way…think two eyebrows and a dot in the middle. My Grandmother, who was an avid bird watcher (Sierra Club supporter), plopped down an Audubon’s Book of Birds and said “you need to look at birds”. A bit harsh for a six-year- old but I never forgot it. All I ever wanted to be was an artist. When I went to California College of Arts and Crafts in 1977 I was 17. I was probably a little young and because the curriculum was skewed more towards abstraction, I was very unhappy. Also, I’ve never been very good at structured learning because I am very dyslexic. I felt lost and depressed in the following years. Little known facts: I love fast and pretty automobiles, vintage to current day. I’m also allergic to oysters…sad because I like them : ). I love to cook and experiment with different recipes.
How did you break into the industry? I moved to Seattle in the 1980’s and was lucky to be introduced to some very talented artists who were making a living making art. Seattle had a bustling art community at the time and a thriving first Thursday art walk. I must credit my first husband and talented master printmaker/painter Kent Lovelace. He owned Stone Press Gallery. Stone Press was also a print making atelier. Not only did he encourage me to pursue my art career but also Stone Press was a preeminent printmaking atelier that always had a variety of talented artists walking through the door. Stone Press pulled prints from everyone from Jacob Lawrence to Robert Bateman* in the 1980’s. I’ve been reflecting on the works of Fred Wessel a l lately. He is a representational artist that incorporated metal leaf and still creates beautiful egg temperametal leaf paintings today. *A brilliant realist artist who could draw or paint with any material you could throw at him. Unfortunately, because of the times he was marginalized as primarily a wildlife artist.
How would you describe your first 5 years as an artist? I bit crazy. Although, I was surrounded by artists; It’s one thing to say “Yeah, I can do that…” and quite another to manifest it. My first paintings were landscapes. My first landscapes painted in oil were painted entirely reductively (like Mark Tansey) because I had no experience with oil and only watercolor.
I did not know anyone using oil medium at the time. Those first oil paintings were part of my first solo show in downtown Seattle…I do not think the gallery was aware they were my first. They sold them anyhow.
What are the things you wished you’d known from the very start of your career? Like Robert Lange (artist/gallery owner) described in a conversation to me recently; “An artist’s life is a journey”. You’re not going to suddenly get the secret or trick to painting and create masterpieces from then on. It’s a lot of continuous really hard work and learning.
Art means different things to different people. What is art, and what does art means to you? Personally, it’s an obsessive focus in my life. For me it was a great way to channel my mind and see past my own insecurities…which are many. In the bigger picture, it’s an interpretive, insightful language. It’s a way to express views that are not
easily understood any other way.
What qualities/traits/habits/mindsets do you think every artist need to have? Perseverance. Creative problem solving. Cultivate an environment around you to open your mind to learn. Collect art books. Go to as many museums as you can. Identify yourself as an artist. I’m trying hard to keep my own personal imagination up front in my paintings. There are so many outrageously great artists out there. I feel the only way to set myself apart is to fully expose my individual imaginary self.
What’s your typical weeks like? I spend at least 5 days a week in the studio, which is on the same property as me and my husband Jay’s house. I’m very spoiled this way. When I’m working on a show somedays I barely make it past the mail box. When the weather is warm though we’ll go out to one of many barrier islands off coastal Georgia, which has a lot of protected coastline, marshlands and estuaries. Much of my inspiration, aside from my models, comes from this rich environment. We have a variety of good “foodie” buddies that are a nice respite and are good at keeping me grounded. Nothing like good glass of wine and conversation : ).
How do you typically approach each new project? Would you share your working process from start to finish? I start from an idea I have in my head (often from vivid dreams I’ve had) then find the appropriate model and collaborate with them. I take hundreds of photos and sometimes my initial idea evolves into something completely different once I see what’s happening with the model. Later in my studio I create a photo mockup complete with the surrealistic elements like clouds, water and nature that is my coastal environment. Using this Photoshop mockup as a guide I go to my easel and block in the composition with paint. To be clear, some things that look great on my “glowing from behind” computer screen do not translate well as a painting, so adjustments need to be made while painting. I add silver leaf only when the previous layer’s underneath have dried. What follows is multiple layers of paint and many more adjustments. I finish with varnish which brings out very rich color.
What is your current dream project? Hum…I guess my flip answer would be whatever I’m working now. I love what I do. I had a vision at one point in 2007 after I saw a Julie Heffernan show in New York. I was going to paint a series of six women on horseback performing. Each piece was going to be 72×60 vertical. I painted “One Horse Opera”, which turned out to be a series of one thanks to the crash in the financial market and “One Horse Opera” now lives in my dining room. Oh well, maybe my posse will ride in the future. Not
sure where this horsey thing comes from. Maybe from when I rode horses as a kid or just admiring old master paintings but, when I’m asked to go to my happy place, it’s not the beach it’s galloping along the ridge of a hillside…free.
What aspect of your work do you pay particular attention to? Recently I’ve been obsessive about my surface and my edges. For some reason, I’m randomly thinking of Marc Chagall’s compositions when I paint. Maybe it’s the “floaty effect” I’m painting my models in.
How do you choose your models? I’ve been working with twins that are the daughters of friends (also clients of mine) Sarah and Nelle Iocovozzi. They tolerate me making them lay on the cold brick winter courtyard or riding a horse in the hot August sun. Generally, I like my figures to be both vulnerable and strong at the same time. They do this very well. I’ve worked with several great models in Savannah and I’ve been very lucky. None modeled more frequently than Meghan Harris. She’s featured in “One Horse Opera” In a pinch, I’ve used myself.
Out of all the pieces you created for this exhibition, which piece is the most special/favorite piece for you? (And why) Geez…only one? There’s three. What they all have in common is they express the beauty I want to see and a subtle message on climate change. “Seahorse Sound” (Sound as in body of water), “Floodplain”, “Hammock” (Hammock as in coastal/salt marsh island). (This question is a little dated Klassik Mag*)
What else are you working on at the moment? Duo show for Robert Lange Gallery, Charleston in April. Also, fun tiny project the “Tiny House Project” benefiting Savannah Authority for the Homeless veterans. I creating 3×3 inch drawings in pastel and silver leaf.
Is there anything your viewer might miss when we look at your artwork? (Any hidden meanings, symbolisms, special details, etc?) I’m including a small symbol or two. Oysters. Mollusks are indicator species for the environment. Also, lichen. Not so subtle is water rise. Someone once told me beauty without edge is insipid. That might be going too far for me. I like something that causes visual tension. I like having a message but, I do not want to beat anyone over the head with it. I want the viewer to like what they are looking at and I want them to wish to live with it.
What was your inspiration behind this particular series or collection? Title: Aquamarine
Where I live I’m pretty much surrounded by water. Inevitably my dreams often incorporate water. As dreams go I can seemingly float from one scenario to another however impossible in real life. It’s difficult to capture my dreams exactly so I’m letting my models portray a thought/feeling using natural surroundings the theater. In some ways like an old-fashioned pantomime, only modern.
Why is this subject matter impportant to you? There’s an underlying narrative in a lot of my work that is not always obvious which is my appreciation for our environment. Water rise is particularly important to me and apparently my subconscious as well…as I’m living at the high tide line between a river on one side and a tidal marsh on the other. Sometimes though, a model will strike a pose that I know I must paint it and then I’ll do anything to incorporate the image in my work.
What is your favourite piece or artwork in the collection so far and why? As usual I have more than one. “Nautilus” the largest piece which incorporates three figures within the painting…an awesome challenge for me. “Rainfall” is one because of the free-floating nature of the models pose and the silver droplets are very dream like. This also captures the pantomime feel I was referring to earlier. I placed a photo reference from an expedition my husband and I took to Jack’s river in north Georgia in the back ground that I think archives the pantomime effect well. The water in this river was extremely beautiful.
Other favorites are: “The Wall” which captures the frustration you might feel in a dream of not being able to get from one level to another in a dream. This is somewhat an analogy of artist angst. My model in this is Sarah, who was lying on the ground when I photographed her. I was standing on my tip toes on a stool trying to get high enough to get the right angle and I kept getting mostly the wall in my photos. Looking at the photos later I though “How cool is that narrative?”. So, had to paint her like that.
Who are some of the artists you have been influenced by or inspired by? Raphael. Rembrandt. Rubens. Frederick Leighton. John Everett Millais. John Waterhouse. Maxfield Parrish. M. C. Wyeth. Julio Reyes. Julie Heffernan. Bo Bartlett. Brad Kunkle. Gerhart Richter. Marc Chagall’s work for his floaty compositions. I could go on here…
Any notable stories about the subjects of your paintings? I’ve been painting twins Sarah Iocovozzi and Nelle Iocovozzi for over a year now and It’s been a very happy collaboration. They are both amazingly beautiful naturally. I’ve learned there is a big advantage and creative learning that happens when you paint the same subjects repeatedly. (ala Monet painting the same haystack etc.)
There are other models represented in this show I like a lot. Notably my new find is Savannah Stiles. With her waif frame, striking eyes and beautiful red hair she’s a pleasure to paint as well.
How do you start a work, do you have aby rituals? Coffee. Cleaning my palette. I’ve lately been a little lazy about this when I’m finished the previous day. So, scraping the palette has become a morning ritual followed by freshening my paint blobs on the palette.
Does this body of work correlate with anything happening in your life? I probably covered this in the first couple questions : )
How do you challenge yourself as an artist in order to keep growing? I do not consciously think about challenging myself. My head is always filled with ideas and I always think I can do better. I may be hyper critical of my own work. There is not a painting I’ve done that I think couldn’t be improved in some way. This doesn’t mean I don’t like my own work. There are plenty of paintings I wish I hadn’t sold.
What surface do you prefer? Which paint companies? which brushes?do you use a limiited or expansive palette?
Surface: Over the past year or so I’ve been goldilocks in the land of paint of paint surfaces. My new discovery and now my preference is Arches Oil Paper which is just right for me. It’s made for oil paint and completely archival. I apply it to an aluminum composite panel for rigidity and durability. The paper is a very pleasing surface for me to paint on because of combination of the light texture and the way the oil paint ever so slightly soaks in. This adds a softness to my paintings that I enjoy a lot.
Paint: I start with about 14 what I would call essential colors. Maybe an additional 6 for special circumstances and glazing. My latest discovery in the later section is Perylene Black (a transparent green-black). Two brands I use most in order: Williamsburg and Gamblin. There’s a sprinkling of other brands for various colors that I’m attached to as well.
My handy Purdy brush from Home Depot : )
Define Klassik Magazine for the audience? “I’m so excited and honored to be featured in Klassik Magazine! http://www.klassikmagazine.com online international publication is filled of many great arts, travel, food and culture articles. Positively a feast for the eyes!”
Robert Lange Studios
http://robertlangestudios.com/june-stratton/ (artist link)
http://robertlangestudios.com/aquamarine/ (exhibit link)
http://www.distinctionart.com/featured.php?artist=June%20Stratton (artist link)
http://www.havenartgallery.com/portfolio/into-the-woods-ii/ ( “Cocoon” is in this group show)
http://www.kirk-gallery.com/ (group show upcoming in December)