Globetrotting artist Linda J Powell
PUBLISHED: 12:02 29 June 2017 | UPDATED: 12:02 29 June 2017
Sandra Smith meets the globetrotting artist Linda J Powell, whose dedication to her craft has followed her from Canada, to the United States and now Hampshire
From Ontario to Quarley, with Yale, London and Nova Scotia in between, Linda J Powell’s artistic career spans continents and decades. Lifestyle changes and family commitments have, inevitably, evolved along the way yet no circumstance has impinged upon an overriding consistency at the heart of her images. Not surprisingly then, like her enthusiasm, a gutsy dedication defines this productive artist.
“I’m determined and carry on developing and changing. I hope I’ll never get stuck but you always find your way out. There is a certain wisdom as you get older. I know now how to be more efficient with my time and effort. I want to continue in that vein; to get to the root of a painting without having to change things so much.”
The impact of light on a subject is an underlying theme and vital element in her work, the essence of interest to this artist and evident throughout her paintings with portraits and landscapes favoured these days although Linda recalls a different interest when she was growing up.
“My mother somehow managed to fit in painting landscapes and children all her life. But I wanted to be different and I was crazy about horses so I’d sneak into local horse shows. I could draw them forever! I was always good at art and had top marks at school.”
Despite a gift for painting, Linda harboured a second passion – music – and after leaving school she gained a teaching degree and became a music specialist. Her career in education, which eventually evolved into teaching art and incorporated various cities and age groups, blossomed but meanwhile she always exploited openings to expand her own portfolio.
“When my first two daughters were young I did a couple of evening classes: sculpture and life drawing. I worked in ceramics too. I did some nice early drawings. Even if you can’t get out your paints you can always draw. I was much healthier and more together if I was drawing, painting or sculpting. I moved here to study in London, that was my first time in the UK; I immediately felt right in England.”
Some years later, by the time Linda set up home in Hampshire as a farmer’s wife and with four daughters at school, a purpose built studio provided breathing space. She also took time to breed and train horses, as well as paint them. Then, when a life drawing class she attended folded due to lack of funding, she started her own classes in her own studio.
“That was great. I had a huge following and waiting lists. I gradually expanded and it was through teaching and the enthusiasm of my students that I went on and developed my painting career. With my own centre I could also do commissions. Then I discovered Hampshire Open Studios. I organised an exhibition, did my own advertising, set up my studio with all my paintings and just about sold out.”
As part of Linda’s present teaching role at Project Workshops she not only guides a small community of artists but travelling to and from the venue presents unplanned stimuli. “Driving to Project Workshops, I see things and retain them to paint when I arrive. This is an opportunity I didn’t realise would be there. I have become quite good at picking up something about the day – weather, light, colour – and putting that down. Sometimes I do small sketches in colour or charcoal. This helps me identify where the strength of the composition is and what has attracted me. Other times there are missing bits in my memory. I do two or three sketches or a small colour sketch with oils so you can move it around, wipe it off; it’s not set in stone.”
The way sunshine teases her landscapes are evocative of bright, tranquil summer days. Light revives the tones of the countryside, bringing warmth and brilliance, and reflecting calm waters. Similarly, lustre accentuates horses’ curves, their glowing frames presenting an unrivalled combination of power and beauty while The Young Artist is as delicate a capturing of childhood as could be imagined. An intensity of expression is softened by rays of light which enhance every blonde tone and each fold of fabric.
With a preference for oils, occasional changes of medium refresh both eye and technique, providing Linda with the prospect of teasing out the drama or interest in a subject. Whilst she favours canvasses, just now a desire to achieve a surface ideal for pastels involves sanding MDF. Her preferred size is 20” x 20”, she pines for the “right” rectangular dimensions to make her happy and relies on intuition but with a nod to experimentation: “I don’t think my personality would let me settle down and paint the same thing.”
Artistic inspiration for this 73 year old is varied: from Canadian Tom Thomson who influenced the Group of Seven, to sculptress and Rodin’s mistress, Camille Claudel, American impressionist Mary Cassatt, and Kurt Jackson whose concern with ecological and environmental issues make him one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists. She also cites Matisse as a master of colour. Such celebrated stimuli reflect Linda’s approach.
“I didn’t think I was a landscape painter. I became more conscious of form being at the centre of my endeavour, of everything I paint, more than colour. But when exclusively doing sculpture I missed colour. Sometimes I might use a combination of photos to produce a painting – I’ve always been a decent photographer and have learned to work from photographs.”
Painting for yourself compared to commissions or with an end sale in mind can induce different mindsets, not altogether welcome, for some artists. Linda, however, seems to engage a more relaxed, even business like, attitude.
“A commission or sale makes me go into the studio. Once the subject is there in front of you I’m in the zone and it’s the same as painting anything else though when doing a commission you have to consider the client, involve them somehow. If I have an exhibition coming up I have to make sure my studio is spanking clean and all my new work needs to be framed or mounted ready for visitors. I get hundreds of people; that’s when I sell.
“I’m a late developer,” she continues, “but my style is finally beginning to loosen up. I can draw quickly and paint like a demon when I’m fired up. When I see something I’m not happy with I have to put it away and come back later with fresh eyes. I want to draw accurately and good drawings are the basis for most paintings I like. I want to give people the feeling of, for instance, in a landscape going around a tree to see what’s on the other side, to give work an extra dimension.”
Getting to know Linda J Powell is to experience a life journey. From being raised as one of five talented daughters, to moving continents, identifying career opportunities and now resident artist at Project Workshops, she is a meritorious and driven painter whose images feature in private collections around the world but whose guidance and advice is available right here in Hampshire.