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Q&A with Award Winner Alice Kale

In this month’s “Small Works” show, juror Lindsay Harris awarded prizes to three works from the Eleanor Boudreau Jordan Award, with second prize going to Tiny Treats, a watercolor by Alice Kale. Harris praised the painting for the “whimsy and joyfulness” of the subject matter, elevated by the painter’s skill in an unforgiving medium. We asked Kale to tell us more about Tiny Treats and her work in general.

What inspired you to paint this bag of M&Ms? Is this the kind of thing you usually paint?
Alice Kale: The painting began as a demonstration for the watercolor class I have taught for many years at Mt. Vernon Recreation Center in Alexandria. The class project was a holiday card design. My painting of red and green M&Ms was meant to show the class that a holiday design can be something less usual than holly or candles. The crinkly bag appealed to me. I’ve done paintings of plastic bags in the past and am fascinated by the texture.

“Tiny Treats” by Alice Kale

What draws you to painting? Why do you work in watercolor and oil?
As a child, I had an aunt who was an art teacher. Every Christmas, I received a big box of art supplies, just materials, no coloring books. She gave me a wonderful start. I can’t remember a time I didn’t love to draw or paint. I work in watercolor and oils because I love the feel of the paints.

Is this piece part of a series?
This piece was not part of a series, although as I mentioned, I’ve painted bags a number of times, both plastic, and paper. We rarely give them a moment’s thought, but when you look closely, they are fascinating, rather like silks and taffetas in earlier times. Think of the fascinating folds of cloth in Northern Renaissance paintings such as those by van Eyck and van der Weyden.

What is your artistic process like — how do you decide on a painting, and where does it go from there?
I have more ideas than time. I rarely begin with a fully realized concept. I usually begin with a small idea and let it develop as I go.

What’s different about creating a small work?
Rather than creating a painting on a small scale, I enjoy selecting a small subject. It is a pleasure to focus closely on an object that might not usually draw much attention and to really explore it.

Is one technical element — color, composition, line, etc. — most important in your work?
Composition is most important to me. The most beautifully executed piece fails if the composition doesn’t work.

How do you hope the viewer reacts?
I paint realistically, but I don’t want to simply record what I see. I hope show the viewer my subject in a new light.

Where do you see your work going next, or what are you working on now?
I just moved, and I am working on unpacking boxes. I’ve found my paints and hope to have time to work again very soon.

Alice Kale also has a two-person exhibit (with Art League artist Kim Stenberg) at the Manor House at Green Spring Gardens right now. “Beauty in All Seasons: Watercolors and Oils by Alice Kale and Kim Stenberg” is on view through December 26.

For artist Q&As from this and past exhibits, click here.

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