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Painter Kay Fuller’s “Journey” into Abstraction

Journey by Kay Fuller, winner of the Evelyn Turner Memorial Award for Abstraction.
Journey by Kay Fuller, winner of the Evelyn Turner Memorial Award for Abstraction.

It was just over 10 years ago that Kay Fuller picked up a paintbrush for the first time. This month she received the Evelyn Turner Memorial Award for Abstraction, and we asked her some questions for the first of two artist Q&As in March:

What was your goal with Journey?
Kay Fuller: My goal with Journey was to create an abstract with a suggestion of a mountainistic landscape. Also, I wanted to have a path to the mountains and beyond.

How long have you been a painter? What got you started?
I started painting the summer of 2005. My husband, Bob, and I met an artist (Janice Beck) at the Highland’s Festival in 2004 and fell in love with her work. She told us that she taught watercolor painting in Provence, France, and we signed up to go the following year. After that introduction, I took every class I could find, especially at The Art League School.

I was still working when I started, so I had limited painting time. I got into a few shows at The Capitol Hill Art League in 2007 and more, locally in 2008. I was fortunate enough to be juried into the Baltimore Watercolor Society and Potomac Valley Watercolorists. I retired in 2012 and devoted much of my time to entering shows locally and on the national level. Most of my time now is spent painting, entering shows, schlepping and fetching art, and playing my flute.

Journey (detail)
Journey (detail)

What different media do you use in your paintings?
I enjoy using watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, and oil paint. Each media lends itself to a different type of painting.

Who are some of your biggest artistic influences?
Certainly, I must thank Janice Beck with getting me started. We continue to travel to Europe to paint with her each year. Many local Art League School instructors have influenced my painting, including Rachel Collins, Jackie Saunders, Marsha Staiger, Susan Herron. However, I must say Steve Fleming was the one who suggested that I pursue abstraction for a year and that opened me up to a new way of painting.

What was it like to shift into abstraction? Where do you get inspiration for your abstract works?
I had no idea what I was doing when I started painting abstractly. I took from some great teachers —Mary Todd Beam, Pat Dews, and Carol Barnes — and soon learned how to create abstract designs from photos. Many of my paintings are inspired by rock formations, cracks in masonry walls, etc. There are the standard designs patterns that work well with abstraction, i.e., cruciform, high horizon, low horizon, cantilever. The photos are often in one of these design patterns but these are just starting points.

“I suppose it is finished when it no longer needs any surprises.”

I paint my abstracts intuitively, using my right brain. Patterns develop as the paint dries on the surface and I go with or incorporate those patterns into my work. One thing builds off of something put down previously.

My left brain is much more in control when I paint representationally. I try to replicate what I see. My creativity is less active. Maybe I will be able to blend the two some day.

When you work abstractly, when do you know you’re finished?
I put every painting on the mantle for at least a week. Sometimes I put a piece of colored paper or tape in an area that needs a little surprise element. If it improves the piece I paint it in. I suppose it is finished when it no longer needs any surprises.

What’s one tool that you couldn’t live without?
My scrapers (credit cards, putty knives, pieces of cardboard, etc.) I love scraping paint on and scraping paint off; scraping through paint or mediums. I enjoy creating texture in my paintings with the help of scrapers.

What are you working on now?
I am resting now, after getting a collection of 17 pieces together to hang at The Arts Club of Washington. This collection of Down to Earth abstractions will be on exhibit until March 26. Getting that show together exhausted me, temporarily, but I am sure I will be working on something soon. I am going to be taking a workshop with Mark Mahaffey at Kanuga next month, so that should get my creative juices flowing.

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