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Toothy Grin by Marcy Lansman

My painting style has always been realistic, whether I was using watercolors or acrylics, whether I was painting flowers, mushrooms, or people. Toothy Grin is a recent example of my realistic work. At the same time, I’ve always appreciated looser, more abstract styles in other people’s work.

Several years ago, at a meeting of the Orange County Artists’ Guild, members were given an opportunity to sign up for interest groups. On a whim, I signed up for an abstract critique group, hoping perhaps, that the group would inspire me to experiment.

Sight Unseen by Marcy Lansman

Meeting after meeting, while others were showing their abstract work, I showed my realistic flowers and mushrooms. Members’ comments were immensely helpful with never a suggestion that there was anything inappropriate about bringing realistic paintings to an abstract critique group. But occasionally a member would explain how I could make a certain piece more abstract if that’s what I wanted. To no avail. The pull of my photographs was just too strong.

Then, a few months ago, I was up very early in the morning, sick, upset that I was sick, working on the background for another realistic piece. When I finished the background, I was surprised how much I liked it. All by itself. My husband agreed. “Leave it like it is!” he told me. The resulting painting was Sight Unseen.

Not Alone by Marcy Lansman

Since that morning, my style has been changing. Once I had done that first, abstract painting, I didn’t want to go back. While few of my newer paintings are as abstract as the first, they are entirely different from most of my previous work: looser and more expressionistic.

As always, my critique group has been supportive and helpful through these changes, continuing to point out what aspects of my work were effective for them, what aspects they found bothersome.

From July 23 to August 22, I will be one of the featured artists at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. My work in that show illustrates my transition from highly realistic to looser and more abstract work. The show will include several realistic pieces like Toothy Grin and many looser pieces like Sight Unseen, and Not Alone. I hope you’ll come by and see it.

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