Painting for the sheer joy of it

Posted:  Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - 2:00pm
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She paints every minute she can.

Every day.

And when East Boothbay artist Andrea Peters paints, the channeled energy of her subject is transferred the second Peters' paint brush makes contact with her canvas, a perfect co-mingling of energy betwixt subject and artist.

The subjects of her landscapes — the sea, coastline, forest and fauna — are brought to life through the oil paint she loves and the passion she feels, revealed in every brush stroke.

And oils are Peters' absolute preference because of the textures she can create, because of how easily the paint yields to her gestural painting style.

The other reasons are best expressed by the animated artist herself.

“Oils — I love them! Oils are sooo sensual ... They have such flow, (hand gestures) there's a smoothness to oils … I can capture my energy or the energy of the place, the very spirit of a place with oils.”

Peters' works often have a whimsical air. Perhaps it’s in the way she paints the ocean, a tree, leaves. A cloud.

For example, in her painting “Summer Day,” clouds and waves are playfully done symbolizing that air of lightness and joy that fills us in summer. And the trees! The pine trees, some sparse on branches or needles, yet standing erect marking and witnessing time; other trees possess abstract qualities — they are transparent, surrounded by “body” shapes resembling giant leaves encasing skeletal trunks and branches; and for others, only the skeleton remains, death in sentinel form. The red brown trees … are full and alive. One prominent tree among these has the shape of what could be a tree spirit made visible. The only indication of branches being the openings at the tips. The rocks. So alive. If you look long enough they move, they look like bones of the earth.

Yes, Peters' work is engaging and a delight to become lost in for a while. And viewers of her work aren't the only ones losing themselves in front of an Andrea Peters painting.

It doesn't happen every time, but Peters, like all artists regardless of media, gets lost in the moment, in that magical zone.

“It's the experience of the painting, not the pictures,” Peters explained. “I'm glad people like them. When I get in that zone … oh, that's what you want … it's a very comfortable, very peaceful place and you want to be there. You paint everyday hoping you'll drift off there ...”

Sometimes, after returning from “the zone” Peters says she'll move away from what she's painting and say aloud, “Who's doing that?!”

Peters is a “seasonal” painter in that she delights in all four seasons in Maine, but winter is her favorite. She was in absolute heaven last year, and in 2013, the year of the multi-foot snows, bliss was hers.

She planned to do a new snow series this past winter; but due to winter being canceled by Mother Nature, she made 30' x 36” baby quilts that she sent to neonatal wards around the country. Peters did this a few years back because it's a nice thing to do, because it satisfied “her need for color.”

“I liked making the quilts, but it isn’t as fulfilling; painting touches all of me; quilting is just a piece of me. Painting is who I am.”

And because painting is who she is, while making quilts, Peters was also creating 3” x 4” rectangular paintings she calls “Moments” as she has every day for years.

Peters really likes smaller formats, like 12” x 12” because she can design the space.

“In a square I can do just about anything. I don't have to think OK, there's the horizon line … (starts laughing) I guess I'm a free spirit — I don't like being held back!”

Peters also paints on birch panels — her “Spring on the Coast” painting (which graced the cover of L.L. Bean's spring 2014 catalog) was done on a 30' x 40' birch panel, painted at Ocean Point in the summer of 2013.

Last December her exhibition, “Winter Colors” at CMBG was comprised of new works and old works, some from her personal collection. At least six works were 40” and upward, 3 and 4 foot square and half a dozen two foot square.

Peters' largest canvases have been up to five feet tall. Being a painter that uses “full-on gestural strokes,” she enjoys the space.

“I felt like I was in it (the painting), like I could walk through the garden or the wood,” Peters said excitedly. “Sometimes I will stand up, holding on to something, but I will stand up.”

Her early years were all plein air — no indoor studio work. But health issues forced her to do almost all of her work in her studio or glassed-in porch that brings the outside in. And the light, the light is perfect. And, it's all about the light as every artist knows.

“It's like an extension of my studio. I don't define myself as my disability. I was a painter long before I had MS — 25 years. I've been in a wheelchair for six. It does make it so damned inconvenient. It really does. It's making me fight for my art even more. You have to really want it to beat the obstacles and I want to paint forever.”

Peters has been painting for over 50 years, half that time in Massachusetts and, since 1995, East Boothbay.

Peters has been represented by Dennis and Marty Gleason of Gleason Fine Art in Boothbay Harbor since 1994. When the couple first opened the gallery Peters would stop by to peruse the art and talk to Dennis.

“One day Dennis was sitting on the stairs with these small, beautiful impressionistic paintings. I used to go in and talk to him. The work they had there was right up my alley. I wanted to be there. I was very bold; I approached him.”

Peters brought Gleason some small skyscapes that were left from a show that had just closed in Massachusetts.

“ I asked him it they would be interested in showing my work,” Peters said. “ When Dennis said yes about a week later I was thrilled! It's been a wonderful experience being in the Gleasons’ gallery, to have them behind me.  A lot of artists don't get that.”

Peters, like most artists, likes to explore subjects in a series. Often, the subject suggests itself.

“It (a subject) talks to me. Something inside (of me) says I should paint trees, or focus on the strength of a particular tree — the branches, capture those vertical lines,” Peters says smiling. “And then it kind of directs itself, I'm just the passenger along for the ride.

“That tree has been there forever, but I never noticed it before. The world is colored by our emotions. We can look at things differently every day. Once I get into something, I see more.”

See Andrea Peters' works, and go ahead, “walk” right in, at Gleason Fine Art, located at 43 Townsend Avenue in Boothbay Harbor.