Artist draws inspiration directly from her settings
Growing up in Gary, Indiana, Angela Saxon knew early on that she wanted to be an artist.
“Oh yeah, I was an art kid,” she says. “Art was always in our lives. My parents had a life membership in the Chicago Art Institute and both were very creative. We always had sketchbooks. It was just a part of my life.”
And she started her fledgling art career in an interesting medium.
“I did paintings with toothpaste as a kid,” she recalls with a laugh. “And I was also an entrepreneur. I took Elmer’s glue and put color in it and sold colored glue.”
Since those early Colgate-on-cardboard days, she’s become an award-winning landscape artist whose oil works hang in collections and galleries across the country. At the Northwest Michigan Regional Artists show currently at the Dennos Museum, Saxon’s The Sky Above the Lake was a $250 award-winner. The show runs through April 1.
Almost all of Saxon’s works are done plein air, or painting on location, and many capture the beauty of Leelanau County, where she makes her home and studio.
“I begin all my paintings direct from the landscape, focusing on expressive movements in nature,” she explains. “I continue to develop the paintings in my studio until the work has reached a very finished level. At this point, I return to what drew me to the scene in the first place, searching for aspects of the painting that are most compelling to me.”
But why plein air? “I mostly work plein air,” she says. “It’s often windy, cold, the flies are biting. It’s just where it all starts for me. I can’t work from photos. I can’t explain it, but it’s just so darn exciting.”
When looking at a landscape, Saxon is drawn to specific places within a scene, such as intimate details of light glimmering through a stand of trees, or the bands of color that embrace a shoreline.
“Angela is celebrated as one of Northern Michigan’s best landscape artists,” says Sue Ann Round, owner of the Michigan Artists Gallery in Suttons Bay where several of Saxon’s works are always on display. “Her brush strokes are unmistakable, as she beautifully executes the broad expanses of our beloved land and waterscapes.”
Saxon’s works can also be seen at Gallery 50 in Traverse City, as well as galleries in Douglas, MI., Cleveland, OH, and Atlanta, GA.
In addition to her paintings, Saxon works as a graphic designer, doing logos and website and other graphic services, including providing Michigan Artists Gallery in Suttons Bay with its unique look and personality.
After graduating from high school, Saxon went to Indiana University where she earned her BFA in painting. At IU she met and married Erik Saxon. Eventually they moved to Chicago, settling in the artsy community of Pilsen. In 1987, Erik suggested moving to Northern Michigan.
“It was a bit of a culture shock for me,” says Saxon. “But one of the things I really came to like was the community of artists here. Art is so lonely when you’re just working in the studio or out in a field by yourself. You have to stay connected. I’m involved in a dinner group with other artists and we meet monthly to share a potluck meal and bring works to share. It’s very sustaining.”
In recent years, Saxon has also been working in encaustic – a mixture of beeswax, damar and pigment. This process requires timing and dexterity.
“The encaustic paint is kept in a liquid state on a heated palette,” she explains. “The artist must work quickly with the warm, melted paint as it dries quite quickly when on the brush and away from the heat. In many aspects it is very similar to my process of working with oils, as it is also built up in layers.”
Each successive layer of the encaustic must be gently heated so it can fuse with the previous layer of wax. Some of the layers are transparent, revealing previous layers. Sometime a layer will melt right into a previous layer.
“There is certainly an element of chance in this process,” she says. “This keeps the work fresh and exciting for me and hopefully for the viewer as well.”
Saxon has taken a couple of months off painting, but she’s eager to get back to the palette. “I want to paint buildings in downtown Traverse City and Suttons Bay,” she says. “I’ve been off a while and want to get painting again.”
Another project on her horizon is an exhibition involving one of the region’s most art-inspiring locations. “The Art of Sleeping Bear Dunes” is planned for 2013 at the Dennos Museum, according to Saxon. It will include an accompanying coffee table book of the works in the exhibit. Saxon and others are working to make this happen.
For information about Saxon and her work, visit angelasaxon.com.