Discovering Relationships between Art, Color, and People
Welcome to our very first Adaro Art blog which will be headed by Nicole Upchurch. We will be conducting interviews with the artists of Adaro Art as well as unique themes related to the art and gallery world. Our very first blog and interview is with the talented Gretchen Weller Howard who is introducing her new series "Tropicana" You can click the link above to hear about her new series as well as read this in-depth and fascinating interview below discussing the connection to her works and how she became the artist she is.
At Adaro Art we will be introducing the Artist Interview Series with the inventive and brilliant, Gretchen Howard. The symbolic meaning behind Gretchen Howard's artwork defines unity and companionship. She portrays this through her vibrant color palette and harmonious symbolism. With every painting, Gretchen wishes to connect with all its admirers in a way that may touch them for a lifetime. As she depicts the canvas and her head fills with design, every moment is a thought on how she can bring cheerfulness to our lives. While purchasing one of Gretchen's pieces goes beyond the extraordinary but is a reminder that someone is always thinking of you and your happiness. As I sat down and performed the interview, I couldn't help but realize her joyful personality is contagious, and I am ecstatic to share the artist behind the work with you.
Nicole: What has been your greatest inspiration as an artist?
Gretchen: The only way I can explain the inspiration behind an artist is something beyond what I can understand. It is somewhere outside of themselves or inside of themselves. It's something that you feel down to your bones. In my case, it was ingrained in me. I grew up with parents as an artist, and it was customary in my household. I wasn't a kid struggling against parents who didn't want it, and it came naturally to me. I watched my parents paint and was aware of Van Gogh by a young age. I started off doing graphic design for Liz Claiborne in New York. This job title influenced my work later and my technique as a painter. I am not a traditional painter; my style is my own, but I've always loved color and manipulating color. I remember one time in New Orleans, I was at a red light, and there was a building with weird mustard yellow with pinkish shutters, and the sky was blue, and the grass was green. And I was inspired by colors in nature which made me stop and acknowledge how color combinations inspire me. I do this every day. As we have been sitting here interviewing I can only think about the color purple of your shirt and the accent of your black bow.
Nicole: It is fascinating how color means so much to you and through that it gives you so much artistic expression. As you said yourself it is something inside of you or outside of you that you can not explain. At what age did you begin to acknowledge these artistic abilities that are a part of who you are?
Gretchen: I Always got a lot of attention from my father for being an artist, and as a young girl, I wanted him to acknowledge that. My first experience was at a friend's house. Her dad was married to Ida Komeyers daughter. Her daughter had some of Ida's pieces in her house, and I only wanted to look at her paintings. So I would always ask my friend while we were playing to look at it. Years later, I created a painting, and everyone told me it reminded them of her work, and I am still attracted to the way she applied color. Her artwork was so refreshing to me because although I come from a family of artists we didn't have contemporary art in my household. My parents were very traditional painters. So this experience was my first exposure to contemporary colorist artwork and has genuinely stuck with me.
Nicole: It is powerful that the acknowledgment of your artistic abilities was from not only your parents but from the realization of the style of art you are drawn to and finding the first artist you could relate with. It goes to show how much being a colorist truly means to you. If you could choose one word to describe your artwork, what would it be and why?
Gretchen: Relationships. My artwork is all about connections between everything pictured in my paintings and how they are communicating and always connected. You can almost draw lines to see how they are connected. It's all about their relationship. It's a story about connectedness through relationships. The idea that we are all one. The relationship grows—that which is gifted. Someone is always giving something to someone else. There is a togetherness.
Nicole: That is very touching considering your love for art began with your relationship with your family. You may have already answered this but what artist has influenced your work the most?
Gretchen: Any colorist. Ida Kohminer, but it is not with one person. I love the different qualities of different artists. Walter Anderson lately is blowing my mind, but I don't really draw from anyone else. I use so many other mediums in my paintings. A line quality or a gesture might stick in my mind, but I don't want to redo exactly what I see. I find other artists relatable, which draws me toward them. Prior to Katrina, we had art and lost it all. But I always buy pieces that I could never paint myself. I don't want to own something that looks like mine so if you were to ask me what artist has influenced me the most I guess you could say they influence me in different ways. As some inspire me to paint
others inspire me to admire them for their work.
Nicole: Art has been a part of your life for a very long time. What is the significance of art in your personal life?
Gretchen: It is so intertwined that I can't even have a perspective. Being from a family of artists, I never thought anything of it. My mother was always around and creating art with me. I don't necessarily follow other artists, and it is optional for me to know every artist in the museum. But I value having the sensibility of an artist. I rearrange the furniture or constantly do things differently. I get this from my mother. Once, we came home, and my mother had wallpapered the ceiling in the 70s, and we had all of these new headboards, but she would do that. I just got used to it, and it became a norm that has stuck with me.
Nicole: Throughout all of the years of being an artist what has been your greatest
accomplishment as an artist?
Gretchen: Being successful. I have made a damn good living doing it for 20-something years now and to have and still love doing it. The longevity of it is so astounding to me. I could do a form of art in some way and make a living for the rest of my life, which is such a blessing.
Nicole: After doing it for so long, how do you stay creative and motivated?
Gretchen: I don't push myself to make myself paint constantly. I paint more in spurts. Today I took a break, sat with the dog in the yard by my river, and permitted myself to check out. I do anything. Even check out. Even watch tv. You get in a zone and a flow. When your paint, your mind is working, and it's physical and mental. Every second I am making a choice. However, I can only go without painting for a short time. I love to travel, but when I make it home I am ready to paint when I return.
Nicole: How do you believe your artwork positively impacts others?
Gretchen: I don't paint when I'm sad, and I don't want to ever put anything harmful into it. I hide messages, but I am intertwining a well-thought-out story that they feel when somebody buys it, whether they know it or not. What ends up happening is someone notices something that represents something meaningful to them. People get connected and don't even know why they are connecting. A lady sent me a message saying I touched her soul. It was during a time of doubt, and she came to New Orleans for a conference, and I love this woman. She bought palm 2, put it in her airstream, and it travels with her. That is the most satisfying thing. As a result of art, we are connected. I felt like it was a lost connection. I have people like that all over the country. One woman had just gotten a divorce, and she chose a certain one, which ended up representing her situation. That's the connection. It goes beyond the canvas. It keeps me painting. I gain relationships with amazing people through art. They pull my heart, soul, and energy out. One woman sent me a note and told me, "I never send letters like this. The fact that I did speaks for itself." Now she sends me videos of her dogs; we are great friends.
You can experience this unified feeling with one of Gretchen's latest pieces in her Tropicana Series. As Gretchen describes them; "The fruit is like the pods and seeds of the imagination that have ripened and born something delicious and sumptuous, ready to be enjoyed and shared. The flowers are fragrant and bring with them essential memories associated with smells. It's all a feast for the mind, body, and soul. Abundance. Celebration of life. The parrots are talkers, so they spread the word of the good times, and when they show up in pairs, there will probably be some spicy dancing and talking. Everyone shows up with an offering of fruit and flower to tempt the senses and savor the joy of these simple, beautiful creations. The papaya is also a symbol of the feminine, the passion fruit is unique and beautiful to behold, and the bananas are a gift of abundance."