Mediums: Acrylic, Oil
I have been an amateur artist all of my life. While it had been my avocation for almost 50 years, it has become my vocation in the past two years, as I have attempted to sell my artwork through various venues. My background in art has been partially formal and partially self-taught. I have attended a variety of college and artist led courses, workshops and convention classes, plus learned from hundreds of books and videos. I work everyday on a current painting and also set aside time daily to learn and practice some technique or art form. I see myself in the future continuing to paint and try new methods, genres, and materials.
Safe Haven © Velvet Tetrault
This is a 24” x 30” original acrylic architectural landscape of a house in the full moonlight that may or may not be a safe haven. There are aspects of the painting, like the darkened windows that have a bit of Edgar Allen Poe in them. I wanted to create a bit of an uneasy feeling in the viewer, who should be unsure of the intentions in this house.
Can you remember your first experience with art?
Although, as a young child I did many store bought craft activities and loved art class in grammar school, my first adult art experience was in high school during a semester when I learned block printing using linoleum. I created a face that was based on the face of Guy Williams, who played Zorro and Dr. Robinson on Lost in Space. I used both red and black ink to make many images of my favorite face.
Music and Art
I like either soft jazz or new age music. There had been a spell when I loved painting to the Out of Africa music CD.
Is there something you would like to convey to others viewing your art?
I want to create art that holds the viewer’s attention in a pleasing way. Whether the piece is an eerie house or a bucolic landscape, I want to evoke a captivated emotion; an “Oh wow,” type of response. I like realism because I want the viewer to believe s/he is in the real world seeing something wonderful. My goal is to focus on unworldly realistic scenes, people, and animals; something that others can never see in the real world, but it seems real through my paintings.
Botanical Hideaway © Velvet Tetrault
This is a 48” x 24” original acrylic landscape that is a composite of photographs that I took of the azalea gardens in the Smithsonian Botanical Gardens during the 1991 time frame. I wanted it to convey a sense of peaceful retreat doing an activity that I love – reading.
At first I just get an image in my mind. It could stem from a photograph I have taken or from an image of an animal, person, or an imaginative still life setup. This image becomes my motivation.
From there, I begin to set up the means by which I can recreate the image. This may mean finding items for a still life and setting them up, finding a photograph in my stash that depicts what I am remembering, or going through many images of a subject to study its form.
From there I do a detailed drawing on paper that is taped together to be the same size as the canvas that I will be painting on. At this stage I keep track of the composition (usually making sure that my focus is in one of the golden ratio areas, and that the eye doesn’t leave the page, and there is a pleasing flow for the eye to take inside the picture.)
After the drawing is done, I trace it on a toned canvas. I may not trace the entire image at first. I may trace some of the background, paint it, go back to tracing, and then back to painting. I paint in the under-painting first, and then go item by item painting the finished product.
When I think I am done, I go into a “study” mode when I study the painting to see if anything in the composition or execution seems off. I fix any of the parts I am not satisfied with and then let the painting sit for a few days. I then go back to study mode and fix anything else that seems wrong. This might be as simple as toning down or brightening up a color that the eye does or doesn’t go to when first viewing the painting.
Blue Pearls © Velvet Tetrault
This is an 18” x 24” original acrylic still life of a setting filled with translucent and satiny objects. This painting was done purely for aesthetic appeal. In particular, my focus again was on fabric, but also on the ability to realistically recreate translucent objects and their cast shadows. The pearls were a cool satiny counterpoint to the glassy warm ornaments. I especially concentrated on shadows to portray a realistic effect.
My imagination and a feeling in the pit of my stomach inspire me to create art. I get a, “Wow, I’d love to paint something like that,” feeling, and I get both physically, emotionally, and mentally pumped up. I can’t exactly explain the type of images that make me feel this way; I only know that they cause I strong emotional response, even if it is just the image of a bird with pretty colors. I was so inspired by a field book of birds that I forged a deal with the photographer to paint his birds. From there, I started studying birds in flight and have been focusing more of my bird paintings on flight.
Most of my exhibition work is nearby, as a disability precludes me from doing too much outside travel. I am in a recurring juried show at an art gallery inside the Adelente Health Center in Surprise, AZ. I am also in a yearly juried show put on by the West Valley Art Council in Peoria, AZ. I have been in a juried show put on by the Arizona Artist Guild in Phoenix AZ. In the future I plan to be more active with AAG exhibits and research one-person shows.
How have you been selling your art?
I have sold my artwork in a combination of online sales and through shows. During the past year I sold 4 paintings through the shows I was in and two paintings from my Etsy store. Within a couple of months, I plan to sign up on Fine Art America to delve into the print arena. I sometimes sell my decorative tole work, of which I have sold 7 pieces through my Etsy store this year. However, I am doing very little to add to my tole work as I am concentrating so much on my fine art.
Internet Art Promotion
With each new piece of art, I update my website and my Etsy store, sometimes also including it as one of my custommade.com items. I have often also updated my website to be more SEO friendly, rewording titles, alts, and descriptions while incorporating keywords that describe my art and the sale of it. Each time I list a new piece, I also write a blog entry about it.
Bewick’s Wren ©Velvet Tetrault
This painting is a representative of my Bird Paintings, and is an 11” x 14” painting.
My blog and website are connected through menu, text, and photo links. I share my blog entry on Facebook and Tweet it. I also advertise each new art piece in the Etsy Teams to which I belong, and share and tweet my Etsy listing. Then I upload a photo to my Facebook album and Pin a photo on the appropriate Pinterest board. I also make an entry about it on the Promotion pages of the LinkedIn groups that I belong too, and upload a photo to my Google Plus page.
My earliest influences were from artists at Science Fiction Worldcons. My favorite artists were Frank Frazetta and Boris. I was also influenced greatly by Dali. This is when my love of realism and surrealism began.
Thomas Woodruff’s Circus of the Absurd has been an imaginative influence on me. I have watched Jerry Yarnell videos since 1990, and his methods and instruction have had a major influence on my techniques. Quinten Gregory instruction on landscapes has also had a heavy influence on my landscape painting. I have been learning about grisaille and chiaroscuro through video and text, and this has prompted me to strive toward more still-life and figurative work in the chiaroscuro and grisaille methods. I became interested in these methods from looking at old Masters paintings.
Is there another artist you can tell us about?
I admire Jerry Yarnell because, not only does he continue to paint beautiful landscapes and wildlife, but he stretches his abilities by trying new styles and subjects, and not resting on his successes. He also has been teaching for many years, creating videos and doing workshops that are very clear and helpful. One of my goals is to become more familiar with video software so that I can put tutorials on YouTube. Although I have uploaded a couple of videos, they are not yet the quality of video and instruction that I want.
Here is an example:
Can you tell us about some memorable events from your life?
Although I travel very infrequently now, there was a time in my life when I did travel. I was especially interested in scientific research travel. So I made two trips in 1989: one to Hawaii to work with dolphins who were being taught to communicate with humans, and the other to Kuwala Lumpur and the south coast of Borneo to track wild orangutans in the rain forest and help with the orangutans being reintroduced into the wild.
I had always wanted to see Dolphin research since seeing the movie The Day of the Dolphin. And I have always loved primates. I fell in love with both the orangutans and the gibbons during my stay in Borneo. One interesting part was being protected by tribesmen that had been head hunters. They taught us how to blow poison darts out of long tubes that looked like bamboo.
Although we were never supposed to initiate touching the orangutans because of the physical danger involved, it was okay to reciprocate. And one thing that I will always remember is a female orangutan, sitting on a chair next to me, reaching out her hand to touch mine and letting me carry her.
Has anyone ever said anything about your artwork which annoyed you?
I have heard, a number of times, a statement such as this about painting in the realist style: “Why bother painting that way; it’s nothing more than being a photo copy machine.” Or “Why don’t you just take a photo of it?”
Do you have regrets?
I regret not starting my adult life as an artist. In high school, I did not have any guidance about career opportunities, so I did not think that artists had career choices, other than starving. So I opted for a computer science degree. Subsequently, I did post graduate work and received a Masters in Psychology and an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction.
Floral in an Egyptian Urn © Velvet Tetrault
This is a 30” x 15” original acrylic still life of an Egyptian style urn with decorative silk flowers surrounded by unevenly striped blue toned fabric. This painting was, in particular, a study in the flow of fabric in a pleasing way around a still life setting. It was created simply for the beauty of the piece. In particular, besides focusing on the fabric, I wanted to focus on the realistic painting of gold and small 3-D decorations.
Even at these later dates I did not realize that there were career choices for artists. Now, I realize that I could have become an illustrator, for one. I regret not having the wherewithal to research art degrees and follow, educationally, the activity that gave me such pleasure in life. This may have led to a career that I enjoyed.
At the same time, I feel like I have mitigated these circumstances by gaining the knowledge that I would have received by so studiously learning in bits and pieces through classes, workshops, books, and videos. I regret not having the enjoyable experience that college would have been if I had been studying art rather than computers.
Do you have plans for your future art career?
I plan to continue painting every day on my “next” painting, and attempting to make it at least as good, or better, than the painting before. I also plan to continue my current in depth study of figurative work and the study of anatomy in both humans and animals. I also plan to gear my study and painting toward creating scenes that are more surrealist in a photorealistic way.
Can you share some wisdom for emerging artists?
Paint, study, and practice every day. Don’t let seeming failures stop you from painting. If a painting doesn’t come out the way you want, then either redo it until it does or go on to the next painting, but never quit for a while or you many not take up the brush again.
Also, if you are having a hard time rendering something in your painting, don’t settle for what you can do or drop it from your painting; instead, research this part and practice drawing and painting it until you can achieve what you want in your painting.
Velvet Tetrault – Visual Gems of Art