Inspiration plays an important role in the life of an artist. Seeing what’s possible in someone else’s work often motivates me in my own painting. Great painters of the past like John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, Joaquin Sorolla and Cecilia Beaux provide me with an endless supply of encouragement each time I see one of their paintings. These late nineteenth century masters consistently epitomized excellence throughout their career. The same motivation and dedication to excellence that once drove these great painters is very much alive today with some of our modern day masters.
The work of watercolorist Mary Whyte has greatly inspired me over the years and I’m always amazed at her extraordinary ability in handling this often unforgiving medium. Her work reminds me of some of the incredible watercolors of Anders Zorn. He, too, understood the importance of correct value relationships when striving to achieve a sense of depth and volume in each of his subjects. Mary’s work has a similar quality of depth, not only in value relationships, but also a tremendous depth of character in each of her subjects. This artistic quality is as unique as the people that she paints.
n her book, Working South, Mary Whyte captures the essence of vanishing blue-collar professions from across ten states in the American South with sensitivity and reverence for her subjects. Throughout this artistic journey, Mary sought out some of the last remnants of rural and industrial workforces which were declining or altogether lost as a result of changes in our economy, environment, technology, and fashion. She captures a myriad of emotions in the expressions of each of the southerners whose everyday labors go unheralded while keeping the South in business: men and women, both young and old, black and white. She shares stories of the grace, strength, and dignity exemplified in these images of fading southern ways of life and livelihood. The book is 128 pages and includes 55 beautiful color reproductions, each one an exquisitely crafted masterpiece. There is also a traveling exhibit which showcases the original works found in Working South that will be on display at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia from April 6 – July 7, 2013. If you’re in the area, I would highly recommend seeing some of Mary’s original work up close.
Here’s an interview about Mary Whyte’s Working South project which aired on CBS News:
In addition to Working South, Mary has recently published her newest book, Down Bohicket Road: An Artist’s Journey, which includes two decades’ worth of her watercolors depicting a select group of Gullah women of Johns Island, South Carolina, and their stories. Descendants of low country slaves, these longtime residents of the island influenced Whyte’s life and art in astonishing and unexpected ways. Whyte has devoted twenty years to painting the Gullah culture and its remarkable women, resulting in a series of watercolors that would change her life and artistic focus. This 152 page book is a visual tribute to friendship that crosses cultural and racial borders, reaching straight to the heart.
Here’s a short video that I’ve put together in order to give you an idea of what’s inside both Working South and Down Bohicket Road: An Artist’s Journey:
If you get a chance, I would highly recommend taking a look at Mary’s website at www.MaryWhyte.com to learn more about each of these fantastic books and to keep up with all of her latest paintings and workshop events.
Mary Whyte has generously donated a hand signed, hard cover edition of both Working South and Down Bohicket Road: An Artist’s Journey as part of the Grand Prize package for the You be the Judge art contest 2013. The Grand Prize winner will be awarded both of these fantastic books, in addition to an unbelievable Grand Prize package worth over $10,000! One of the unique aspects of this contest is that viewers have the opportunity to decide who the Grand Prize winner will be by voting for their favorite paintings throughout the duration of the contest. If you’re interested in entering this FREE online art contest visit www.YouBeTheJudgeArtContest.com for all of the details. The deadline for submitting artwork is April 30, 2013.