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Rita Pfenninger September 2014

My attraction to the rich colors and dramatic lighting of northern latitudes probably originates from my early childhood in Minnesota, and has been reinforced by having lived my adult life in Alaska. I love to explore the forms and patterns in nature: snow on mountains, shadows on hills, ice and grass, water and clouds!  My painting encompasses many contrasts:  light and dark, bright and dull, tight and loose, textured and smooth. I experience both peace and excitement while painting, resulting in stillness and movement in my compositions, and my process is both direct and convoluted.

Oil is my favorite medium because of its vivid color saturation.  Using a variety of techniques adds spontaneity to my process and life to my finished pieces. I start with a brightly-colored ground. Following the structural principle of fat over lean, my first layers are thinned, water-mixable oils. As I gradually define the large areas of light and dark, I begin to differentiate masses such as a distant mountain range or a copse of trees as color shapes with thicker paint, making color choices that push and pull the space according to their inherent characteristics and being careful to to let some of the underpainting show in places left untouched. Fast, large-brush overpainting leaves unpredictable holes, also allowing the bright under color to vibrate with the second-layer color, and mixes visually within the viewer’s eye. Intentional small spots of different colors placed in close proximity causes them to sparkle in the impressionistic tradition and also engages the viewer’s visual interpretation. Mixed colors directly from the palette are freely applied and help define details. In the final layers, I switch to traditional oils, often mixed with a medium, which gives a translucent shine to the painting and offers another way to mix colors, as the bottom layers continue to shine through. To keep my painting loose, these last strokes are often applied with a palette knife rather than a brush.

I am riding the wild horse of my earliest passion, expressing my reverence for our magnificent world through painting, taking breaks to run, dance, and sing! I am hanging on for the wild ride, not knowing where it will take me, and trying to remember to breathe! I hope my work conveys and invites you to celebrate the wonder and awe of life in our unique part of the world.

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