Art Connections Gallery is pleased to introduce Rene' Palmer Armstrong as our featured artist for the upcoming First Friday Artwalk, to be held on Friday, May 6th, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. We recently asked Rene' a few questions so that we might have more insight into her artmaking, and what drives her. Here is the interview in it's entirety:
ACG: What is the most rewarding part of being an artist? Or rather, what is the impetus to live this life you've chosen?
RPA: The ability to create is what I find most rewarding – to conceive and execute is an amazing feeling. I want people to enjoy and be inspired by my work. I want them to believe they too can express their own creativity by thinking outside the box and finding a medium to facilitate that.
ACG: In addition to working in a wide variety of traditional media, you also create jewelry, and are the author of two books. Tell us about your desire to go in such varied directions.
RPA: As a two-time cancer survivor, you wake up each morning with a feeling of gratitude for the opportunity to experience another day. Currently, I have a benign brain tumor. With that said, there is also a sense of emergency to experience and accomplish your “bucket list” knowing there is no guarantee for tomorrow. I worked for 48 years to help someone else accomplish their agenda; now it is my time. Being an author was dropped on me when my husband found 295 love letters in a junk store. After reading those letters, my heart and soul would not rest until I felt I had done justice to the letters by bringing their story to life and to honor our brave soldiers for the sacrifices they freely gave. After 4 ½ years of research, interviews, and attending WWII reunions, Wings and a Ring was published in 2011. As far as my artistic dreams, I have always loved to create, and painting was the logical path for me to follow. When introduced to fusing glass in 2010, the idea of putting dichroic glass into jewelry was yet another way to express my creativity. Now, combining both canvas and glass has brought my artistic endeavors full circle.
ACGACG: Do you have any plans to write another book?
RPA: Yes! I wrote my first children’s book about an encounter I had with a small green tree frog that had attached itself to the side-view mirror of my car. At the end of our journey together, I wrote a book about Gwendolyn’s perilous adventure and created my own 7-inch plush toy to accompany the book. Gwendolyn: A Frog’s Perilous Adventure was published in 2014. Since then, Gwendolyn has accompanied me to England and France. Her new adventure will debut this year to share the concept with children that adventure and opportunity are where you find them – look for them everywhere you go. There are currently two other Gwendolyn adventures in the making. The topics are endless!
ACG: Do viewers respond differently to your traditional landscapes than to your abstract compositions? (Do you have any internal struggles, executing these disparate outcomes?)
RPA: I have only offered one traditional painting for sale since I began painting again in 2013. When I had painted in the 1970s in oil, I did mainly landscapes and barn paintings, including commissions of people’s houses and landscapes. Since I had only worked in oils until 2013, I wanted to hone my skills in acrylics. I wanted a medium that would allow me to move faster with my creations. When inspiration happens, you need to move quickly to capture the rush of ideas, angles, and colors. Recently I did place a painting of a chickadee on a branch, and when I put it in a gallery, it sold within a few days. However, I have always loved geometric shapes and have been drawn to Art Deco and abstract design. To me, they are completely intertwined. I tend to paint traditional paintings only in my mind when I see a sunset or field of wild flowers. There is no tension between traditional and abstract for me, only the fact that I run out of day before I run out things I want to accomplish.
ACG: Many people claim they are just as busy after they retire as before. Do you find this to be true in your life?
RPA: Yes! I have always been one to not sit and be idle, but the main difference now is that I can paint all night if I want to. I finally have the opportunity to be in charge of how I choose to spend my day in whatever form of creativity I am drawn to. And, due to wanting to experience my life to the fullest because of my health issues, I wake up inspired and am always happiest when I am cutting glass or holding a paintbrush.
ACG: Are there any well-known artists that influence your art style?
RPA: I have always been drawn to the Impressionist movement because of their use of color and design, Monet being my favorite. When I am painting landscapes and barns, I always look to Norman Rockwell for his ability to capture emotions in his paintings. When you add that to a traditional painting, people are naturally attached to your painting. For abstracts, I look to a current artist – Skye Taylor. He generously shares his talent and knowledge for those interested in learning to paint abstracts through his YouTube postings. He created a Facebook closed group to allow like-minded artists to connect and share their art and creativity. When you think about it, the Impressionist movement and the Abstract Expressionism movement are really one in the same to me – I guess that is why I am so drawn to both.
ACG: Do you have any recent awards, milestones or new projects to report?
RPA: I just completed 5 Art Deco commissions that have been placed into an event center in El Lago, TX. The building has an Art Deco flair and my paintings with glass reflect this style. Since April 2014, I have won 18 awards in 9 art competitions. Last year I won 1st place in Mixed Media and 2nd place in Abstract/Non-Objective as a Semi-Professional at the annual Lone Star Art Guild (LSAG), an 18-league art consortium. My prized juried award was from Michael Crowder (Museum of Fine Arts Houston) when he gave me 1st place in Fused Glass during the Glass Gathering completion in 2014.
We look forward to having Rene' in our gallery this Friday night. Come help us make her feel welcome! The Artwalk is 5:30 to 8:30 pm, and we'll be celebrating Cinco de Mayo with foods to compliment that theme.