I could compare Kathleen Weber’s paintings to Dutch genre works, but there is much more to them than that. Her paintings are cinematic. It’s the use of punches of color and dramatic light. When I look at her street or restaurant scenes they remind me of Alfred Hitchcock’s use of color and the way he draws one into those street views or restaurant spaces in order to build tension. In Kathleen’s oil paintings, the small groups or individuals engrossed in private conversations or solitary actions in public spaces are intriguing.
I emailed Kathy to ask her a little more about her work.
KM: Your paintings are more than mere observations. I feel that if I could just get a little closer I might be able to eavesdrop on the conversation, or that I should pull back so I can look for someone else to enter the scene in the painting. How did your series of paintings public interior spaces start?
KW: I think of my figurative work as being in the tradition of contemporary genre painting. I’ve always loved figure and portrait drawing, but I wasn’t interested in being a portraitist. I wanted to show people in their everyday lives. I started painting street scenes with small, usually unrecognizable figures in them, but as time goes on I find myself drawn more and more to painting people, with their surroundings being less important. I think it’s great that you feel you could almost eavesdrop on the people in some of my bar scenes. After all, who hasn’t occasionally done that? We are social animals, and we’re fascinated by other people’s lives.
KM: How do you choose the composition? Do you do some drawing when you are in a restaurant?
KW: I don’t usually draw when I’m in restaurants and bars. I’ve tried it but I don’t like the attention that it gets. I love working from life, which is how I do still lifes and sometimes plein air landscapes, but I think it’s obvious that the restaurant and bar scenes are done from photos. I usually use Photoshop to play with the composition, cropping the photo until I’m satisfied with the placement of the elements. Sometimes I combine parts from several photos. I edit in my head, deciding to eliminate or simplify some things.
KM; Who are your influences?
KW: I’m influenced by many artists. I love and appreciate all kinds of painting, but tend to look for guidance to painters who are doing figurative work. Historically, that would include John Singer Sargent, Degas, and Sorolla, among others. Living artists that I admire are Kim English, Elaine Coffee, C. W. Mundy, just to name a few.
KM: You wrote on your blog, “I wish I’d been painting like this all along, I would have had all the work I needed weeks ago.” As you are building momentum for the show are you finding that you make bolder choices when working to get the paintings finished?
KW: I’ve changed the way I start a painting, somewhat — I’ve been working more wet-into-wet and really liking the more fluid, loose strokes I’m getting. I also feel that I’m loosening up and putting down the paint in a more confident way.
This will be Kathleen Weber’s first solo exhibition with F.A.N. Gallery.