An Interview with Vinita Pappas in Southern Oregon

With about a dozen Artist Interviews in the can here at The Watercolor Gallery I can easily say that this one is special. Vinita Pappas has been one of the most inspiring artists to be featured in the gallery since it began. Her video series has had an amazing influence on my own art – as well as thousands of other aspiring artists.

I’ve featured her work numerous times here in the gallery and her video tutorial Abacela View even made it into my own ‘year-in-review’ re-featured posts for 2010. She has been amazingly responsive to any of my questions I’ve had and has graciously taken the time to do a very special interview for all of you.

Vinita, how did you get started in watercolor?

“I signed up in 2002 for an adult ed Beginning Watercolor Class offered by my local community college. The class didn’t fill so the teacher offered to teach 4 of us in her home. It wasn’t long before I was hooked. I remember coming home all excited because I could use yellow, blue and red to make gray!”

How have your tools changed from when you got started until now, and what are your favorite tools currently?

“I was fortunate to have a friend who is a professional artist give me advice early on regarding brushes, paint, etc. However, it seems every painter needs to go through the stage where they think they need the latest art gadget, as if some magic tool will make them a better painter.

Now, my supplies are few, but precious. I’m rarely tempted to try something new.

I use large squirrel mop brushes by Neef for most of my painting and a #8 DaVinci Maestro Kolinsky Sable for details.

I work on 140lb rough paper, usually Fabriano Artistico.

My paints are by Winsor Newton, M Graham, Holbein and Daniel Smith.

I use a basic color palette and have what I call my Fab Five; yellow ochre, cad red, burnt sienna, perm. aliz crimson, French ultramarine blue.”

How do you prefer to work? Plein air, from a photograph, from memory? At a desk, outdoors, in a closet?

“Plein air is my favorite way to work. In the winter, I work from painting studies I’ve done on location. My least favorite way to work is from photos, but sometimes it’s necessary in the studio.”

What has been your favorite painting or painting experience?

“Oh this is a tough one. An artist friend of mine once said that his favorite painting is always the one he just finished. That’s somewhat true for me. Plein air pieces are so nice because every detail of the day can be remembered. The sights, sounds, smells…it all comes back.

I think one of my highlights would be a bridge painting I did on location in Portland, Oregon. My son had just left for Marine boot camp and I was really missing him. I was emotional, tired and really didn’t feel like painting, but I pushed through. The painting turned out subtle and moody but strong. It was as if the paint provided the strength I didn’t have that day. Days like that remind me that I’m just the one holding the brush.”

What inspired you to begin sharing your work via video on the Web?

“While looking for ways to create an online presence, I realized that video is a very popular trend. I wondered if I could do it myself, so I purchased a little portable video camera and went to work. It’s been a learning process, but I’ve enjoyed it and the response has been fabulous.

I set a goal for myself earlier this year to inspire 1,000 people to paint by my upcoming birthday (the big 4-0) in November. I wasn’t sure how to track this, so I decided, rather unscientifically, that possibly 1 out of every 10 people who view the videos would be inspired in some way. I’m happy to say that I have over 21,000 views so far. It’s been rewarding to hear from people all over the world.”

Some of your works are made from rather mundane photographs yet the pieces you create are far from mundane. What do you look for when you decide to paint something?

“Mostly I’m looking for a good composition and nice patterns of light and shadow. I’m not concerned about painting something pretty, it’s more the structure of the subject that appeals to me. I also like to paint things with a lot of depth or an unusual perspective. I’ve been told that I paint like a man. I’m not sure if I should take that as a compliment or not! Above all, I want my paintings to be loose, interpretive and expressive.”

Name two watercolor artists that have recently inspired you.

Alvaro Castagnet & Joseph Zbukvic.”

I simply can’t get enough of her paintings and we’re all so fortunate that she takes the time to share her work, her process, and for doing this interview. Thanks again Vinita.