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Sketch Pad

Christy Michaels Tremblay
Art as a second language
by Kathy Anderson

ne area of Christy Tremblay's childhood home was always stocked with art supplies, giving her the opportunity to create every day. She was also surrounded by music, but her piano playing has fizzled while her art continues on. Christy was born in Florida but the family moved to Washington when she was three. After a yearlong stint in Portland, Christy and family are back in Seattle.

Kind of blue
Family vacations to Hawaii, road trips to California and camping along the Washington and Oregon coasts all continue to influence Christy Tremblay's artwork.

"I'm drawn to using blue in many of my paintings," she said. "Actually, I'm trying to not always use blue because I seem to always want to use it."

"Lotus Blues," mixed media on canvas, 36" x 36"

Christy often sees groupings that inspire her to use the same colors in a painting.

"A lot of colors in nature complement each other naturally," she said. "I see the light blue sky next to a tree of green and gold leaves and I have to paint the colors – not the tree, but the colors."

The color of a vintage door, an Italian stucco finish on a building, and the curves, lines and textures of a landscape can all induce Christy to paint. She rarely paints the actual images; it's those colors, textures and emotions she's interested in.

"Sometimes there's a story behind a painting, but it's more a story of remembering a memory, emotion or the colors of a place I visited," she said. "It's as though I re-create a memory or a story through color and texture.

"I love that my work evokes different feelings for different people. Depending on someone's experiences, they can interpret a painting to be meaningful to them in a way that nobody else does."

Extra points
Though her parents are not artists as far as their jobs are concerned, Christy's childhood home could have been mistaken for the home of artists because of the atmosphere her folks created.

Her mother checked out paintings by Mary Cassatt from the local library. Her father would take paintings Christy and her sisters made, have them framed and hang them in the house, which made Christy feel she was good at art.

"Dad was always pointing out things to me, especially in nature," she said. "He still gets me to stop and look at the details or colors of a flower or tree.

"AquaTerra," mixed media on canvas, 20" x 40"

"My mom writes poetry and has many poems published. She does a lot of local readings and continues to send out poems for publishing."

During her year in Portland, Christy and her mom collaborated on a show. The show was titled Vintage Collecting Memories and Christy's paintings were inspired by her mother's poems, which were also on display.

Pottery, woodworking and a basic art class were the extent of Christy's high school art studies. Her main focus was running. A competitive runner, she went to Northern Arizona University on a scholarship and competed for four years. She graduated with her degree in elementary teaching.

"I didn't take any art classes in college," she said. "I do remember walking through the art department to my teaching classes and thinking, 'This is really what I should be doing,' but for some reason I went in a different direction."

Christy started teaching in Kirkland, Wash. In 1997-98 she lived in South Korea and taught English as a second language. She traveled all over South Korea and spent two months in Thailand.

"I absolutely loved Korea – the people, the food, the landscapes. But I returned to Seattle after one year and taught ESL in the Renton school district," she said. "I met my husband in 1998 and we moved to Alabama for a year."

Moving target
That was when Christy began thinking about becoming an artist. She needed to take credit classes to keep her teaching certificate current, so she decided to pursue art at Auburn University.

"I really wanted to get my masters in arts, but was told that I couldn't unless I had a BA in arts," she said. "I went ahead and enrolled in the art program to get some credits out of the way for my teaching certificate."

"Plum Series, I," mixed media on wood, 24" x 80"

One teacher who really inspired Christy taught a class to help students uncover their creative process and learn to not work within limits.

"I remember the teacher, an artist in Alabama, said to the class as we were participating in a critique that my 'style' would be important to me later and that my work would be a part of a continued style for me," she said. "That class started me off to where I am today with my art."

Christy moved to Illinois and continued her studies, taking two figure-drawing classes at Illinois Central College. She was again struggling with wanting to get her masters in fine art, but the same issue kept coming up: she first needed to have a BA in arts.

"As I spoke with the teacher of the figure-drawing classes she told me, 'If you want to be an artist, then be an artist, take classes and workshops, and paint.' I took her advice and stopped getting hung up on needing the degree," she said. "I'm not at all putting down the importance of the degree in arts, but in my case this is what worked for me. From her advice I saw myself as an artist and moved on from there."

"Lotus Dream," mixed media on canvas, 36" x 36"

Hanging around
Considering herself to be self-taught, Christy works with acrylic and oil paints, oil bars, chalk, pastels and textured mediums. She experiments with new mediums and is always open to trying new materials.

Christy recently found out about New York-based artist Joanne Mattera, who creates encaustic paintings.

While admiring Mattera's richly colored works with layers of wax, Christy remembers a batik she made as a child that still hangs in her parents' home.

"I keep thinking of how much I like it and would like to add wax to my current work," she said.

Claude Monet is also a favorite of Christy's.

"I had a reproduction of his hanging in my room when I was young," she said. "I saw his original work at the Chicago Art Museum and cried. The colors and textures and the blurred impressionistic style influence my work."

Christy will participate in the Kirkland Artist Studio Tour in May 2006. Her studio is open for visits by appointment and she's represented by Seattle's Artforte Gallery.

Living color
Putting into words the reasons why she paints is hard for Christy. It's partly because painting is how she can express her emotions and ideas. When she's not painting, she's thinking about painting.

"Early Memory," mixed media on canvas, 36" x 24"

"Sometimes I'll wake up in the morning and the first thought I have is of a certain color I need to add to a painting, or a line that should be placed in a certain area, or a texture I need to create.

"And when I am actually in the process of painting, it's peaceful and everything else has been put on hold. Sometimes it's hard for me to put down the brush and leave a painting."

Christy also keeps at it because she sees something bigger coming from it in the future. She's not sure what it is, but she just knows it's going to happen.

"My dream is to continue to evolve in my creative process and learn new techniques," she said. "I also envision one day having my daughter painting beside me in our studio."

E-mail Christy at christytremblayartist@gmail.com and visit her Web site. You can reach Kathy at kanderson138@comcast.net, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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