Thursday, December 03, 2009

Etsy Excavations

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgivings - I know I did...but I missed the excavating! So here we are again...digging up the gems at Etsy!


Christine Mercer-Vernon is one of those artists that blow me away with their attention to detail and composition. She paints and draws incredible images of organic shapes, and places them with a frame a way that, although they may be simple, they seem larger than life.

Oh! And I've just noticed that she's got free US shipping on her watercolors coming up between December 10-24!

Christine also has a professional website that very nicely displays her incredible body of work…go check it out!


1. Please tell us a little something about how you became an artist – what is your personal art history?

as a child i didn't know much about art or artists or even knew that maybe someday i could be one. my brother and i spent a lot of time drawing and coloring. growing up in the 70's we had a handful of TV stations, so kids programming was limited. we spent a lot of time playing outside and when we weren't we were coloring and drawing.

in elementary school anytime we had to draw or paint i loved it and it was the one thing i could do well. i remember in elementary school getting a bad grade on a book report on dinosaurs because the teacher didn't believe that i drew the illustrations. my mom had to defend me. i didn't understand why the teacher didn't believe me.

I think the most influential moment for me was in 2nd grade during art class, we had a substitute who was an artist. He took us outside to draw the landscape. I went to Twin Valley Elementary at the time, the school sits way up on a hill, it has an amazing view of the surrounding farms. I was just sitting there drawing the fields and he sat down next time and asked who taught me to draw in perspective. i had no idea what he was talking about. he sat and worked with me the rest of class. it was the first time that i realized i had a special talent. i don't remember his face or name, but i remember his hands.

after high school i decided to study graphic design, mostly because i didn't really think being and artist was an option and thought i should at least do something where i can earn a steady income. i worked in graphics until 2002, then quit my job and began freelancing from home so i could focus more on painting. i look forward to the day that i can support myself solely from my art.

2. I read on your Etsy profile that you’ve changed from oils to watercolors for your work. Can you tell us why?

i really need to update that.. LOL! actually i've gone back and forth several times. i originally worked in watercolors, then made the switch to oils. After I had my daughter, 3 years ago, I had a really difficult time connecting with my paintings. My previous work all came from an emotional standpoint and focused a lot on symbolism and experiences. but having a baby really made the emotional aspect of my work to hard, i no longer wanted to be 'that close' to my paintings.

i've spent the last 3 years in a bit of a funk. really struggling to find my artistic voice again. most of the time was spent experimenting and then this year i spent a lot of time reading, taking workshops and working on skill refinement.

out of frustration last year i switched back to watercolors. sound advice i've often given to others... stick with what you know and do well when you are struggling. that was a huge relief. i felt confident again and continued to create small paintings this year while still taking workshops and drawing a lot while i stumbled around on a lot of subject matter trying to find a passion and inspiration to stick with.

then i came to the skulls... more on that later.

What are the major hurdles to switching over from one media to another? Can you say if you like one more than the other, or are they too different to compare?

actually the hardest part for me in switching back and forth is the transparency. in watercolors the white of the paper is your white and it's just a matter of building layers of translucent color. i mix pure color and water it down. with oils, you actually mix with white and that can throw me sometimes. i have to sit and process a lot when mixing.

i have no favorites between the two, i like them equally, but... i choose the medium based on what i am painting and what i want to say with it. although with watercolor, you can't paint over mistakes so there isn't a lot of room for error.

3. I love the simple, almost non-existent backgrounds in your still lifes. They really focus the attention on the subject at hand. Take us through a little of your creative process – how do you pick your subjects?

the simple backgrounds are a necessity for me. i don't like to be distracted from my main subject. if something catches my eye and i am so enamored with it i must draw or paint it, i don't want anything to pull me away from it. nothing to interfere, stay away, it's mine. it's like being obsessed. i want to focus all of my attention on that one thing and make it as beautiful to the viewer as it is to me.

as for subjects, i have to draw and paint what i love or else i quickly lose interest and will leave the drawing/painting unfinished. right now i am focused on skulls and still processing some floral works. i'm also drawn to trees, that's another obsession, but i'm still working that out through painting.

4. As much as I love those still lifes, the skulls that you draw are my real favorites. What is the appeal of them for you?

to most people who follow my work the skulls may seem so random in their appearance, but really they're not. i've always been interested in archeology and bones and skeletons. i'm addicted to watching all of those shows and documentaries on fossil human and dinosaur discoveries.

i've spent a lot of time studying portrait and figure this year and wanted to draw a human skull, but they're not exactly for sale at target so i decided to try my hand at an animal skull. that was it, i was hooked. i've got an ever growing collection of bones and skulls and have found a new love for my art. i'm very excited and feel like i have direction in my work again.

5. And now…time for your favorites! (feel free to elaborate!)

a. Who is your favorite artist?

one? i can't pick one, so here's my top 5: Ingres, Heade, Mondrian (his landscapes), van Eyck, Modigliani

b. What do you listen to while you paint?

oh my, this is embarassing. i actually listen to movies. i have ADD and have a hard time focusing, so i have a rotation of movies that i've seen probably 100 times. i don't actually watch them, but they help me focus on what i am doing.

c. What’s your favorite coffee?

i'm pretty simple, i drink new england brand columbian decaf. a lot. hence the decaf.

d. Who is your favorite author and/or what is your favorite book?

oh my, i could say a ton of art books, but the truth is when i get to actually read for relaxation, i like to be entertained. my favorite series is by Diana Gabaldon called the Outlander series. I like books set in the 1400-1700's England, Ireland, Scotland.
Thanks, Christine!