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Margaret Gohn - January 2024

Margaret Gohn - January '24 Spotlight Artist
Margaret Gohn - January '24 Spotlight Artist

How and where did your art practice begin? 

I learned the basic techniques of drawing while attending high school in Indianapolis. I enjoyed it enough that I majored in Art at the University of Evansville, in southern Indiana. One of my professors, Carolyn Roth, was especially inspirational. She painted with a loose technique, partly based on Sumi-e ink painting. I appreciated the ability to portray the sense of a plant, or person, or thing with a limited number of brushstrokes. I especially enjoyed drawing and painting from life - whether nature, still life arrangements, or people.

Where do you draw inspiration for your forms/designs? 

I was inspired to try using oil paints after seeing an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, Monet in the 90s: The Series Paintings, in 1990. I appreciated how Monet painted outside (‘en plein air’)  with different lighting and weather conditions - capturing the sense of a place with colorful strokes of paint. I lived near Brown County, Indiana, which had had an early 20th century art colony that was inspired by the French Impressionists - who themselves had been inspired by art from Japan. T.C.Steele was an artist whose home and studio have been preserved. The The T. C. Steele State Historic Site started having plein air paint-outs in the early 1990s which I participated in. I won the top prize a couple of different years.

Later on, I took classes at Indiana University - one with Elise Schweitzer which focused on color, and another with Bonnie Sklarski which focused on expressing emotions and ideas - which I explored using inks. I also studied with Nancy Nichols-Pethick, a painting professor at Indiana State University in Terre Haute - where I went for a Masters of Fine Arts degree. I made it a point to study the history of women artists while I was getting my Masters. Women had been neglected in art history texts when I was getting my Bachelors degree, but by 2010, there was much more information available.

What draws you to your specific/preferred medium? 

I have created art in a variety of mediums over the years, but oil is my main one. I appreciate the colors and the textures which can be achieved. I like the intensity of color compared to watercolors. With my plein air paintings, I study a natural area and look for an engaging composition. I familiarize myself with the subject by creating a rough sketch, and then mix the appropriate colors. I lay out the composition with thin paint, followed by details with thick paint. For the most part, once I put down the thick paint I can’t redo much - or it can become a mess. Because of this, the process requires intense focus.

How do you plan your pieces and how do you decide when they’re finished?

My paintings are successful, in my opinion, when they feel ‘alive’. Where the paint strokes express energy while at the same time representing the view I chose to depict. I have painted standing on rocks in the middle of a stream with waterfalls, in cold, snowy forests, and in fields on hot summer days. I have planted acres of wildflowers which I later painted. When I see my plein air paintings, I am taken back to the place and time I painted it. I am aware of how singular each moment is. The next hour, the next day, and the scene will be different. The light is constantly changing - so the process is always a challenge. I am reminded of the weather conditions, the sounds, and the feelings associated with being in a place. I try to capture those sensations when I am painting.

How do community art spaces like Art Hub enhance your ability to make, distribute, and celebrate art? 

I appreciate the Art Hub and other similar venues that I have been a part of because they are great ways to connect with people - whether fellow artists or other art lovers. I enjoy seeing what others are making and the culture which we collectively create.

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