By Janelle Faignant
You might know Rae Newell from the various art classes she teaches in the area – acrylic painting at Artistree in Woodstock; one at Mr. Twitter’s in Rutland which is mostly oils but also a mix of acrylic and watercolor. And the classes she offers through her own studio. In fact when we first speak on the phone she is in the middle of teaching a class.
Newell grew up with an artistic father and always loved art, but she never thought she would become an artist as a means of making money.
“I didn’t take it too seriously until I got to college,” she said. “I did study art in high school and played around with it. My father helped me paint a little, he was a painter. But in college I realized that’s what I really wanted to do rather than any other kind of job.”
She studied at the University of Hartford and later with an artist in Boston for four years, followed by another artist in Southern Connecticut for four years, honing her abilities.
“There wasn’t a lot out there that I was really truly interested in profession-wise, that I wanted to study, so I just kept taking art courses and realized that was the direction I was going in. So I kind of fell into it through a process of elimination,” Newell said.
Today she teaches and shows at galleries and is one of the ten artists in EMMA – East Mountain Mentoring Artists.
Her part-time work keeps her from painting every day, but three times a week you’ll find her in her studio, working on a number of different pieces.
“Some I’m just starting and some I’m in the process of finishing, so depending on how much time I have that day and what I’m in the mood for, I’ll work on the five or six different pieces I usually have going at one time,” she said.
As she describes it, the biggest differences between painting with acrylics vs oil or watercolor is what you’re mixing the paint with. Acrylics are water-based, so you mix them with water. With oil you use turpentine or an oil product to mix with the paint in order to thin it out and make it more fluid. She herself mostly paints in oils, and you can see her paintings of scenes from the Tunbridge Fair on display at the Compass Art Center in the current exhibit called, “What EMMA Loves.”
“Have a good subject,” she said when asked for a tip when attempting to paint or make any kind of art for the first time. “That will take you pretty far.”
Her subjects arise from the streets she drives and various places she finds herself. Carrying a camera everywhere, she works from pictures she takes, and is always on the lookout for different shots around Vermont.
The Tunbridge Fair scenes and landscapes with large trees have been her biggest inspiration in the past few years, and the EMMA exhibit showcases a variety of snapshots from the fair – cows and oxen, candy apples from the food venues, a prize for grabs from a game on the midway.
“I bring my camera and take pictures and later see if there’s anything that really strikes me when I get home,” she says.
Seasoned artists like those in EMMA have kind of found their groove, but Newell says identifying a subject that genuinely inspires you is a great place to start if you’re at square one and want to give art a try.
“If you haven’t painted before, taking some lessons helps to shorten the learning curve quite a bit,” she added.
“We have a really great group of people that come to my classes on Wednesdays in Rutland,” she said. “We’re not trying to produce any Picassos or anything, though that may happen. We’re just interested in art. That’s what I enjoy as much as teaching, the camaraderie with people who have interest in art.”
The EMMA exhibit at Compass Art Center in Brandon continues through the end of the month. To sign up for Newell’s painting classes you can reach her at 802-345-9688.