To be an artist, a person must draw from all she knows, feels and believes in order to create something beautiful. To paint well, a person must have more than technique; she must have a vision of the essence of what she is painting. It is not a good idea that turns our work into art, but the selection, balance, and design of the ideas and emotions we have. A painting begins with a sense of awareness. A painter must be taken by things that anyone else would just walk by. We must see paintings in our everyday lives. We begin a painting by noticing, feeling, wondering, remembering, yearning.
I paint because I love to paint—it’s fun for me. Painting to me is being conscious of living, taking in the world around me and creating something from what I experience. I take a moment in time—an image, a memory, a place, a thing—I hold it in my hands and declare it a treasure, something worthy of my time and energy. Then I try to replicate that treasure and its story in color and texture, shape and design. By painting those moments in time, I can reclaim it for myself and share it with others. It gives me a way to hold onto my world—those special times and places and people and things—and share them with others.
In the past few years, I have studied with impressionists and abstractionists. I have developed a great appreciation for their art. I am realizing that art is much more than painting what I see. It involves capturing the mood of the subject, a sense of emotion in the scene and the spirit of that moment in time.
Painting is a way to record a bit of life and make it significant. An artist is in the habit of finding significance in the simple, ordinary things in her life. Theodore Roethke put it like this, “If our lives don’t feel significant, sometimes it’s not our lives, but our response to our lives, which needs to be richer.”
“A painting begins with a sense of awareness,” states oil painter, Marsha Clements. She takes her curiosity through a creative lens where beauty is found in everyday life. Her emotional yet, realistic depictions of wildlife and landscape portray this concept perfectly. A balance is established that incorporates more than just what she sees by capturing the mood of the subject or the spirit of a moment in time.
Growing up in Amarillo, Texas, Clements’ childhood was infused with the simple beauty of the Texas plains. “Living life on the Texas Panhandle encouraged me to be aware of the beauty in the simplest elements of nature and our everyday lives,” she explains of her early inspiration. “The beauty of a sunset, the glory of wildflowers on a summer day, the clean lines and shadows of a rocking chair, or a young child waiting for the bus all stir my desire to create an image with brush and paint.”
Clements was motivated in her artistic pursuits by her grandmother. “There were no artists in my family,” She recollects, “but my grandmother was a wonderful seamstress. She would take me shopping and would sketch the dresses while I tried them on. She would then go home to make them. They were prettier than the ones in the store and I never had a store bought dress until I was in junior high. She even made and designed my wedding dress. She was always my biggest fan.”
As a child, Clements loved to color, paint and draw, creating visions from her imagination. “As long as I can remember,” she explains, “I’ve always loved art and my mother encouraged me to draw and paint.” When she reached college, Clements was able to take a few art classes and became an educator, earning both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Education from West Texas A&M University.
After graduation, she started a career as a public school teacher while simultaneously raising a family. She also began working on refining her skill as an artist with the help of local Amarillo art instructor, Lou Hansen. Her studies with Hansen helped her gain knowledge in the fundamentals of oil painting and technical skill.
She soon found success as an educator, teaching in the Amarillo Independent School District for over twenty years, and then serving schools across the country as an educational consultant. Her husband and daughters also motivated her to take time for her painting. Throughout these years, she would travel to New Mexico for workshops in Taos with Ray Vinella, who built her confidence and influenced her to pursue her career in art. In addition, a workshop in Santa Fe with Lee Rommell, showed her the joys of outdoor painting.
Clements became the executive director of the Amarillo Art Institute, where she served for two years, and was able to continue her artistic studies with a number of artists including Ramon Kelly and Richard Alan Nichols.
Clements especially feels a connection to Georgia O’Keeffe who has influenced her choice of subject matter. She explains, “In 1912, Georgia O’Keeffe moved to Amarillo to teach in our public schools for one year and then returned in 1914 to teach in Canyon at my college for another two years. I have been inspired by her work in many ways – more for subject than style. I love her magnified flowers and I’ve even completed a series of paintings I call, Georgia on My Mind: Poppies, Canyons, and Clouds, in her honor.”
“O’Keeffe wrote about how much she loved living in the wide open spaces of Amarillo and Canyon,” furthers Clements. “Our sunsets were an inspiration to her and Palo Duro Canyon was one of her favorite places to paint. I admire the way she was able to be a successful artist at a time when there were mostly men in art. Even more than her chosen subject and style, I am inspired by her grit, fortitude, determination, courage, and whatever it was that made her keep at it in a world where women were outnumbered. She was such an intriguing person.”
Like O’Keeffe, Clements draws her subject matter from the vast plains of the Texas Panhandle, where she has lived her entire life. “I especially love to paint the sky,” she explains, “and sometimes when I paint a landscape, it’s more of a sky-scape.” Clements also paints extensively in the Palo Duro Canyon, the nation’s second largest canyon. “The canyon is about ten miles south of my home and is stunning with its array of brilliant colors,” she states.
After many years of study, Clements has honed her artistic vision and developed a style all her own, landing somewhere between impressionism and realism. “My goal,” she says, “is to include enough detail to make a painting interesting, but at the same time, go beyond the simple representation of what I see, leave just enough of the impression of the moment, and allow the viewers to fill in the rest with their imaginations.”
She continues, “To me, the process of painting is as important as the product. I love to learn and painting is a learning process that never ends. You have to study your subject and really see every part of it. You learn new techniques, expand your skills, and solve problems as you try to represent that subject. It is a constant challenge. I strive to make every painting a little better than the one before it.”
After experiencing the many challenges an artist often faces along a creative journey, Clements opened her own studio and gallery in 2005. The gallery is located at the Sunset Center in Amarillo, which serves as a hub for the community of artists that live in the area. Clements says her proximity to other artists stimulates her creative juices. She works in her studio daily and shares her knowledge with emerging artists by teaching a weekly painting class.
The artist has featured her work in numerous shows over the years and has paintings in the collections of corporations and individual collectors. She is represented in two galleries regionally, as well as Sentosa, her own studio/gallery in Sunset Center. Her work has been in the Panhandle Plains Invitational Western Art Show and Sale for the past two years.
“One of the biggest honors for me,” she explains, “was to be selected as the featured artist for the Texas Musical Drama in 2013. I was the first woman to have that honor in over 40 years.” Clements’ work was featured throughout the annual catalog for the event.
Clements remains dedicated and deeply passionate about her art with the culmination of her studies portrayed in her body of work. Each bold floral painting or intricate landscape depiction shows a masterful use of light, color and beautiful brushwork that expertly express the emotion and movement of Clements’ concepts. She paints both en plein air and in her studio, and often paints a series that relate by subject or style.
“I take a moment in time, an image, a memory, place, or thing. I hold it in my hands and declare it a treasure, something worthy of my time and energy,” she elaborates. “Then, I try to replicate that treasure and its story in color, texture, shape and design. By painting those moments in time, I can reclaim it for myself and share it with others.”