AIS Blog

  • 10/16/2019 9:49 AM | Anonymous

    “Kuniko” 16x12 oil, Abigail McBride,Best of Show,

    2019 AIS Impressions Small Works Showcase

    MB: Hello Abigail and congratulations on your Best of Show! What was it like to get the news that you won?

    AM: Hi Mark. Well, I wasn't able to attend the exhibit because I was in another town at a plein air event. So, when someone sent me a message that said "congratulations" on Instagram, I didn't know what to make of it. I didn't know if I was being congratulated for just being in the exhibit or if I had won something. So, it took some digging to find out that I had won the award. It was surreal because it is the first AIS show I have ever been in.

    MB: Well, lets talk about your winning piece "Kuniko". You have studied portrait painting with the Egeli family, studied strict impressionism at the Cape Cod School, sculpture with Steve Perkins and earned a BFA in college. How did you pull all of those varied methods of instruction together?

    AM: That's a great question because its something I've been asking myself for years. Obviously, you want to take the best of all of your influences and make it your own, but I began to wonder WHY a method worked after experiencing the effectiveness of following the various procedures. I looked for commonalities in the varied approaches and what principles they tap into.  I've learned to use my perception of the subject in each individual case and paint only the essence of what I see according the design idea I have in mind.

    MB: How did you come up with the concept for "Kuniko"? Obviously, its a portrait in profile, but the parasol she is holding plays a large role in the design of the piece.

    AM:  I had two goals in mind. First, to learn her head and second, to capture her spirit. I spent some time simply sitting and looking while she posed to develop a clear plan for the mood and design of painting.

    MB: Did you know the model beforehand?

    AM: No.

    MB: How do you capture someone's spirit if you don't know them?

    AM: Well, I knew a few things about her. She was a kimono artist, so I knew she was creative. She had a regal presence and an elegance in her movements, even when she wasn't posing. Her actions were very precise and beautiful. I tried to keep that in mind and portray that.

    MB: Thats a beautiful description of using your observation skills in the moment. What was your thought process about the parasol. I see a tremendous degree of expertise in draftsmanship in how the ribs of the parasol are painted.

    AB: Thank you so much for noticing that! Its something I spent a good amount of time thinking about and had to execute over two sessions. The ribs of the parasol had to be painted in perspective with quick, confident brush strokes. If I had painted a slow line for each of them, they would look like wavy marks, which would be inaccurate, So I had to know where each rib was going to be placed and shaped before I touched the canvas. Also, when an artist sees a purple parasol, they may think "I will just paint it with lighter and darker shades of purple". I wanted to show the COLOR changes around the parasol, so I spent time analyzing that as well.

    MB: I guess that debunks the theory that "painting must be so relaxing" that we hear so commonly!

    AM: Very funny! Yes, I've heard that a thousand times. You have to try not to show that it makes you cringe inside when someone says that! It is not always a comfortable passion.

    MB: I understand you have two children and had to wait until 8 or 9 pm each night, after they went to sleep, before you could start painting for the day. What was it like balancing a career as an accomplished artist with the responsibilities of being a mom?

    AM: It wasn't easy. But we planned for the balancing act as a family before they were born. My husband and I coordinate our time as a team. Now when I travel to paint I team up with other artist parents and share childcare costs. I believe a strong level of determination is the best quality an artist can have.

    MB: How important is empathy?

    AM: Oh, its very important, especially for the model who is posing.

    MB: Let me ask just a few more quick questions. What advice would you give a mid career artist that feels they have reached a plateau?

    AM: First, keep painting. Second, find some peer artists to associate with. Painting in isolation prevents you from getting support and useful feedback. You may be able to help others progress also if you seek out a peer group.

    MB: What advice would you give a brand new artist who just purchased a few tubes of paint and wants to paint the flowers in her backyard?

    AM: I'm so glad you asked me that. My answer is HAVE FUN!. If you don't find the fun in painting, you won't want to keep doing it. The more fun you have, the more you will want to learn.

    MB: I understand you are teaching on the college level now. What are your personal goals for your own work going forward?

    AM: Well, I am teaching drawing and painting regularly and looking forward to teaching some upcoming painting workshops. Also, on a personal level, I’d like to push forward the design elements in my work, anchored in perception but expressed with a simple dynamic idea. One goal is to produce larger and larger works without losing the poetic essence of small pieces. I have a lot of ideas I’m excited to develop!

    MB: Well, Abigail, it has been a pleasure to speak with you, very interesting and informative, and I wish you the best in your future as an artist and as a mom!

    AM: Thank you Mark. Great questions. I love your work.

    To see more of Abigail McBride's work, please visit

    Mark Beale is a tonalist painter in Charleston, SC. He has won numerous awards from the International ARC Salon, the National Parks Foundation, Bold Brush and many others. He has exhibited at museums across the country and at the historic Salmagundi Club in New York City. His work can be viewed at

  • 05/12/2019 8:55 AM | Stephanie Amato

    by Mark Beale 

    Hello Nancy. Congratulations on your win. How did it affect you when you saw the results? 

    NB: Hi Mark. It was thrilling and also served as inspiration to keep painting! 

    MB: First, tell me how you approached Spring Pink, your winning painting. 

    NB: I had not been in the show for 3 years and I really wanted to get my painting accepted so, my idea was to carefully read what AIS wanted and how impressionism was described. 

    MB: Tell me more about how you interpreted that. Many of us usually just read the prospectus. 

    NB: AIS describes impressionism as a style in which works are executed in a high key with loose, broken brushstrokes. So, I kept that in mind and as always, with the idea of creating a work that would really stand out from all of the other submissions they receive. I wanted to grab the eye of the jury sorting through hundreds of paintings. Then I created a vision in my mind's eye of what I wanted the finished painting to look like. Pink is one of my favorite colors. 

    MB: Your painting reminds me of Sargent's "Carnation Lilly, Lilly, Rose". Was he a big influence on you? 

    NB: Absolutely, Sargent is an influence in general and that’s one of favorite paintings in the world! Although I was not consciously trying to just do a variation of it for the AIS. Sargent and many others and my father, who was a western artist and member of the Cowboy Artists of America, were tremendous influences. I saw my father develop as an artist when I was growing up in Oklahoma and Texas and after receiving my BFA, he really helped me get my start. 

    MB: Did he critique your work or help you develop a business model? 

    NB: Both really. He helped me get into my first galleries where I sold pen and ink and watercolor pieces. I paint western subjects part of the time, but for AIS, I had something different in mind. 

    MB: You seem to have the ability to expertly paint a figure in a landscape, as we see in your winning painting. How do you approach that in general? 

    NB: Well, I believe the primary principle is unity. The figure needs to connect with the surroundings and I accomplish that by using similar colors in both. For Spring Pink, obviously it was a warm pink. I bought a pink kimono and vintage Japanese lanterns on ebay. Then I dressed the model, took her to the park and posed her, taking pictures from different angles, and later began the painting in the studio on an oil-primed canvas that I toned with a pinkish tan color. I have painted blooming peach trees on location so it was easy to add pink blossoms around her. I have done figures in the landscape by combining photos of the figure and a different landscape, both utilizing similar lighting. I have also done them completely en plein air. Different approaches work in each case. 

    MB: I see that your preparation was crucial. 

    NB: Yes, sometimes I believe painting is more about thinking than it is about applying paint. 

    MB: What do you feel is most important in creating successful works? 

    NB: Understand yourself. Pay attention to what attracts you and ask yourself why. What is it about a subject that has drawn your interest? If you can paint from that perspective, your work will have a stronger impact. For me, I’m attracted to bright colors or the beautiful patterns on the kimono, for example. There are many, many kimonos listed on ebay so you have to really search through them for the color, design, and price that you want. 

    MB: Other than your father, where else did you find help? Have workshops been a part of your education following your BFA? 

    NB: Yes, artists should study with the best. I have taken workshops with Carolyn Anderson, Milt Kobayashi, Casey Baugh, and Daniel Gerhartz. 

    MB: What specific advice would you give other artists hoping to attract galleries and be accepted to shows? 

    NB: Strategy is important. Choose carefully which works go to which galleries or shows. The work has to be what the intended audience is looking for. For example, I wouldn’t send the same painting subjects to Cowgirl Up as I did to AIS. Also, keep in mind your goal. I don’t want to polish everything out perfectly. I want to leave some brushwork loose and broken and I try to have a clear image of what I want the painting to look like before I start. Spend time thinking and planning. Of course, you must understand the language of paint: value, temperature, etc. But don’t underestimate the importance of planning. Also, no matter what your level, be open to suggestions. When I was young, my dad painted a storefront and someone told him it would sell better if it had a horse in front. So, he added a horse. He found he enjoyed that and went in the direction of western subject matter. 

    MB: Most importantly, it sounds like you are suggesting artists have a clear vision of what they want to say, based on what moves them, and then create a strategy. 

    NB: That’s right, if you can combine your own unique voice with good technical ability you will be able to create a painting that stands out. 

    MB: Well, Nancy it has been interesting hearing about your approach and congratulations again. Thanks for taking time to talk with me. 

    Check out more of Nancy’s work at 

    Our thanks to AIS Associate Member Mark Beale,, for another wonderful interview! 

  • 05/11/2018 7:34 AM | Stephanie Amato
    By Mark Beale

    MB: Hello Melanie and congratulations on your Best of Show win.

    MT: Thanks Mark, it was a thrill and an honor.

    MB: The painting Desert View Layers struck me as exceptional in its aerial perspective. I assume thats why that concept is reflected in the title.

    MT: Thats exactly right.

    MB: It seems the receding atmospheric layers are the true subject. How did you make that decision?

    MT: Well, this answer might surprise you, but while in college I worked as a wildland firefighter on a 20 person crew based out of Pendleton, Oregon. One of the jobs we would do were prescribed burns.

    MB: For those who dont know, tell us exactly what that is.

    MT:  A prescribed burn is an intentionally set fire which is managed by firefighters to protect the natural landscape. It prevents the spread of forest fires and stimulates new growth to begin in the area burned. Doing that work is what made me want to paint landscapes and the immense scale of nature, it was overwhelmingly beautiful in a way Id never encountered before and I knew that I wanted to capture that majesty in my art.

    MB: Wow! I am constantly amazed at the interesting backgrounds of accomplished artists and what ignites their passion, pardon the pun.

    MT: Well, the odd thing is, the painting is based on a 6x8 plein air study I did at the east end of the Grand Canyon. When I arrived at the site, it was my first time painting the Grand Canyon, and a prescribed burn was going on that day! I could not believe it. The layers of distance were exaggerated by the smoke and helped me capture what you see in the finished work, which is 12x16. Depicting the layers of the rock topography and geology as they recede into the distance became the subject.

    MB: The coincidence seems like it was destined to happen. That is one huge coincidence!

    MT: Yes it was! There was a tower there, but I just stood on the ground to paint the 6x8 study. There was no need to climb the tower to capture the scene and I just stood on the ground to paint the 6x8 study

    MB: Did you use photography as a tool for finishing the larger painting?

    MT: I do use photography, but I have learned to compensate for its shortcomings in capturing landscape scenes. The camera flattens things, boosts contrast and intensity, and changes shadows. My primary use for photography in a painting like this, would be to record the topography. I dont use it for color.

    MB: Lets go back in time. How did you become interested in art?

    MT: I was homeschooled as a kid and pretty efficient at getting my work done. This left my afternoons free and I spent them drawing.

    MB: What did you like to draw?

    MT: I was fascinated with elegant ladies in magazine ads. I loved their dresses and faces and I spent hours drawing them.* When I got older, I began to paint floral watercolors and went to college to study graphic design. I got a job working at a newspaper company. Unfortunately, or fortunately I didnt like it. I felt trapped in a cubicle. I first told myself I would just have to get used to it. Then, after about 2 years I just decided I could not do that job and needed more freedom and got a job working for a landscaping company. In 2016 I then became a full time painter

    MB: It sounds like you followed your passion and listened to your heart.

    MT: I did and it was scary. I am basically self- taught. I bought Kevin MacPhersons books and some used videos on eBay and just went for it.

    MB: Did you do any more formal training as an artist beyond your graphic design studies in college?

    MT: After relying on books and DVDs for several years Ive recently had the opportunity to take a couple of workshops. While I think you can learn a lot on your own, theres nothing quite like having an expert come in and find what you can be doing better

    MB: Was there a particularly good instructor that helped the most?

     MT: Yes, Jill Carver has been incredibly helpful to me. She pushed me to think a lot more about my color choices and how to shift color within a value range. I also studied with Thomas Kitts, and I appreciated his very rational approach to painting.  

    MB: What is the most important goal you have for your work?

    MT: Its to encourage others to think outside themselves and be filled with wonder at our world

    MB: What advice would you give artists aspiring to grow or even begin to paint?

    MT: Paint what moves you.

    MB: What are your plans for the future?

    MT: First is to continue to improve as an artist, but also Id like to travel around the West more, learn about its geology, and find new beautiful places to paint and explore. 

    MB: Well, Melanie thanks for taking time to speak with me and I wish you much success.

    Mark Beale is a painter in Charleston, SC and has exhibited at numerous museum shows and the historic Salmagundi Club in New York City. His work has been twice included in the National Parks 2 - year traveling exhibit and his work can be viewed at

  • 03/17/2018 3:12 AM | Stephanie Amato
    By Mark Beale

    MB: Hello Jason and congratulations on winning Best of Show at the 2017 National Exhibition!

    JS: Thanks Mark. It was quite an honor.

    MB: I wanted to ask you a few questions so our members could learn more about you and your experience and approach to painting. So, thanks for agreeing to speak to me and for sharing your knowledge. First, tell me a bit about your background.

    JS: Well, I am originally from Tennessee and began drawing everything around me as a young child – cartoon characters, trees, just everything. Eventually a high school guidance counselor saw some of my drawings and helped me get a partial scholarship to Nossi College of Art and Design. I later attended Tennessee Tech University, where I got my BFA. I started the MFA  program following graduation but stopped after one semester and began to learn and paint on my own.

    MB: So, you started working as a full - time artist then?

    JS: No, I needed to get a job and began working as a curator at a museum when my wife and I moved to Arkansas – that’s where her family is from and where we live now. It wasn’t until 2009 that I became a full – time fine artist.

    MB: Did that help you develop more quickly?

    JS: No, in fact I think it’s a myth that you have to be a full - time painter to be taken seriously or produce good work. I think some of the best work being produced today are from folks who are not full – time artists.

    MB: Why do you think that is?

    JS: If I had to sit in front of a canvas and focus on feeding my family it would hamper my work. Some of the best artists today are those who don’t have that financial pressure. It makes their work unencumbered by marketing and financial priorities. They are free to focus purely on their craft and they grow faster.

    MB: Lets talk about priorities. Do you have an over – arching philosophy of painting that guides your work?

    JS: That’s a great question and I would have to say “no” at this point. Initially I was focused on putting the right spots of color next to each other, with the correct temperature, value and intensity, to create a painting.

    MB: Sort of the Hawthorne method of impressionism?

    JS: I guess you could call it that. But, then I abandoned that approach and began to focus on atmospheric masses. I would block in the major masses and then add details to the masses to complete the picture and now I have abandoned that.

    MB: So how do you approach a painting or subject?

    JS: Honestly, I don’t know. The way I’m feeling at the time will usually direct me to some approach.

    MB: Are you intentionally leaving your mind open and following your gut and experience or are you at a crossroads?

    JS: Crossroads is a good word. I am at a crossroads. As soon as I think I have stumbled upon some truth, it turns out to be incorrect. I try to keep an open mind, but honestly, I would say I am confused at the moment.

    MB: Well, your work certainly doesn’t show it. It is absolutely masterful. Let’s take a specific case. How did you approach your winning painting “Beaver Lake Revisited”?

    JS: I had painted at that site several times before and the water level is usually much higher with less of the rocks exposed. I just happened to go there when the water level was very low and I was captivated by the translucency of the water and the light – play on the rocks. I actually stayed pretty true to what the scene looked like that day and painted a small plein air study. I took lots of pictures and then brought the study and photos together in the studio to complete the larger work you see.

    MB: You certainly succeeded. It is truly beautiful. I see something new in it every time I look at it.

    JS: Thanks Mark, I also have lots of canvases I destroy, so it doesn’t work all of the time!

    MB: What advice would you give aspiring masters?

    JS: Draw, Draw, Draw! I would also say learning the fundamentals of design are the foundation of every good painting.

    MB: Did that foundation come from your college training?

    JS: Unfortunately, no. After getting out of school I studied a lot on my own and experimented to find out what seemed to work and I keep searching. I feel that there are parallels between being a writer and being a painter. Some painters are struggling to describe their subject because they haven’t learned grammar. The grammar is drawing and design. Those are the foundation.

    MB: What are your goals for the future?

    JS: I hope to concentrate on working more in the studio, giving workshops to help others, and to spend more time with my wife and 4 daughters.

    MB: Well, thank you Jason for agreeing to share your thoughts with us and congratulations again on your Best of Show.

    Mark Beale is a painter in Charleston, SC and has exhibited at numerous museum shows and the historic Salmagundi Club in New York City. His work has been twice included in the National Parks 2 - year traveling exhibit and his work can be viewed at

  • 02/01/2017 1:14 PM | Stephanie Amato
    The American Impressionist Society is excited to be holding it's first annual small works showcase at the
    Randy Higbee Gallery in Costa Mesa, California.

    We welcome Peggi Kroll-Roberts as the Judge of Awards, and are looking forward to the workshops and events planned for the event.

    All are welcome. 

    Click here to find out more about this much anticipated event.

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