Meet Emily Hedges, a sophomore at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky who is majoring in Art History. We would like to congratulate Ms. Hedges on being selected as one of three recipients of our Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Foundation Scholarships for the Fall 2017 term. As part of the application process, Ms. Hedges was asked to submit an essay response to a question about the Whitakers and their work. You can read Emily Hedges’ artist statement and essay below:
“Hello, my name is Emily Hedges. I’m an Art History major at the University of Kentucky. I’m also majoring in Arts Administration. After I receive my bachelor’s degree, I plan on getting my Master’s degree in Museum Studies. I aspire to work in a museum, particularly as a museum curator. I found this interest through an internship at a small museum in my hometown a few years ago. I worked directly with the director and I learned so much about museums. That’s when I discovered my dream of becoming a museum curator. As I recently completed my freshman year of college, I’m even more certain that I have chosen a career path that I love and enjoy. With each class, my passion for art history continues to grow. I’m excited to see where my degree will take me.
My future career doesn’t incorporate my own art, however I still enjoy drawing and painting. I love to read books and watch movies in my spare time. I love to learn, so you can find me reading a book on art history, or other topics like astronomy or plant life. … I love to experience art in its various forms; concerts, exhibitions, or theater productions. I feel there’s so much to learn and feel about the world around us and art can provide that interaction.
Essay Question: Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker each used very distinctive color palettes in their paintings. Please compare and contrast Fred & Eileen’s color palettes, taking into consideration their emphasis on thoughtful preparation, execution, and technique in their watercolor practice.
Watercolor is an extraordinary medium. It’s created with a pigment dissolved in water and applied with a brush, typically to dampened paper. The result has a translucent effect on what is expected of watercolor painting. An artist does not have total control when painting with watercolor. The beauty of this art form is the spontaneous outcomes that come when applying the wet paint to paper. A mistake cannot be simply painted over without impacting the entire piece. With watercolor, one can glaze layer upon layer without losing luminosity. It gives artists a chance to play with light and color in a completely different way than oils or acrylics. Artists have used this distinct art form to create striking works of art. Artists like Frederick and Eileen Whitaker have taken the expectations of watercolor and gone a step further. The versatility of watercolor painting can be seen in the difference between Frederick and Eileen Whitaker’s artistic style and color palette.
The contents of Frederick Whitaker’s artworks range from figures and architecture to still life and ideal landscapes. However, there is one common factor among all his works; the color palette. Frederick incorporates rich, vivid hues into his works of art. His combined use of muted colors and earth tones in his structured compositions contributes to his personal style. Through his color palette, watercolor allows him to exhibit different forms of lighting and colors in everyday scenes of life. He constructs these landscapes and figures by mastering the wash technique, followed by several layers of smaller brushstrokes. Some of Frederick’s pieces reveal use of black pen to add thin, contour lines of detail to the forms. Frederick almost always presents a full composition. In many of his architectural pieces, Frederick uses washes of pigment to create an atmospheric perspective. The closer buildings are more vivid and detailed while the buildings farther away appear blurry, just as the eye would see it. Frederick adds to his realistic quality through his use of lights and shadows. He captures highlights by using the white color of the paper. His delicate use of colors and shadows brings his paintings to life, despite the transparency of watercolor itself. His consistency of layers brings a depth to his works. Frederick’s color palette is a key characteristic to how he approached the art form of watercolor.
Like her husband, Eileen Whitaker explores a variety of subject matters in her works. However, Eileen’s use of bright, saturated colors stands apart. In addition, her incorporation of pastel colors and loosely painted layers leave her images with a soft, soothing atmosphere. While most of her compositions do not feature a realistic scene behind the subject, the blossoms of bold colors and flicks of speckled paint instead add an expressive quality to her stylized works. It’s clear that she wants her paintings to look like artwork, and not mistaken for a photograph because of a heightened realism. However, a majority of her works do exhibit a good amount of detail. Eileen works with her color palette and the luminosity that watercolor offers to create idealized beauty in many of her pieces. This factors into her expressive style and need to paint with emotion. In several of her pieces, especially of the still life genre, she uses the white pigment of the paper to contrast the brightly colored, detailed subjects. The negative space immediately draws the eye to the subject of the painting. Through her bold brushstrokes and bubbles of color, it’s evident that she paints with emotion and has no great concern for depicting things exactly as they are seen in the real world. She portrays life through her own imaginative conception.
Frederick’s analytical vision is the opposite of Eileen’s emotional one. Their differing styles and use of colors showcases how an artist can take on an art form, like watercolor, and make it their own. Frederick’s sketch-like paintings exudes a confidence of proportions and perspective in contrast to Eileen’s brilliant hues of beautiful expression. The different color palettes had a great effect on their own style and how they wanted to express it. Frederick’s muted colors and earth tones grounded him to the type of realism he wanted to portray. Eileen’s saturated colors in contrast with bright pastel colors gave her the creative freedom she wanted to express emotion and feeling through her work. While both artists demonstrate a variety and vibrancy of colors, their differences illustrate the creative thinking that goes on in the mind of an artist. The dynamic duo of Frederick and Eileen Whitaker has forever influenced the watercolor art form.