Margaret Simpson is a Hamilton-based watercolor painter. I consider watercolor hard to work with, but Margaret is masterful. She takes her time and paints in many layers to achieve the depth of color and to define the spaces of her compositions. She has a wide subject range and a deliberate approach. I like her work very much. I think you will, too.
I love the compact space of the landscapes and the feeling of being in the frame. Is this purposeful?
Yes, things like light and shadow, positioning of items, those elements that either lead the viewer in, are part of a greater visual story to be told. Their purpose is to convey that story as a snapshot in time that I felt was worth preserving.
What is your process?
My inspiration mostly comes from my own experiences in nature. I tend to search for wild beauty and find those scenes are a calming influence on me. I like to sketch outside in nature, but just by walking in the woods, I am constantly framing scenes in my mind’s eye. I even think of how to mix paint colors to match the warm and cool colors I see in the sky and on foliage. I don’t tend to draw thumbnails or light/shadow studies beforehand. But I know many artists do that.
Who were you influenced by?
I love the simplicity of Andrew Wyeth’s lighthouses, quiet but with a haunting palette. I like NC Wyeth’s idealized illustrations for posters; Hudson River School artists realism from Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt for their heroic portrayals of rugged mountains and beautiful skies; Mary Cassatt’s figures of women and children in everyday life and Georgia O’Keefe whose stylized flowers are more about design than realism.
Do you feel your work is evolving?
I have more time to paint, so can plan a better initial drawing as well as spend time to include more detail. Additional time spent does improve my work. When you paint what you love, that shows. I paint with lots of transparent layers to build depth for realism. It takes time. I spend a few weeks on a painting. I paint at my kitchen table where the northern light is especially good. My landscapes make me happy to show light and shadow, depth of field and portray something I love.
Were you always a watercolorist?
Yes! I’ve liked it since I was in my teens. I was in the Trenton Artists Workshop Association in 1981 when Mel Leipzig recruited students at Mercer. I took Marge Chavooshian’s watercolor class at Mercer, and later knew her from Garden State Watercolor Society (which will hold its 50th exhibition later this year). I paint with my sister, Clara Sue Beym, as well. For 5-6 years, I have painted casually with a group of Hamilton-area friends, “Tuesday Colorists”. During those same years, Sue and I have exhibited annually with “Mercer Family and Friends” at the gallery of Mercer County Library Lawrence branch along with founders Bill and Helene Plank and others. Most exhibits are online this year including our Small but Mighty exhibit for Garden State Watercolor Society.
What fight/struggle do you have regarding your art?
I have time to paint but not a dedicated studio. That’s fine, as the light is sunniest in my kitchen.
Locally, where do you like to eat and hang out?
You’ll find me in the woods! I joined the Friends for Abbott Marshlands board because I care about its preservation; that was the area where I grew up. I am learning to be more of a naturalist. We cook at home a lot now. My husband Jamie is an excellent cook. Places we order from locally are Pizza Grill, Scotto and Crimani, and our favorite restaurant lately is BoneFish Grill.
What one attribute should all artists have?
Patience. I have seen artists get frustrated. Have a plan. Give yourself the time to complete it! Of course, practice is so important to improving skills, but I am more “detail with a plan” than spontaneous. But I do like to try new things, like pastels, abstracts or multimedia.
What is your dream project?
My dream project would be to write and illustrate a children’s book.
For more information, go online to margaretsimpson-art.com or on Instagram, @margaretlovesart.