Growing up in Germany exposed Ute to all different kind of arts and crafts. As a teenager, she took lessons in folk art and silk painting, calligraphy and Ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement). Living in her early twenties in Spain, she experienced pastel and oil. All these experiences still influence her to this day.
Then her first daughter was born and she took a long break from painting. It was with the encouragement of her husband in 2003 that she picked up her painting brushes again. Ute attended a few classes at Northern Virginia Community college and took lessons from Kurt Schwarz, Maggie Siner, Diane Tesler, Sara Lind Poly and Katherine Riedel over the next few years.
“I love to paint all subjects, but animals are my favorite.”
This passion for animals started when a neighbor asked Ute to paint his dog. “I have not stopped painting animals ever since.”
Ute says her favorite medium is oil.
I love its textural qualities, the vibrancy of the colors and how it feels when the brush glides over the canvas. I vary my technique depending on the subject. For example, many of my paintings are alla prima but the pet commissions are more realistic and require being painted in about three layers. Some of my favorite paintings are the ones were the colors just seem to flow out of the brush, when everything just happens magically and effortlessly. This does not happen very often but these are the moments I crave as an artist.
One way to keep things interesting Ute finds, is asking herself the question many times: what if? What if I use a different brush? What if I use this wipe-out tool? “In my opinion, an artist should never stop learning and experimenting,” Ute says, “this is one way to grow, to be out of my comfort zone and just be curious about different techniques and materials.”
Another way to grow as an artist is painting in series. Her latest chickadee series is a great example. Combining a somewhat abstract, impressionistic background with the realistic rendered bird, creates a very compelling painting. Painting in series allowed her to get familiar with the subject at an even deeper level and then play with the subtleties with each painting. Ute also paints lots of smaller sizes to accelerate the learning curve. Most times she addresses any composition and color decisions in the small format before moving on to a larger canvas.
Small allows me to experiment, to not worry about the result since the time invested in a painting is so much less than a large one. The other big lesson I learned just recently is to stay away from white as long as possible.
Much of her inspiration comes from nature and beauty around her but sometimes from the art material itself. She says, “I might discover a new color and will plan a painting just for using that color.”
When composing a painting I look for strong lights and darks. I find that rendering a great sense of light results in my best paintings.
The second thing she plans is how the viewer’s eye travels through the painting by using different design elements like color, shapes and light.
Ute paints with about 15 different colors on her palette but the combinations have changed over time.
I think I could paint with any color combinations on my palette. Once you understand color, it’s easy to mix any color. I like to keep things fresh and always have some new or fun additions on my palette. This makes it more interesting and challenging and is full of surprises.
Her new favorite currently is cobalt turquoise light from Winsor & Newton.
One of Ute’s favorite books is “Oil Painting Secrets from a Master” by David Leffel. “I was in awe,” she said, “when I first read this book and understood at that point how much there was still to learn.” Other books that she constantly pulls off her shelf are “Oil Painting with the Masters” by Cindy Salaski, “Landscape Painting Inside & Out” by Kevon Macpherson and “Harley Brown’s Inspiration for Every Artist”.
By now, Ute has done about 100 commission paintings. “This was very stressful, especially in the beginning.” Her strategy to deal with the pressure, “I will not take any down payment from the client nor is the client obligated to buy the painting.” She says this also makes the client less hesitant to order a painting. “Up to this day, I have never had a client refuse the painting.” Dealing with customers has taught Ute to listen carefully to the client’s ideas and ask lots of questions.
Ute says her biggest challenge as an artist are the non-painting activities like maintaining a website and Facebook page, writing a monthly newsletter and taking and editing pictures. “They seem to take up half of my time and keeping up with the ever-changing technology can be daunting. To have a great support group of other artists who have done this is essential in getting it all done and not feeling overwhelmed.”
One of the best experiences this year for me has been to participate at the Western Loudoun Artist Studio Tour. Seeing the people’s faces light up when entering the studio, and getting lots of encouraging feedback, was a great boost of energy for me. It made me also realize that part of the reason I’m creating art is bringing happiness to people’s life. I always want my paintings to evoke positive emotions, and bring the amazing beauty that is in our country into our homes.
Ute describes her work using these three words: “happy, playful, and impressionistic.” I agree, I always smile when I see her work!
Find her on Facebook: Paintings by Ute Gil