Everyday life in paint: two emerging artists make their Whidbey debut

Carrie Whitney

You have to be pretty confident as an artist to have one of your first gallery shows on Whidbey Island.

Emerging local painters Carrie Whitney and Laura Hudson are taking the plunge and baring their work and, subsequently their artistic souls, for all local discerning eyes to see.

“Island Debut” presents a series of oil paintings by Whitney and Hudson this weekend at Bayview’s Front Room Gallery.

Working primarily in oils on canvas, both artists display a love of bold colors with figurative subjects in loose, painterly styles.

Thematically, the work of both women shares a common denominator of capturing certain moments in everyday life that may seem mundane or insignificant.

The trick of making two-dimensional art interesting to look at is to reveal the emotional life underneath such seemingly fleeting moments. Painters do that with light, color, shape and brushstrokes. Both these artists succeed in combining all these elements to make these moments in time engaging.

The 33-year-old Whitney has lived on South Whidbey for two years and is the art instructor at Bayview School. She received her bachelor of fine arts in painting from the University of Washington and has worked extensively in set and costume design.

The most recent showing of her paintings was in Rome, Italy, during a three-month study-abroad program.

Now a young mother, Whitney has turned her attention to depicting the immediate life of her family on the canvas.

“There’s always that over-arching question of ‘What do I want out of the painting?’” Whitney said.

Looking at any of her broad-stroked portraits of her son in various stages of babyhood, or one of her husband holding his son, the painter’s tenderness toward her subjects is clear.

Having studied theater as well as painting, the two mediums have come together for Whitney in a natural aptitude for staying connected to the human condition and depicting the human drama that unfolds before her daily.

Becoming a mother, Whitney said, has allowed all the extraneous matter of life to fall away, so that what is important to her has become transparent. Her family provides enormous inspiration, her studio is her necessary respite of creative productivity and her teaching job allows her to translate all that she has learned to the next generation.

At 22, island native Hudson completed her bachelor of arts in painting at Western Washington University last spring, and will be continuing on this fall to pursue her bachelor of fine arts, a fifth-year degree.

Hudson recently traveled to India and Nepal, where she was inspired by the prolific use of intense, vibrant colors in unusual and enchanting combinations.

“But, I realized I couldn’t go on painting India for the rest of my life,” Hudson said.

The artist turned inward and began a series of self portraits and paintings of family and friends in which she was intent on capturing the spectacle of the unspectacular.

Like Whitney, Hudson’s broadly drawn, vibrantly-colored paintings are a study in the most personal moments of her subjects. From the contemplative demeanor of a woman simply sitting at a table in the painting “Fiona,” to the impressionistic “Choices” depicting a woman considering what to wear from a color-drenched closet of clothing.

These are not paintings of comforting fantasies, Hudson said, taking a lesson from the famous British painter Lucian Freud who Hudson admires and who called these types of subjects “uncomfortable moments.”

“I want to get a truer painting, rather than a fantasy,” she said.

“I’m connected to the moment in the painting. It’s not an exaggeration of time.”

Hudson said she has an eye toward going for her MFA in painting with a dream of becoming a working artist.

If the paintings in this first show are any indication, both these artists are well on their way toward a life in art.

An opening night artists’ reception is 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12 with refreshments.

The show continues 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 14. For more information call 341-6382.