We continue our series of local artist Q&As with painter Peggy Simonson.
What type of art do you do?
My primary medium is watercolor, however, many of my paintings incorporate textured papers, watercolor crayons and pencils, ink and various collage materials. I also paint with oil, dye on silk, and have recently been experimenting with oil using a pallet knife. My subjects vary widely, and include local landscapes, florals, and abstracts, with strong color being common in all.
What draws you to this medium/media?
The challenge of watercolor keeps me coming back to it. You can't easily paint over mistakes, and to have whites you have to save the white of the paper. I also love the flow, and at times the unpredictability of watercolor.
I find oil painting more akin to drawing, where I can have more control. I'm often harassed by painting companions that I should loosen up, but after 38 years teaching in elementary classrooms where I need to be in control, I find it challenging.
How long have you been creating art? Is this a new skill or something that you've been focusing on for a long time?
I have always loved to draw, and had fantastic art teachers at Albert Lea High School, who stressed that drawing and seeing were foundations for making successful art. No matter the class, be it drawing and painting, photography, design, or pottery, every Friday we were required to hand in 10 new drawings.
In college, I took several art classes, however, because of the job market, I chose to become an elementary classroom teacher.
Years later, I was asked to volunteer with the painting of sets for the production of "Oliver" at the Sheldon Theater. This led to many years of painting and designing sets for both high school and Phoenix Theater productions. While at the scene shop, which was located at the Anderson Center, I met resident artist Nancy Murphy, who convinced me to take her Community Education beginning watercolor class. It was my first experience with watercolor, and did I ever struggle. But finally after taking the "beginner class" three times, I became hooked.
That was 17 years ago, and have since continued to practice, learn, and attend yearly workshops from various artists.
Are you working on a piece or project now?
Currently I'm working on a couple oil paintings of the Mississippi, including one of a barge, and an oil painting of the bluffs using only a pallet knife. I will hopefully be attending a four-day watercolor workshop this summer, where we will be studying abstract techniques. I love the finished product of abstracts, but struggle with the process since once again that need for control and order gets in the way.
What inspires you to make your art?
I'm inspired by color, especially those of flowers and local landscapes. Since getting back into painting, I find color around me more vibrant, and noticeable. It's especially a hindrance while driving, because I get distracted by my surroundings.
Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your art/work at all? How? Have you been able to work around it or adjust your creation process?
Finding motivation to paint at the beginning of the shelter-in-place order was a challenge. Since I work from my home studio, I had no reason not to paint. That made it even more difficult. Just two weeks prior, a group of local artists began gathering in my studio to paint, share, and critique together on a weekly basis. We all found it energizing to work together. Just as we were becoming acquainted, we were forced to quit.
Red Wing Arts was scheduled to host a weeklong watercolor workshop in May, which I was looking forward to attending, but it had to be canceled. Also, I had just hung 15 paintings at Clara's Coffee Shop in the St. James Hotel, which was shut down. It was my first solo show and there they sit.
I do have hope that things will open up again. I've been privileged to be accepted into the Fall Festival of the Arts in downtown Red Wing for over 10 years, so we'll see if the pandemic intervenes. Last year my tent blew over, so my track record is not the best.
Anything else that you want to share about yourself or your work?
Future plans are to begin teaching watercolor classes in my studio, which I have been preparing for over the past few years. Having been retired from the classroom for five years, I'm ready for a new challenge, and having had the opportunity to substitute for the high school art teachers and learn from them, I'm feeling more confident.