Artful Home represents more than a thousand of the most extraordinary artists and designers in North America—and this is one artist’s story.
“When I met my husband, I knew he was the man/artist for me. He was a really fine painter of landscapes and rusty tools and seascapes. His name was Rod Guthrie.
I had always wanted to paint, and I watched him do fabulous watercolors with exciting skies: landscapes that had buildings with crisp edges and beautiful, realistic stonework, and seascapes with sailboats that rode on stormy seas. I entered the School of the Chicago Art Institute with a portfolio that emulated his work. Although I did get accepted into the BFA program, I was not happy with my work. It seemed technically okay but imitative of Rod’s paintings. I met a woman – an abstract watercolorist – who showed me how to go from realistic work to a more abstract style. I made the leap and worked on design, color, and technique for many years as my personal style emerged.
When Rod was transferred to New England, I continued my studies at UMASS Amherst. I studied modern art history with Mark Roskill, learning about cubism – something I had admired since my study of Picasso. My painting professor, John Grillo, opened my eyes to color and construction in painting. I went on to MASSART in Boston for graduate study, exploring all the theory I wanted to accompany my studio work in art. I began to paint in contemporary mode in earnest, until I developed my own personal style.
As my painting developed, Rod told me that my abstractions actually affected and inspired his work, just as his had inspired mine. Instead of the John Ford long view of a landscape, he picked out architectural details and focused on them in close-up views, like some of the modern filmmakers. He abstracted from reality as well, while maintaining realistic subject matter.
We painted together for many years in our home studio in Massachusetts. One day in 2001, Rod noticed a weakness in his right arm – his painting arm. He went to the doctor, who told him he had ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He began to lose muscle function in both arms and neck, but he never stopped painting. First, he held up his right arm with his left arm. When that became difficult, we modified his brush with wadded up masking tape. He painted with his mouth and I painted some of the detail for him. He made some of his most monumental works during this most difficult time.
The bravery he exhibited during those most difficult years was amazing. His desire to paint was always there early on and at the end. We had a celebration of his life with bagpipes, songs, and poetry with his artwork hanging on the walls. His work is my legacy.
After Rod took his leave, I taught art at a local college. I sold my home and bought a small ranch with a side porch of many windows. I paint at the easel he made for me and I think of him every day. While I always use a brush, I experiment with tools like the palette knife, rollers from my printing press, and cut down squeegees. This allows many interesting effects, with color blending and transparent passages, which work their way into my canvases juxtaposed against opaque shapes. I am always trying new colors, even though some are my favorites.
I once wrote a paper for college on “Painting from the Right Side of the Brain.” In my own work, I find that I need both sides of the brain, perhaps starting with the right side, then going to the left for design, then going back and forth, until the composition is complete. I believe it’s a Matisse quote, “What I dream of is an art of balance.””