WITH DEBBIE MUELLER
Where are you painting from and what have you been doing to keep busy?
I am painting in and near my home in Durham, New Hampshire. My studio is in my living room, so I didn’t have to go far to paint! I am also a plein air painter, and so, while the beginning of the pandemic was too cold to go out to paint, by later in the Spring it was a welcome diversion, including some opportunities to paint with friends at a safe distance. After the social isolation of the pandemic, it was such a joy to be together with other painters, even if we needed to keep a bit of distance between us.
As far as keeping busy, when the pandemic began, I was still working full time as an OB/GYN at a small hospital in New Hampshire, and served as the Chair of our small department. The COVID pandemic brought enormous questions of how to keep our patients and ourselves safe. Being a novel virus, it wasn’t like we had a textbook that told us what to do- new guidance was emerging every week, and we were scrambling to implement new procedures into our practices and the hospital. This kept me more than busy in the early months, and more than that, very anxious. I had a few weeks where it was hard to paint. After participating in a meeting of the hospital’s leadership, and hearing that they fully expected to see patients die of this disease, and more than likely, staff would die as well (That didn’t happen where I am), I was terrified. Just like all of us, we gradually got used to the new reality, and I was eventually able to resume painting, which was a welcome opportunity to get my mind off COVID. Since the end of June, I have been in a new job where I am only working 3 days a week, and no longer delivering babies, so my stress level has improved dramatically, and my painting productivity has increased.
How did you find inspiration from your surroundings for it?
I am so blessed to be able to live in a place of great beauty. The Seacoast of New Hampshire and the Maine coast have inspired artists for centuries, and this is my backyard. Travel regulations have also allowed me to travel safely to Monhegan this summer as well as to Cape Cod, to pursue a project I am working on where I will create a series of paintings based on subjects that Edward Hopper painted. People have long told me that my work reminds them of his, and so I am embracing this comparison.The painting I submitted, “Fiesta for One”, is an older painting that I did after a visit to Santa Fe during the yearly Fiesta. My husband and I had breakfast in a wonderful cafe, and noticed an elderly woman sitting by herself drinking her coffee by the window. She had an amazing presence and dignity, sitting upright, serene, and content to just look out the window at the activity happening there. I surreptitiously took a few photos of her, and when I returned, it was this image that stayed with me, even more than those I had captured of the beautiful landscape.
What is one positive that has come from this experience for you?
The positive aspect of the pandemic for me, I suppose, has been having permission to stay home! Our usual hustle and bustle that was our life before COVID has changed into a much quieter existence. We go grocery shopping once a week, and other than going to work, don’t go out much. That has led to a time of great productivity for me, completing more than 50 plein air and studio paintings. Another positive has been the rapid development of online art education- I have taken advantage of this by being able to attend classes with a number of artists including Anne Blair Brown, Claudia Rilling, Bruce Katz, and Julie Beck to learn new skills and explore new media. I never could have afforded to travel to all these destinations - the classes happened on my screened-in porch!
What is one of your favorite pieces in the collection from a fellow artist?
I have two favorite pieces from the collection, and both are from artists whom I am blessed to call friends, and whose artwork is in my own personal collection. The first is Hillary Scott; her paintings astound me with their luminosity and sense of serenity. The other is David Lussier; his painting depicting Fish Beach on Monhegan brings me right back to a place that has been my painting muse. His beautiful color and brushstroke are inspirational to me.