Neo-Impressionist Paula DeLay makes bold, beautiful paintings filled with confident brushstrokes that seem to dance across her canvases. She has more than 30 originals currently on display through April at SLO Provisions. Light seems to burst out of the paintings, which are deceptively simple and yet filled with the essential details needed to create the scene.
DeLay is a big-city gal, born and educated in Boston before moving to San Francisco, and she's been on the Central Coast since 2012. How has small-town life affected her?
"I don't want to sound cliché, but moving here has brought flexibility, peace, and serenity," she explained in an email interview. "I think one example might suffice. In the Bay Area, with its millions of people, traffic was an endemic nightmare, a complete gridlock. Not so here. No more traffic jams and crowds. Now on the spur of the moment, I can pop over to the beach, the mountains, or wine country within minutes. That's why I cherish living here."
- Courtesy Image By Paula Delay
- PAINT FAST! To capture an image like Fleeting, DeLay paints as quickly as possible but also "at a certain point in the process, I'll need to paint primarily by drawing upon my memory."
Those forays into the Central Coast lifestyle have informed DeLay's paintings—beach and dune scenes, vineyards and rolling hills, which she captures on the spot. Plein air painting seems like juggling wet fish. Between the changing light and atmosphere conditions, what you're seeing is constantly evolving. How does she handle that? Is it about painting quickly, committing to a certain point in the evolution, or something else?
"As you point out, plein air painting is dynamic, as what I observe is transient. Therefore, for me, plein air painting entails making an initial mental note about what drew me to the scene. I then paint as quickly as possible, realizing at a certain point in the process, I'll need to paint primarily by drawing upon my memory. That's why it's so important to be really focused in the very beginning."
In addition to making paintings, DeLay teaches private plein air workshops as well as the annual Art in Motion art hike series at Cuesta College. What sort of nuggets of painting wisdom does she drop on students?
"Aside from stressing composition and color as the two most important factors to create a painting they'll be pleased with, I remind my students who work in oils that there's never a mistake that can't be fixed. For watercolor students, I stress the importance of patience because the medium is much less forgiving than oils. I've found these simple truths take anxiety away and relax the students so they can enjoy being creative."
Looking at some of her recent works, some, such as Golden Vineyard, have areas of finer details that really anchor it to a place. Others, such as Crescent Moon are nearly abstract. Has she noticed anything about her collectors that attracts them more to a looser or more finely detailed style?
"That's a great observation about the difference in my contemporary impressionistic style," she said. "I've noticed that when a collector gravitates towards a more finely detailed piece, it's because it evokes fond memories of a specific place. On the other hand, when a collector is drawn to a looser piece, they've told me it's due to a sense of mystery that intrigues them."
- Photos Courtesy Of Paula Delay
- AN EYE FOR ART Christine Marie curated DeLay's show, California Dreaming, which hangs through April at SLO Provisions.
How does she know when to stop painting?
"Sadly, sometimes I don't, and I have ruined perfectly good paintings by overworking them. Nevertheless, I've found that by forcing myself to put down my brushes and step back from my easel, it does help me to not overwork a painting."
Some of her paintings are quite small, 8-by-10 inches, others much larger. Do they require different approaches, techniques, and equipment?
"My approach does vary depending on canvas size. Because it's more challenging to achieve a visual impact on a smaller canvas, I strive to simplify the scene. Regardless of canvas size, I still use the same techniques. However, size definitely dictates the brush size, especially when I'm initially blocking in the colors. The larger the canvas, the larger the brushes!"
She paints a lot of vineyards, seascapes, and landscapes, the latter of which include some with architectural elements, some without. Despite returning to familiar places, her paintings never seem to repeat themselves. What attests to this?
"I intentionally approach each painting as an opportunity to tell a unique story. Consequently, even when I return to one of my favorite painting spots, I spend time to locate a different vantage point that intrigues me. Also, the subtle changes in seasons or even the time of day enables me to use a broad spectrum of color."
Who are her touchstones, her favorite painters and paintings?
"My husband is my best critic and biggest supporter. He's brutally honest when he's giving me feedback on my work, and he has a great artistic eye. My favorite painters include Monet, Sisley, Turner, and Sargent. I have too many favorite paintings by these phenomenal artists to create a short list, but if you were to visit the MFA in Boston, you'll see many of my favorites."
Any final comment?
"Yes! My California Dreaming solo show that runs through April 30 at SLO Provisions was curated by the talented Christine Marie. It includes over 30 of my original paintings in a wide variety of sizes so there's lots to see. And I want to thank [SLO Provisions owners] Steve Bland and Dwyne Willis for their heartfelt support of the local arts." Δ
Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at email@example.com.