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Article from the St Augustine RECORD, March 29, 2002

Art with splash

St Augustine watercolor artist awarded Artist of the Year in Jacksonville

by Tiffany Aumann, Compass Editor

Artist Judy Lavoie observed that there are likely as many approaches to watercolor painting as there are watercolor artists. She tackles her paintings with the care and patience of a needlepoint tailor. She is captivated by light and experiments with applying acrylic paint mixed with water, using liquid latex as a batik artist uses wax or painting images on scratchboard. Yet she has achieved proficiency in a medium that once was used by painters as merely a means of sketching in preparation for another painting.

Each year, the 200-member Jacksonville Watercolor Society recognizes two members as Artists of the Year. The winners are selected by committee based on their artistic merit and contributions made to the society. As this year's winners, Lavoie and Charles Stratmann will display their work at Gallery 1037 at Reddi-Arts, 1037 Hendricks Ave. in Jacksonville. The show will open April 11, 2002, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. and continue through June 27, 2002.

Lavoie's work belies the image of the typical pastel-hued watercolors. Her colors are vivid and her subjects, detailed. Intricately designed vases are perched upon equally elaborate lace doilies. The animals in her wildlife paintings look out from the canvas with moist noses and long, soft fur waving in the breeze.

"Some people wouldn't want to be that fussy. They want to get the big brushes out and be done with it," said Lavoie, who does not mind the time-consuming process. Lavoie works meticulously on one painting at a time. In her paintings, light takes priority over human subjects. When people are present, they often shy away from the viewer, peering into the picture or off to the side. Nevertheless, they will be dramatically illuminated. They might be working in a shady area with patterned shadows falling over them. "My paintings with people in them I call 'character studies;' I don't do portraits," Lavoie said. One notable exception, however, was made last year when Lavoie traveled to Maine. She was visiting the Olson House, a weathered wooden house on a grassy hill that was featured in Andrew Wyeth's painting "Christina's World." Wyeth often spent his summers at the house and painted Christina, a crippled woman, many times. "I've always been a fan of Wyeth so it was a real thrill to be in the house and see where he painted," Lavoie said. The trip took on more significant importance when the artist met Wyeth's brother-in-law, Dudley Rockwell, who was giving a lecture at the home, which is now owned by the Farnsworth Art Museum. Lavoie asked Rockwell if she could take his photograph. He agreed. After posing him next to the window of geraniums where Christina sat, she returned home to paint the scene. Rockwell gazes out the window, soft light falling on his face.

For Lavoie, the presence of observers while she paints is distracting. She ends up talking more than painting. In addition, her busy schedule makes it difficult to return to a location repeatedly at the same time of day to work under the consistent lighting conditions. Instead, she uses her camera to freeze the stark shadows stretching down an adobe building or the fidgeting of her dog and muse, Darla (who is pictured on her business card). "You have to take liberties," she said, noting that she often changes the colors, perspective and placement of objects from their appearance in the actual scene. "The photos are just the beginning. If it was going to look like the photograph, you might as well just have the photo." Even when the scene has been altered to an idyllic arrangement and the artist has achieved the desired effect, he or she is still in the hands of the experts when it comes to entering juried shows. A painting may be accepted into one exhibit and then rejected in the next. Yet, Lavoie is resigned to the art world's subjective nature. "You have to learn to have a very thick skin when you enter shows," said Lavoie, who once sat in the judge's seat as an elementary and high school art teacher. "You don't want to discourage someone if they can use art as a creative outlet. They might get more out of it than someone else (with greater talent)," she said. "There's always some judgment, but that's life too. You have to learn that in everything."

More often than not, however, Lavoie has had subjectivity smile in her favor. She was accepted into the annual exhibit of the Florida Watercolor Society in 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2000. Only 100 paintings are chosen for the distinguished show. She also has won numerous awards from the St. Augustine Art Association and won best in show in the 1996 fall show of the Jacksonville Watercolor Society.
For more information about her work, visit judy-lavoie-art.com

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