Stephanie Henderson - Color Study

Stephanie Henderson - Color Study
Stephanie, thank you for taking the time to speak with us and peel back the curtain. What’s up? What’ve you been up to lately?

I’ve been settling into my new home and studio in Ponte Vedra Beach after moving to the area in September.  Now I’m asking myself, why did I wait so long to move here?

 
We were introduced to your work not too long ago and the first thing that jumped out to me was the bold simplicity of it.  The way I view it is like a good meal - where you take only a couple ingredients and proceed to not mess them up - that’s just my take on it anyways. Can you elaborate on your process and what it boils down to?

There’s no higher compliment than to have my work compared to a simple good meal!  And I know exactly what you mean.  Like a Cacio e Pepe that dares to only have 3 or 4 ingredients, depending on whether you count both the salt and pepper.

I’ve essentially developed my painting style to adhere to the same ethos – if I use the right colors, the right shape and perfectly clean lines, there’s no need to make a complicated composition.  To me, the colors speak most clearly when I use flat, simple forms.

 
Your work has evolved over the years. How did you end up where you are today?

Really it was a matter of deconstructing over the years.  At first, I painted landscapes, just to see if I could and because I think there’s something natural about painting the horizon, whether it’s water or land.   At a certain point, I understood that what gave me a visceral thrill wasn’t replicating clouds or trees or seascapes, but the beautiful colors of the paint, straight out of the tubes or the colors I mixed on the palette.  Even more, I began to obsess over how colors communicate with each other on the canvas.  It seems sometimes that just the tiniest bit of saturation, or a drop of phthalo blue or cadmium yellow can change the whole world.

 

 
Is this a happy place or do you see a shift in the future?

At the moment, I think I’ve got years and years of color field painting in my fingertips. But I’ve also learned never to say never. There are so many artistic avenues I haven’t gone down, such as watercolors, sculpture or screen printing, so there’s plenty I could learn if my focus changes.

 
Is there a certain type of headspace you have to be in before picking up the brush? Any sort of pre-painting rituals?

Painting is a natural to me as getting up out of the bed each morning.  No matter what my headspace, painting makes it better.  It lifts me out of a funk, and turbocharges a good mood. I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world to be able to paint all day.

 
Your Cairn series caught my eye first. You take these elemental subjects and strip them down to nothing. Can you go into this a little bit?

Yes, I’ve loved to hike all my life.  I began to paint cairns in Montana when I would hike or walk streams all day. Hikers recognize the cairn, or a stack of rocks, as a guidepost in a trail, a waypoint built by someone who walked the trail ahead of them to indicate a turn or intersection in the trail.  Stacking rocks is a wonderful meditative practice, and many people build cairns in streams or on a rocky beach simply for the joy and peace of it.

 

 
Does the environment have an impact on your pieces?

I definitely tap into the colors of nature for the choices in my work.  Particularly the explosive colors of dahlias, delphinium, hosta and irises in the garden; the vast array of greens and blues in mosses, evergreens and ferns in the forest; and on a larger scale, the blues of natural springs, glaciers and ocean water provide constant inspiration.

 

What are some of your interests outside of art?

Outside of work, my top priority is laughing with and loving the company of my friends and family.  Beyond that, I have always been an avid gardener, hiker, swimmer, and learner.  All of those activities feed into my work by cultivating a happy heart and generating heaps of visual and intellectual stimulation.

 
Would you say these have an influence on your work?

I think my outside interests share a parallel simplicity with my art.  Hard work, an appreciation for visual beauty, mental focus, physical movement and tenacity are a common thread.

 
The writer gets writer’s block. I’m sure there’s an equivalent for painters, I’m not sure what it’s called, but what do you do once you’ve hit a wall?

Sleep.

 
Anything on the horizon for you?

I feel like I’m at the beginning a wonderful new chapter having transplanted to the beach.  Every day, I wake up grateful to be able to live and work where I do, so all I can say is the future is bright!