Kami Mendlikâ€™s oil paintings reveal a deep love of the landscape, an excitement about the colors and forms of a still life arrangement, and a passion for sharing her observations of nature. She received a training she describes as being classical, and based on that, one might think she would paint in a tight, controlled, and detailed manner. However, she speaks about responding to her intuition and allowing parts of her canvases to remain open for interpretation.
â€śBeach Club â€” Madeline Island,â€ť 2012, oil on canvas board, 8 x10 in. Private collection.
â€śA painting doesnâ€™t have to be a literal interpretation of what we observe,â€ť Mendlik says. â€śIt exists because of the artistâ€™s effort, but also because of an intersection of time, place, and mood. The more skilled and well trained painters are, the more they can be free to trust their abilities and open themselves up to the emotional aspects of color, form, and light. I sometimes find myself going into a trance-like state in which I donâ€™t have to consciously think about the color mixtures on my palette or the edges of shapes and I can just respond to what I am feeling at that moment.â€ť
Mendlik studied with artist Mary Pettis, who introduced her to alla prima painting, the sight-size method, and other aspects of a disciplined, classical art education. Later, she studied with Joseph Paquet, who spent three days a week with her for three years while Mendlikâ€™s skills and understanding increased.
â€śNason Road,â€ť 2012, oil, 11x14 in. Private collection.
Mendlikâ€™s approach to oil painting is a blend of the training she received and the influences of other artists. For example, her handling of color is in part based on Paquetâ€™s teachings about the prismatic palette, instruction in two workshops with Camille Przewodek, and the color charts she made while following Richard Schmidâ€™s recommendations in his seminal book Alla Prima (Stove Prairie Press, FL). She also conducted her own explorations of the way her chosen palette of colors might work for her. â€śWhen painting outdoors, I use a warm and cool of each primary color, titanium white, and a few extra colors,â€ť she explains. â€śThose include cadmium yellow light or cadmium lemon [Winsor & Newton], cadmium red light [Rembrandt], alizarin crimson, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, and titanium white. The extra colors I add are viridian, magenta, permanent rose, and transparent red oxide.
â€śMorning Lilies on the Pond,â€ť 2012, oil, 11 x 14 in. Private collection. Photo courtesy Red Wing Gallery, Red Wing, MN
â€śAbout half the time, I make thumbnail sketches with graphite to consider how I might divide the space of a composition,â€ť Mendlik explains, â€śbut other times I apply a wash of transparent red oxide on the canvas, wipe off the surface to get a thin, transparent warm tone, indicate a structured drawing with a thin mixture of a dark color, and then mass in the large average shapes. There isnâ€™t a strong division of lights and darks at this early stage because marking the extremes of the value range would yield a rather disjointed composition. I prefer to indicate the lighter shapes by wiping paint off the canvas and building up the middle and dark values. In the studio, I will keep working until there is a harmony to the image, stop and put the canvas aside for a few days, and then re-evaluate the image. Outdoors I take paintings as far as I can and then leave them alone. I seldom do any touch-up work after I leave a location because I want to maintain the fresh, immediate response to the scene.â€ť For more information, visit www.kamipolzin.com