One of the things I truly enjoy is discovering a new artist. During a recent visit we happened to see a piece by artist Christie Younger that had come into the Shain Gallery. I was immediately enchanted by the beautiful pink and yellow Lipstick Roses that stood out brilliantly against the grey background. It’s true that all it takes is seeing one painting to know that you are going to be an admirer for life, and I’m definitely in love with Younger’s work.
In this interview Christie shares about how the palette knife became her favorite tool for creating artwork, the story behind her painting, Le Vie in Rose and what florals she enjoys painting.
When did you first know that you wanted to become an artist?
I’ve always been an artist. As a child and on into adulthood I was constantly encouraged in the arts and involved in many different artistic educational opportunities. I was always creating whether it was painting, ceramics, drawing, etc, even basket weaving and paper making. I also was a lover of science and earned a degree in Biological Science in college. However it was not in my cards and eventually came full circle to art again. I had a successful career in graphic design and marketing until I ended my day job to stay home with my three children. Long story short, I felt a bit lost on the inside, not complete without working and pursuing a certain independence that I wanted my children to have as an example. I prayed about it and when I took the chance and started to paint for others to see, it took off immediately; creatively, skillfully, spiritually, and with my career. It was clear to me that this is what a I was meant to do, an answered prayer. Painting immediately became not only a career option but a very cathartic experience for me.
Where do you find yourself most inspired?
I’m inspired all the time! It doesn’t matter the place. My mind is constantly in motion. I’m extremely analytical and ideas flood my mind at all hours night and day. When I have any moment of quiet, whether it’s on the side of a mountain or in the carpool line, I’m thinking of what I can create next.
Your pieces feature a variety of color palettes, is there a color palette and color in particular that you like to feature in your artwork?
You’re right, my color palette definitely varies. The constants are the solid white or grey, sometimes light blue backgrounds on top of a neutral grey ground that I allow to peek through in all of my paintings. Maybe I’ll bring in another ground color eventually, but the grey keeps my paintings muted even though there are pops of brighter colors.
I recently had the chance to see one of your gorgeous pieces, Le Vie in Rose at the Shain Gallery. What inspired this particular piece and what did you enjoy the most about creating it?
When my husband and I were married, my bouquet and most of the flowers in our wedding were these gorgeous pink and yellow Lipstick Roses. He likes to buy me flowers every so often. He recently picked out these roses which reminded him of our wedding flowers. They were so full and beautiful I just had to paint them. I didn’t want to just put them in a bouquet though. This time I wanted to showcase each flower individually. So I laid them out on a canvas in a line. As I did some of the petals fell off the flowers. I love it when things happen organically sometimes so I included this effect in the painting. The roses look like they are dancing in the painting, reminding me of a very fun day full of love and excitement for the future.
Le Vie in Rose is also one of the paintings from your floral palette knife series. How does the technique differ when using a palette knife versus paint brush? Do you prefer palette knife over brush?
I paint with a palette knife 99% of the time now. My love of this tool came out of a phase of experimentation. I was trying to find my groove and do something different. It began with using a cake and icing spatula from my kitchen to spread paint for an under layer. Then I began to use it more for backgrounds. And finally one day I used it for an entire painting. The feeling I got once I finished it was a sense of victory. I finally felt like I was creating art that was 100% authentic and unfamiliar. So then I figured I should probably purchase some real painting knives although I still use my spatula in almost every painting. I have about 3 or four that are my favorites to use no matter the size of the painting.
The knife also forces me to paint in my own way. There are no rules. I didn’t study how to paint with it because I didn’t want others to influence my art. I want to create a painting that looks aged and has distinct features that are unique only to me. There are areas that are very thinly applied and other areas that are extra thick. Even though the lines are crisp and the colors are solid, the way I use the knife allows me to create a rustic painting overall. I have developed a certain feel for it. Varying pressures and angles produces different marks and textures. I’ve enjoyed perfecting my skills and making my own rules using this tool.
I love how when you’re preparing to create a new work, you lay out the florals you’ll paint before creating the finished piece. Tell me a little bit about your process.
Well for those particular paintings, the botanicals, I buy a bouquet at the store or I pick flowers from my gardens. I lay them out on a canvas and take a photo for reference. My science background inspired this. Once of my favorite classes in college was Systematic Botany. The class was about collecting, drying, and pressing plants with their reproductive parts, leaves, roots, and stems for classification and preservation purposes. This deepened my appreciation for botanical studies that are created as art. This is my version of a Botanical study.
When I paint other plants such as bouquets, I usually use a reference. Usually I create a still life and photograph it since they usually do not last long enough for me to paint. Like I said, I have three kids that I stay home with.
Do you source the florals from your own garden, or is there a floral shop in Raleigh where you find your florals?
I guess I answered this one. I do both. If I buy my flowers I get them from the grocery store. Trader Joe’s is my top choice. I do grow flowers in my own garden. I have Peonies, Roses, Snapdragons, Lilies, Lavender, Cosmos, Zinnias, Gladiolus, Irises, tons of Hydrangea, and more.
In addition to florals, you’ve created several pieces featuring lemons. What was it about lemons that made you want to paint them?
One of the first paintings I did in my current style was a Meyer Lemon branch in a glass vase. I saw a picture of one and just liked it so I thought I’d give it a try. I loved playing with the light and shadows. When I paint florals I almost always have a reference to rely on. When I paint lemons I do not use a reference. I create them from my own imagination which provides a challenge. The more I paint them the more I like to push myself and try new things, like changing the angles at which they’re oriented which affects the dimensionality and shadows. I’ve been playing around with negative space in these painting as well which has been fun.
Out of all the pieces that you’ve created, do you have a personal favorite (or) one that has meant the most to you as an artist?
My favorite painting was recently sold, the one that got away ?. It was the first Hydrangea painting I did with a palette knife..It solidified my confidence in my style and my work. Another painting that I love is a large painting of pink Peonies. This painting gave me confidence in my abilities. I was so happy with the outcome and thought if I can paint fluffy Peonies with a palette knife I can paint any flower. Roses gave me a run for my money but I tackled them in the end. So far so good!!
One of your upcoming July shows is at the Shain Gallery here in Charlotte. What do you enjoy the most about working with Sybil and team?
Actually that has changed. I’m no longer participating in the July show which is an invitational to artists outside the gallery. They’ve made me a permanent artist. So I will be participating in a show in August with the other represented artists.
I have had the best experience working with the Shain Gallery. Whenever I walk into the gallery, I’m greeted with a warm hug. I feel right at home with my fellow N.C. girls. Sybil has been so gracious to me. She gave me a chance and believed in my work. Something I will never forget and undervalue. Eli is also amazing to work with. She is always so responsive to me and is so kind whenever I talk to her or see her. I feel very taken care of and they’re always there if I have questions or concerns. And the gallery they’ve built is just amazing. They have the most talented artists around. Each bringing something unique to the gallery. I am so honored to be a part of their family.
Keep up with Christie Younger through the following links…
All photos in this post are provided by Christie Younger.