Her ladies personify the power of simplicity. She’s inspired by classic design elements and all things vintage.
We first saw Charleston, SC-based artist, Whitney Stoddard’s paintings at the Shain Gallery’s Paper Show earlier this year, and were so excited to find out that Whitney will now be represented by the Shain Gallery. Whitney’s work featured tea stained paper, a process that the artist has perfected over the years and features vintage inspired abstract portrait created with a combination of charcoal and graphite sketch, acrylic paint and India ink. Whitney’s work definitely has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that we love to see in artwork and we look forward to the new pieces that will be coming to Charlotte.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I was always creative as a child, but in more of a Type A way. I’m the rare “Type A” creative… My love for drawing and painting never left me as I grew up, but I truly never thought I would be able to make a career out of it, which is why I have a graduate degree in something verrrrrrryyyy different.
What is a typical day in your studio like? I usually get into my studio pretty early in the morning, after I drop my daughter off at school.
My studio is kind of crazy because we’re located in the heart of King Street, so we constantly have people walking in and out. It’s a very fun and vibrant place to create! I stay at my downtown studio until its time to pick up my daughter from school, then I head home to my home studio to finish pieces & projects I’m working on, return emails, etc.
You live in the beautiful city of Charleston, SC. How do your surroundings inspire you?
Charleston is a constant inspiration for me. This city is so unique because of its historical presence, but also because of its lively atmosphere. My work has a strong vintage-inspired feeling, which I think can certainly be credited to living in such a beautifully aged city. I also use local products to create most of my pieces (tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation), so I feel extremely connected to this amazing place.
Before you create a new piece, you tea stain your watercolor paper first. Tell me about the process.
Yes! Tea staining is a very long and intricate process, which can sometimes take up to a month to create the perfect piece! As I mentioned before, I use tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation and usually have huge containers of tea taking up all the space in my refrigerator. I stain each individual piece of paper by hand until I get the desired saturation and design. It’s certainly an involved process!
To create your ‘ladies’ you use a combination of charcoal, graphite, acrylic paint and India ink. What do you enjoy most about work with these particular mediums?
I tend to sketch with graphite, which allows me to lay out my thoughts in a loose way, then use charcoal to make some more permanent lines. I finish with either acrylic paint or India ink, sometimes depending on the saturation of the paper. The more saturated, the more the paper soaks up whatever I’m using. Although sometimes I have moments of a “happy accident,” there’s really no room for error on most of my pieces, so I have to be extremely careful!
I love the classic yet vintage look of the ladies you paint. What inspired you to choose this subject in particular?
I’ve always been told I’m an old soul. My fascination with vintage fashion and photography really led me into creating some of my most classic ladies. As for my abstract busts, I love a good vintage ‘hair-do’.
Along with portraits, you also have pieces that feature beautiful gowns. Is there a particular designer whose creations inspire you?
I’m constantly inspired by different fashion designers! The more couture- the better! I really believe any designer who captures the perfect balance between femininity and drama tends to steal my heart. I always love a good Oscar de la Renta moment, and Christian Siriano has such a fresh and fun perspective!
Do you have a piece that has held special meaning to you personally?
I painted an abstract portrait of my daughter and me that hangs in our house. I love seeing it everyday…I remember the exact moment the photo was taken- it was such a special day.
You create one of kind pieces including commissions based on vintage photographs. Do you ever get to hear the stories about the people you’ve painted?
I actually always ask my clients commissioning portraits, to tell me some specific things about the people they are having painted. I spend a lot of time with these people, so I like to know their names & a few sweet stories about them…it makes me feel more connected in some weird way.
Your work was recently part of the Paper Show at the Shain Gallery. What did you enjoy most about working with Sybil and Eli before the show?
Sybil and Eli are the BEST! They are super supportive of all their artists, which is so important. I have loved working with them and have just signed on to be represented at Shain year-round, so I will have some NEW pieces headed to Charlotte soon!
You can follow along with Whitney through links below.