Focusing on Florals


Emily Brown 


Rose Blossoms, 2010, sumi ink and acrylic on paper, 66” x 46” 


Jean Kigel 


Tip Toe Through the Tulips, 2014, Asian brush painting on Japanese shikishi board, 16” x 12” 


Summer Bouquet in Green Bowl, 2014, watercolor on Arches paper, 29” x 41” 


Susan Headley Van Campen 

 June 2015



Using lightweight media such as ink, acrylics, and watercolor, Emily Brown, Jean Kigel, and Susan Headley Van Campen create exquisite portraits of flowers that abound with liveliness. Surrounded by large areas of negative space, the flowers—from diaphanous petals to voluptuous blooms— are in full focus.


Emily Brown

Emily Brown lives and works in Montville. She has participated in solo and group exhibitions at venues such as the Portland Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland, Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, Icon Contemporary Art in Brunswick, and Star Gallery in Northeast Harbor. Her work is on view through July 26 at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania in an exhibition called Artists in the Garden. 

Brown works in several media, including ink drawing, painting, and collage. Her drawings, mostly monochromatic, are delicate renderings of flowers and foliage, tree trunks and undergrowth. Rather than meticulously reproducing what she sees, Brown offers an impressionistic view of the natural world. She often works from a small field behind her home, “drawing or painting as things happen.” She works on larger pieces in the studio, using a piece of watercolor paper she cuts from a wide roll and tacks onto a wall, where she can ponder the possibilities before starting. “I am a Quaker, used to silent reflection,” she says. “It’s important for me to let thoughts and impressions converge a while, then settle. I want to be both energetic and peaceful.” That tension manifests itself in her drawings: her marks are full of vitality, but the subtlety of tones and the calm areas of negative space impart a feeling of repose. 

Rose Blossoms was drawn from an arbor in her backyard. “I had made a very large monochromatic piece, quite solid with foliage and blooms,” she says. But as a contrast, Brown wanted to make a piece with fewer blossoms and a touch of color. Pink acrylic contrasts beautifully with dark ink in Rose Blossoms, and each variation in hue is made more impactful by Brown’s smart use of negative space. The blossoms seem to float on a summer breeze. Whereas the topmost rose is well defined, the roses at the bottom of the piece are loosely sketched, reinforcing the windswept effect.


Jean Kigel

Jean Kigel was born in Rockland, and she currently lives and works on Muscongus Bay. An award- winning member of the Sumi-e Society of America, Kigel’s work has been included in exhibitions throughout Maine, Vermont, New York, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. She has taught workshops at the University of Southern Maine and Maine College of Art in Portland, Round Top Center for the Arts in Damariscotta, and Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. Kigel is represented by Archipelago Fine Art in Rockland, Art Collector Maine, and Hunter Gallery in Vermont. 

Kigel, a master of Asian brush painting, discovered the medium after a 10-year career in watercolor painting and traveled to Japan and China to study the delicate art. Kigel was captivated by the medium’s “spontaneity and use of negative space.” Applying the same techniques to the flora and fauna of Maine’s midcoast, she brings a sense of “exotica” to familiar scenes. To create her paintings, Kigel applies a generous amount of pigment and ink to bamboo brushes and then makes “spontaneous blended strokes on highly absorbent rice paper,” she explains. In keeping with tradition, Kigel grinds her own inks and signs her pieces with a chop, a carved soapstone stamp, in red ink. 

In Tip Toe Through the Tulips, leaves of deep emerald green curve and reach across the paper like the lithe limbs of dancers. Soft petals of blushing pink and rich red form the plant’s glorious crown. Painted en plein air in her garden, Tip Toe Through the Tulips exemplifies Kigel’s love of nature, “its irregularities and excess, its cycles of growth, decay, and death.” “Painting flowers makes me feel a kinship with nature,” she says. Since she does not make any preliminary drawings, Kigel’s process is one of serendipity. Her graceful handling of the paint results in a simple, elegant rendering that invites quiet contemplation.


Susan Headley Van Campen

Susan Headley Van Campen studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She has participated in many exhibitions, at galleries including Hirschl and Adler Modern in New York City, Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Massachusetts, Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, and Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia. She is represented by Hirschl and Adler Modern and Dowling Walsh Gallery. Brown has taught several classes and workshops throughout Maine and Pennsylvania, and will be teaching a watercolor workshop in July at Rock Gardens Inn at Sebasco Estates. 

When she was growing up, Van Campen’s family “was very supportive of the arts,” she recalls. Her mother’s half-brother, George Ault, was a Precisionist painter whose works graced the walls of Van Campen’s family home. Artistic propensities run in the family even today: Van Campen’s husband, Tim, is an artist and designer, and daughters Molly and Greta are an interior designer and artist, respectively. It is not surprising, then, that Van Campen’s pursuits are centered around the home. “I work in a studio that’s right next to my kitchen,” she says. “My passions are painting, cooking, and gardening. I flit from one to the next all day long, every day.” The subjects of her still lifes come from her garden. “It can sometimes be a frenzy of chaos on my counter,” she admits, “but when I am arranging and painting there’s calm and concentration.” In the winter she paints the landscape outside her window. But she is always prepared “for last-minute jaunts outside,” even when the weather is not particularly clement. 

Van Campen is greatly inspired by nature: “Capturing a moment and simplifying it is what I strive for. I love to paint alone,” she says. “Having that oneness with nature energizes and rejuvenates me.” Summer Bouquet in a Green Bowl captures a beautiful arrangement of flowers at the height of freshness. Surrounded by an expanse of blank paper, each crisp leaf and soft petal is in sharp focus. Her composition is well balanced, with a pleasing mix of foliage and colorful blooms throughout, anchored by the translucent globular vase. Cleverly utilizing the bright white of the paper, Van Campen has left areas in the vase where the light reflects. Her colors blend seamlessly, giving an overall airbrushed effect.



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