Megan Hinton, Jan Roy, and Hannah Bureau paint abstract, atmospheric views. Employing geometric forms and defined brushwork as well as rich layers of paint, these artists are able to achieve well-balanced compositions enlivened by color and texture.
For Hinton, art was an essential part of growing up. “My mother, Anne Hinton, is an interior designer specializing in fabrics and textiles. She is also a skillful seamstress,” she says. “I grew up, because of her influence, looking at art history, design, and color theory books.” A frequent visitor of museums, Hinton also attended painting and drawing classes from an early age. This intensive exposure to art during her formative years proved to be a tremendous influence on Hinton’s educational and professional aspirations. While pursuing her bachelor and master of fine arts degrees, Hinton combined her interest in art history with her passion for studio work. She learned about the masters of modern art who became inspirations for her own work. Living on the coast also provides Hinton with a wealth of inspiration. “I’m responding to things I like to look at and the intimate connection I have with them in my environment,” she says.
Ether Trip is part of a series in which Hinton paints flocks of birds flying through the coastal landscape. “I enjoy watching a flock moving through the sky,” she says. “It’s a brief moment that conveys a beautiful movement and vitality.” The vertical orientation of the painting and the upward sweep of Hinton’s brushstrokes emphasize the expansive blue sky and graceful arc of the birds in flight. Hinton works with many media but is primarily an oil painter. “I use oils for their high quality and refined color,” she says. “I like the various transparencies and opacities that come from different pigments.” She likes to build up layers of paint dry on dry, allowing some of the underpainting to show through to give her work dimension and depth. Her paintings are influenced by the process itself, in that it “transforms the landscape into a unique image that only painting can capture,” she explains. By focusing on the painterly aspects of a piece, such as “loose brushwork and nonlocal color,” the subject becomes abstracted, as in Ether Trip. Hinton notes that the piece’s ambiguous title and simplified composition allows viewers “to have a unique interpretation of the work.”
Growing up in rural Connecticut afforded Roy plenty of time “to fantasize and dream,” she says. Her childhood realm of woods and fields provided her with opportunity to exercise her imagination and sparked her wanderlust. Watching planes overhead, Roy would daydream about their exotic destinations. “I very much wanted to see the world,” she recalls. This, as well as her mother’s influence, set Roy on the path to becoming an artist. She began her career as a printmaker, with solo exhibitions in far-flung destinations that as a child she could only imagine, like Paris, Tokyo, and Rome. “After 30 successful years of that, I wanted to focus more on texture and melding of colors and less on the mechanical aspects of printmaking, so I turned to painting,” says Roy. Lately, she prefers to keep her options open when beginning a painting, setting out with no definite plan in mind. “I lay down color, then more color; I scrape away to reveal new color that was hiding,” says Roy. “The boundaries are totally open and I can go anywhere. There is a wonderful feeling of freedom.” Her adventurous, curious spirit allows her to access a world of possibilities. “My main inspiration is a desire to transport myself to someplace else,” she says.
With Ladder Store, Roy transports herself—and viewers—to Morocco. Roy describes her memory of the raw beauty of the scene that inspired the piece: “Down this dirt lane was a place selling ladders made out of scavenged wood, beautifully crooked and uneven.” She does not work from photos, preferring to convey emotion through her memories of a particular place or event. “There was no sea beyond, no tanker moving along the horizon,” she explains. “And the ladders were probably bare wood, but somehow the color moved in. I like to tell a story not the way it happened, but the way I remember it.” Layers of pigment and small details, such as the scrollwork on the wall, evoke the textures of Morocco, establishing a sense of place. The bright-hued ladders stand out from the more subdued tones of the background, their strong forms anchoring the composition.
Coming from a creative family gave Bureau a fervent appreciation of the visual arts. “My mother and grandmother’s work hung on every wall along with art by my father and grandfather, who were both architects,” she says. Bureau frequently visited museums with her family, and spent time in her grandmother’s summer studio. “These influences were so important to my development as an artist, and also gave me a great foundation in art history,” she explains. By studying with masters of contemporary art Jon Imber and Eric Aho, Bureau further solidified her education in the arts. Working with oils allows Bureau to mix pigments freely, achieving rich tones that alternate between warm and cool. “I work to keep the immediacy of mark-making: to splatter and drip and be very spontaneous,” she says. “Oil painting feels a bit out of control and free for me, very much like my day-to-day life—a beautiful mess.”
Bureau is less interested in representation than she is in simplification. “I love to reproduce a subject from memory,” she says. Primarily a landscape painter, Bureau begins pieces en plein air, making careful observations of light, color, and atmosphere. In the studio, however, she focuses on “the marks and information that feel essential,” so the painting does not become “bogged down by adhering too strongly to direct representation,” she says. The warm palette and abstracted forms of Beach Day evoke the “washed out” light and blissful calm of the seashore. “The painting is serene, but movement, rhythm, and patterning activate it,” says Bureau. The background is dominated by large blocks of color, while smaller, vigorous brushstrokes in bolder hues populate the foreground. This creates a distinct spatial tension, enhancing the painting’s sense of atmosphere.