Two artists, two states, one canvas, and one acclaimed painting. You might have recently seen a write-up on their collaboration in the Spy. It was an idea neither artist expected would happen.
Jill Basham from Trappe and Southern California’s Kim VanDerHoek met at an Easton Plein Air event almost a decade ago. Each admired the other’s work—both the similarities (including their preference for aerial views of landscapes) and differences. VanDerHoek is more of a textural artist, referring to her style as ‘loud.’ On the other hand, Basham prefers capturing the softer, subtler moments. Couldn’t the meshing of the two types, they wondered, create an interesting outcome?
The decision to design one painting came about as their challenge and an opportunity for growth. “It meant,” said VanDerHoek, “not silencing or obliterating the other person’s voice stylistically. It’s easy to let your ego take over, but that’s where the mutual respect and admiration of one another’s work is so important.”
As was reported, the painting, started by Basham using a photo of D. C. as reference, was then sent to VanDerHoek, who added her artistic talents. Having agreed not to share progress, the nearly completed painting was returned to Basham for a final edit. “When I opened the box, it literally took my breath away,” she said. That moment is captured in a video. The 24”x36” painting is now on display and available for sale at Trippe Gallery in Easton.
As exciting as this collaboration was, VanDerHoek and Basham are now back to creating their own paintings. They each admit that the partnership was well worth the effort and allowed them to reflect on their careers and how this experience has changed them.
For VanDerHoek, thoughts about becoming an artist started when she was a child and was reinforced in high school. In college, she majored in fine arts, worked as a graphic designer, then took time off after her son was born. It was then that she discovered Plein air. “It was something I could do and not worry about him getting into my supplies,” she said. “It didn’t take very long for me to realize that that was the career path I’d always wanted to take.”
Contrast that to Basham’s path, one that she considers a ‘late start.’ “I was a social worker and then a transportation planner for a while. It was not something I cared much about, so instead, I stayed home and raised four kids. When my youngest was in third or fourth grade, I signed up for a drawing class at the Academy Art Museum and then went on to take classes in painting. That’s when I got that ‘aha’ moment and knew this was exactly what I wanted to do. It still gives me goosebumps.”
Despite their focus on painting, both Basham and VanDerHoek learned they had different ways of starting a project. For VanDerHoek, it’s a matter of finding or inventing something with a strong design that will keep the viewer engaged. She prefers to paint on wood panels and uses different tools such as squeegees, brushes, and a palette knife to add layers of paint that will give her both the soft, quieter passages and the bold textural areas. “Unlike Jill,” she said, “I work on one painting at a time. I wish I could work on more, but I have to finish one before starting another, or it loses momentum, and I’ll never return to it.”
To Basham, her ability to work on several paintings is something she feels is ‘undisciplined.’ “I have 20 paintings going on at once,” she said. “I really don’t have a process for a beginning. Sometimes I’ll use a photo reference, or I’ll just start with a design and look for the abstract strength of that design. I might turn the canvas and see what I see. And then start creating a memory of a landscape that comes to mind.”
Although they may not always agree on how to start a painting, they are more aligned in knowing when to stop. “I’ll add five details and take a step back,” said VanDerHoek. “If the painting isn’t any better, then it’s time to stop. I’m just adding unnecessary detail.”
Basham said to her it’s all about time. “I need to sit with it and let it breathe. We, artists, tend to want to keep on painting, but that will just end up potentially distracting or detracting from the overall quality of the work.”
Both artists welcome any additional collaboration knowing it will depend on the commitments each has made to their respective careers. For now, Basham’s thoughts are on teaching workshops at the Academy Art Museum while supplying galleries with her work.
VanDerHoek admits to life getting in the way at the moment, consuming her better intentions to spend more time painting. She knows it’s all temporary, though. “This is, after all, still a job. You must still show up and create work. You still have deadlines.” Deadlines which include shows and art festival events.
Like all Plein air artists, they are preparing for the season. “I love painting at our Plein air. It’s something I always look forward to. It will even be more special in 2024, which will be their 20th anniversary.”W
VanDerHoek is particularly looking forward to coming back to Easton. “Easton has done a huge amount for me as an artist. Besides friendships with other artists like Jill, it has helped me advance my painting style and fostered a love of the area, the landscape, and the supportive art community. That’s been significant and impactful for me.”