The Journal continues the once-a-month series “From the Studio” with Kathaleen Roberts, as she takes an up-close look at an artist.
Placitas artist Colleen Gregoire captures the intimate whimsy of porches in oils.
The welcoming architecture, sometimes laced with touches of gingerbread, have drawn her to paint them since she lived in Kansas before moving to New Mexico two years ago. She shows her work at Placitas’ Wild Hearts Gallery.
Gregoire describes her vibrant compositions as “a spiritual sense of home.”
Sprinkled with touches like seashells, baskets and pottery, they offer portraits of domesticity in snapshots.
“I love the welcoming space they offer,” she said. “I have found a beautiful freedom in creating compositions of the architecture.”
She likens her creations to the actions of a stage manager directing a set.
Gregoire sometimes knits her memories of Kansas Victoriana with the hills and vistas surrounding her home studio. She’ll place Talavera pottery on a Placitas porch or add juniper-dotted hills to a background.
“There’s always different ways to combine things,” she said.
Gregoire grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, where she developed a life-long love for the landscape. Painting plein air (outdoors), she studied the changing seasons around the Flint Hills and the surrounding farmland. The porches and verandas of the 19th and 20th centuries beckoned. Experiencing New Mexico through a newcomer’s eyes provided a new energy to her paintings.
Her parents were both musical and her mother regularly provided her with notebooks, paints and markers from the time she reached elementary school. She began private lessons with a local teacher.
“It was really basic training,” Gregoire said. “You had to do drawings at first. Then we were introduced to watercolor. Some of those techniques I still use today.
“Even at an early age, it was an urge; it was a need.”
When she reached the University of Kansas, she felt “ahead of the game.”
“By the time I got to graduate school, I really enjoyed teaching,” she added.
She cites the artist Edward Hopper as a major influence for his placement of figures in architectural settings.
“I don’t get as moody as he does and I don’t put people in my work,” she said. “But I like his approach to settings in peoples’ lives. I really like looking a Impressionist work as well. (Pierre) Bonnard, his focus on the intricacies of a kitchen table.”
She taught at the University of Kansas and at Baker University before cutting back to raise a family.
“I stepped away from a desk job at United Way,” she added. “I wanted to be more of a mom and an artist.”
She still joins two plein air groups to capture the New Mexico landscape and recently juried into the MasterWorks of New Mexico art show slated for March 26-April 16 at Expo New Mexico.
“I still have a real love for the landscape,” she said. “But the porch paintings are like an itch that won’t go away.”