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Acrylics in action

In Lucy Warnick's opinion, acrylic is the happy medium. "Acrylic has everything I think is good about watercolor, plus everything I love about oil," says the Medford artist. "You can paint over a surface and develop it with texture and bring out a surface like impasto, or you can do something spontaneous and fluid as you would with watercolor."

Warnick started painting at the University of Illinois and continued to study art at Oregon State University before graduating from the University of Oregon in 1974 with a bachelor's in fine art. She has been painting professionally ever since.

Watercolor artist Nelson Sandgren, formerly a teacher at OSU, mentored Warnick for many years. Every year, Sandgren, Warnick and dozens of other plein air artists would go to the coast for two weeks of painting. Coastal landscapes provided endless possibilities for the artists with its ever-changing subject matter.

Although Sandgren has since died, Warnick continues to make this annual trip with Sandgren's son, Erik, and a handful of other artists. However, Warnick has long since switched from watercolor and oils to predominantly acrylics.

"I got tired of putting things behind glass because it seemed to be a kind of barrier," she says.

Warnick finds working in plein air lends itself to a more spontaneous, less-tight painting, and she loves the motion of a natural landscape, especially rivers.

"I like the movement of the water, and the way it relates to the movement of the light and sky overhead," she says.

She makes an exception for still lifes, because she still gets to work with a true subject but in the warmth of her studio.

Despite her affinity for acrylics and the outdoors, her paintings are variable.

Some paintings feature soft tonalities and some, particularly the seascapes, are bold and contrasting. Sometimes she pre-draws her subject, and sometimes the drawing is only implied. Many of her paintings border on abstract while others imitate French impressionists.

"My abstract work develops in the studio," she says. "On location, I tend to be more literal because I love the literal truth of the outdoors."

In the end, however, the ultimate player in her work is light.

"The beauty of painting outdoors is you're very much influenced by the true light," she says. "Sometimes the paintings end up being soft and sometimes there's more contrast."

Warnick's work is on display in her husband's cabinet shop, Cabinet Solutions, 315 N. Bartlett St., Medford. Last year, Warnick was the featured member artist in September and October at the Rogue Gallery & Art Center, where she served as director from 1979 to 1981.

To view more of her work, see www.lucywarnick.com.

'Rogue River at Denman' (acrylic) by Lucy Warnick