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Arkansas 180: Capturing the Ordinary Layer by Layer

Arkansas 180: Capturing the Ordinary Layer by Layer

Laura Terry: I think that it is so important that a student be connected physically to their work.

Laura Terry lives and paints on a wooded hillside in the Ozarks. Just half an hour away at the University of Arkansas – and sometimes half a world away in Rome – she introduces architecture students to the art of developing and conveying their design ideas through hand rendering.

Laura Terry: We spent one whole studio period, 4 hours, working on these drawings and they were at that point really imagining the space because the space wasn’t designed yet. And one student in particular, when she finally got her design completed and was able to build a digital model of it in the computer and render it with a lighting program, the space that the computer rendered and the space that she had drawn four weeks earlier were almost identical. My opinion of that is because she drew it first, she knew it, and therefore was able to design it and make it happen.

Back in her own studio, Terry says her work borrows structure from her study of architecture.

Laura Terry: The way I paint is architectural because I work in layers. Every color has its own layer and its own identity, and the process of layering these colors and then physically sanding away with a palm sander kind of removes some of those layers taking me back to the very first or second or third layer. So I think in that respect it’s similar to the process of designing where we ask our students to work kind of layer by layer, and you build up the design over, you know, a course of many layers, not just the first idea.

Terry paints landscapes, often stressing the ordinary plants and natural forms she sees on her land.

Laura Terry: I use a lot of framed views of either close ups of a field or in some cases simultaneously a very distance of a field…Also the winter landscape, because everything is revealed when the trees are stripped bare and you see their structure.

Just as Terry asks her students to break away from the comfortable, familiar world of computers, she asks herself to break away from familiar patterns in her own painting.

Laura Terry: For the last probably five years I’ve been working almost exclusively in a square format and I have realized lately that that’s gotten a bit easy for me — that I’m using a lot of the same tricks every time to create a composition. And so with this new series of paintings that I’m about to start I moving to a rectangular format.

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