• Stephanie Mummert

Letting Go

The plein air painting workshop I took in Sheridan in August-September led right into two oil painting classes in October-November, which I couldn’t resist signing up for. Weather and circumstances prevented me from attending two of the five sessions, but I still learned SO much that I came away convinced I had gotten my money’s worth. Jenny Wuerther is an amazing artist and exceptional teacher, and I am blessed to have been under her tutoring.

Even though I’ve been studying and progressing (hopefully) over the last ten years, the Introduction to Oil Painting class offered new insights and techniques that I would not have otherwise learned on my own. We worked on several still life settings, which had never been my forte of choice (there was no "story"), and Jenny taught us how to look deep into subjects for underlying colors, colors that without intense scrutiny would seem flat and ordinary. So, the story became that of Instruction, the plot thickening with practice events and climaxing at a new understanding.

I learned to study every area of my subject and train my eye to draw out what lies beneath. For

instance, black isn’t just black. It can hold within it shades of blue and purple in shadow…pink and gold in light, something I knew academically but really didn’t know how to “see” and convey truthfully on my canvas.

Still Life Instruction

I also learned to put the paint down and let it work, applying complimentary colors side by side so they play off one another, and my paintings started looking like paintings – not pictures. In one class Jenny instructed me to drop in a bold swipe of a cool, purple shadow on a warm, brown vase. She gasped at the interaction of color and asked excitedly, “Did you feel that?!” I laughed, but truth was, I did.

I got it. I wasn’t making it up anymore – but was actually searching for and finding true color and painting it with intention, loosening up my brush strokes and boldly dropping in chromas blended with a new knowledge. This fell right in line with my recent experimentation with the palette knife where I was learning to let the paint do the talking, not blending or “licking” it as Jenny would say, but laying it down and letting it go. Knowing when to walk away. It was ground breaking for me and the invigoration in the studio grew tenfold.

In the Advanced Oil Painting class, Jenny had us focus on creating a series. The assignment required us to paint four pieces that have something in common – either a theme or a style, or in the best scenario, both. At first, I didn’t know what I was going to paint, or even how I was going to paint it. But I knew I wanted to move forward with this impressionistic style I was falling deeper in love with. And then, one night around midnight, it hit me and I couldn’t get back to sleep for hours. My eyes flung wide open and I stared into the darkness as the insights and images coursed through my mental vision: Children. And not portraits of children…but their actions. Their purity. Views from behind as if to portray the charge of watching them in the dynamics of life and learning, and then also to symbolize the inevitable event when we have to let them go to make their own choices and utilize what we have taught them. My series is called “Watching Them Grow, Letting Them Go” and each painting has its own title within the group: Love, Joy, Exploration and Learning.

These were painted during a time where I, too, was letting go of some of my immaturity as an artist, applying what I had learned and taking a confident step into my own creative future.

And now I wonder: how hard will it be to let go of the paintings?



It occurred to me after completing the assignment that I had started this series earlier this year when I painted my granddaughter dancing in her Easter dress. Coincidence? I think not..

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