A crowd gathered at the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown last Sunday evening to see an exhibition and award ceremony for two artists, Anna Lowely Finnerty and Nancy Walton. The award was a gift from Patricia Ternes, widow of artist and teacher Bill Ternes, who died in 2014.
Bill had exhibited his watercolors on the Island at my gallery, Hermine Merel Smith Fine Art, since 1983, and began teaching watercolor workshops soon after. He spent a week here every June and September, painting with his ever-expanding group of students, many of whom also traveled to his January workshop in the Bahamas. Some of Bill’s paintings from these trips hang on one of the gallery’s walls.
Pat Ternes’ request was that the gift be awarded to an artist or artists who best represented Bill’s spirit in their work. Sheila Hoerle asked me and Nancy Kingsley, an artist who painted with Bill and who is active at Featherstone, to choose from several artists who were new members of the Sculpin Art Association.
Anyone who attended Bill’s workshops will remember his opening speech on the first day of his workshop, his three qualities of a successful work of art: good design, technical skill, and the spirit of the painting. The last was the most important, the elusive quality that animated a skillfully rendered and designed surface into something special, something unique and true. That speech never failed to move me. Bill speaking those words was the image that guided me as Nancy and I looked at paintings and made our choices.
One of the most striking characteristics of a Bill Ternes painting is its overall brightness. Bill was a master of color and values. Indeed, whenever a painting wasn’t working, he always advised students to “check your values.” He was always right. I still hear him in my head making that comment, when I feel that something isn’t quite right, and I look anew to lighten or darken an area in my painting.
Anna Finnerty is a pastelist. She revels in the breadth of choices of colors, the purity of pigments, the reflective qualities of pastels, how they sit on the surface, how they build upon and against one another. Her value contrasts are spot-on, patterns of lights and darks that shimmer across her worked surfaces. Her paintings are of Island landscapes and seascapes, familiar vistas and roiling waves.
Although a painter of landscapes, she prefers to work inside her living room/studio with tables full of her pastels laid out all to hand. Photographs serve as notes, as starting points. Anna studied painting and photography at Hampshire College. Her design background serves her well, as one of the strengths of her work is composition, strongly placed images that lead the viewer into and through her paintings. Unexpected placement of objects and colors delights the eye. I especially admired those pleasurable discoveries in her winter paintings of snow-covered fields, whites made up of multi-hued lights and shadows, and the expanses of summer-green fields touched with dashes of blue-purple marks that heightened their “greenness.”
Besides her membership in the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association, Anna is a juried member of the Pastel Society of America, and a member of Pastel Painters Society of Cape Cod.
Nancy Walton’s medium is watercolor. In fact, she took a watercolor workshop in Sherborn with Bill Ternes. Her subjects are landscape and still life, as were Bill’s. She teaches watercolor painting during the school year in Needham and Dedham. Among her professional memberships, she is a Master Member of the Copley Society, a Signature Member of the New England Watercolor Society, and a Master Artist of the Cape Cod Art Association.
She says she begins with “a two-inch wash brush” to lay in her composition, not to get too tight from the start. Her paintings range from softly colored to strong, straight-out-of-the-tube intensity, wet into wet, bleeding edges to hard edges of color that are razor-sharp. Some of the paintings are “all-over” compositions of wooded landscapes, while others leave the brightness of the white paper underneath to sharpen the contrast between the paper and the colored images. This time of year while Nancy is here on the Vineyard, her paintings are of the beaches and Island locations that are part of her daily perambulations. One of the non-landscape paintings in the Old Sculpin show is of hosta leaves painted right off the edges of the paper in subtle variations of greens.
In making her presentation of the awards, Sheila Hoerle, representing the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association and the Old Sculpin, commented that the two artists were “chosen because you have the spirit and the freshness” that was so much a part of everything Bill Ternes touched his brush to. “Bill was so sure when he put down his colors,” she said.
The exhibition will remain up through the week. It affords an opportunity to observe the work of a wonderful painter and teacher alongside the work of two artists who have taken his lessons to heart.