WHITNEY KNAPP BOWDITCH
Relatively new to Richmond, VA, but well-known to collectors around the world, Whitney Knapp Bowditch is an amazing artist with a honed talent for using a palette knife to bring nature to life on a canvas. I was first introduced to Whitney through a friend who enthusiastically suggested that I would not only love her work, but that I would love getting to know Whitney (and how could I not, given that we share a name).
I distinctly remember the first time Whitney and I chatted well over a year ago. Eagerly listening to Whitney’s story as I chased my new puppy around the backyard, I can easily recall the bright blue sky and the light breeze of an early Fall day, taking notice of each environmental element as Whitney shared her journey into art. When Whitney spoke about how nature influences her work, I started to notice things a little differently – the sky was not just blue, it was a combination of colors that I had not fully appreciated. The leaves on the trees not just green, but a blended palette of burnt umber and cadmium yellow. That first conversation with Whitney opened my eyes to her view of the world and elicited a true respect for how Whitney flawlessly captures these moments and transcribes them with a palette knife into beautiful works of art.
Through continued conversations, studio visits, pop up shows in Richmond, and painting experiences, Whitney and I have enjoyed many conversations about life, dogs, and of course art. Whitney is one of the kindest women I have met – you know, the friend who would drive across town to share a cup of sugar or bring you chicken noodle soup.
Deeply rooted in her faith, Whitney’s kindness shows up in who she is and the work that she creates. A self-proclaimed introvert who can easily spend hours alone in her studio is also a skilled teacher, confidently standing in classrooms sharing her expertise. When facilitating a painting experience with a group of women (who desire to explore their creativity but will likely never become professional artists), Whitney is able to see something special in each of their creations, pointing out the success within the work while gently offering input on how to make the piece stronger, a color richer, or even suggesting to let it rest – all lessons from an artist about making art and living a fulfilled life.
Whitney paints to share her awe of Creation — the land, the sea, and the sky. Painting provides a unique way to translate the ever-changing landscape, which for Whitney is always a vast and inspiring subject. From a more technical standpoint, Whitney explores perceptual elements like color, value, and edge while constructing an image. She is also intrigued by the physicality of oil paint, and its infinite potential for the development of surface quality.
Visiting with Whitney in her studio, I got a sneak peak into Whitney’s mind and space. Tucked in the back of a local framing store, Whitney is surrounded by her creations and a table full of colorful palettes, the wet oil paints shining under the soft light. Pinned up around the room are Whitney’s paintings, big and small in varying stages of development and on the easel, a large canvas with the beginnings of an ocean wave. The first layers coming to life as deep blues mix with soft whites of the ocean foam. Looking at this piece, you can almost smell the salty air and feel the spray of a crashing wave. Whitney is skilled with a palette knife (always traveling with her favorite one) capturing the realities of nature in vivid color and layers of texture. In her studio, I observed Whitney’s natural ability to use the flat metal surface of a palette knife to create the minute details in a skyscape. Having worked side by side with Whitney, I know that using a palette knife is not easy, but Whitney has mastered the technique making it look like a mere extension of her hand– wielding paint across the canvas in a soft skipping motion, leaving dabs of color as she goes.
Taking thousands of photos as inspiration, Whitney is able to enhance the colors we see in every day life and translate them to art that is beyond stunning. The colors are vivid. The strokes are strong. The layers of texture giving each scene depth and richness that is often brighter than real life. Whether she is creating a soft sunset, the deep colors of the morning sky, broad yellowing corn fields, or hidden pump houses each piece Whitney creates brings the natural world to a crisper view.
See below for more our conversation and follow Whitney on instagram @whitneyknappbowditchstudio.
You can find some of Whitney's amazing art right here! These pieces will be available for the month of November.
When did your journey into art begin?
My love for painting began twenty years ago when I was in high school. My art teacher at the time suggested that I study the visual arts in college. I began looking at schools that had strong art programs, and spent a summer at Skidmore College taking Advance Placement Art classes. After that experience I was confident that I had found my direction, and went on to earn a BFA and an MFA in painting.
How has your work changed over the past couple of years?
My paintings have become much more vibrant and textured, which is largely due to my shift in technique. I began painting with a knife and absolutely fell in love with the freedom that it provided me. It was the answer to a number of technical problems, and enabled me to move away from my literal mindedness to a more abstract application.
When you are creatively stuck, what do you do?
I force myself to go to the studio! I keep a file on my desktop called “to paint” and I’ll flip through images until I see something in a photo that inspires me. It may not be the entire image - it could be as simple as a color relationship that will initiate a spark.
Music, snacking, and coffee are also tremendously helpful to me! Oftentimes after I eat or turn on music, my energy will shift and I’ll feel much more inspired.
What is one of your biggest challenges as an artist?
It’s difficult to pick just one! Battling self-doubt is a huge challenge for me as a painter. So much of my work is made in isolation, so it can be particularly difficult to feel confident about my output without the feedback from other painters.
Another significant challenge is balancing all the administrative aspects of being a full-time painter, while still having significant time to create, and managing a well-rounded personal life and a clean house.