Bringing local color to Artfest’s palette
Local watercolor artists share their methods and muses
HUNTLEY – When the second annual Huntley Artfest sets up shop at the First Congregational Church of Huntley, it will proudly feature some of the brightest artists the village has to offer.
The festival, which takes place August 18-19 at the intersection of Church and Main streets in downtown Huntley, features artists from across the Midwest. But three artists from Huntley ensure the festival will be splashed with local color.
Phyllis Allen, N.3, is the sole artist from Sun City participating this year. A watercolor artist and sculptor, she finds inspiration from everything she sees, but her background in teaching biology cultivated a passion for painting flowers.
Originally from Dwight, IL, Allen said she loves to drive out to the country and occasionally will stop to take photos of scenes that inspire her.
“I came from a rural town, and I love Illinois,” she said. “And I love it up here because of the little hills that we have.”
One object that often catches her eye is a barn.
“I used to paint barns all the time. When I lived in Des Plaines, I painted barns,” she said. “They seem to be a favorite subject matter, even with suburbanites.”
The inspiration Allen finds from barns does not just come from nostalgia.
Church and Main streets in downtown Huntley
August 18, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
August 19, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
“I went from being really interested [in] cool and warm [colors] next to each other to light and dark because in barn wood, you can use the cool and the warm, the blue and the browns, and the cool and the warm browns, and that just intrigued me so much to paint barn wood,” she said.
As Allen mentioned, she now focuses on light in her paintings and how light is represented on the subject of the image. Her paintings make this evident with their defined highlights and shadows.
For Allen, driving is not just for sightseeing. Allen said that ideas for painting techniques are often conjured behind the wheel. Some of her newer techniques include painting watercolor on canvas and using stencils to create special shapes and textures, as in her painting titled “Fractured.”
Few American artists can say their work is hung in Europe, but anyone traveling in Italy just south of Florence has the chance to see the work of Huntley artist Gerald Miraldi.
A drawing of a painting by Miraldi hangs in the walls of the Borgo Rapale, a Tuscan Farmhouse popular with travelers. Upon visiting, Miraldi was so inspired he painted an image of the Borgo Rapale’s wine cellar. After receiving a mailed drawing of his work, the owners liked it so much they hung it up.
Miraldi is also a watercolor artist, and like Allen, his background fostered a passion in his painting. Having worked previously in software development, design, and architectural rendering, Miraldi loves structure.
Miraldi is inspired by scenes of Illinois staples, like plains and barns, but also has a flair for painting more exotic locales, like the streets of Italy.
He finds a unique challenge in painting figures and faces into the structures surrounding them.
“[In] painting the figure, you’re dealing with gestures; there’s no one solution to any of it,” he said. “If you’re trying to add some environment into your painting, the gesture is a major part of it and what is actually happening.”
Miraldi showed an example of this in one of his pieces. Two figures converse in a narrow Italian street, and Miraldi explained how many interpretations could be made by viewers of what their conversation is about and what their relationship is.
As Allen finds importance in depicting light in her paintings, Miraldi is fascinated by the way colors blend in watercolors.
“The painting, essentially, lots of times paints itself because of the color and the way the colors tend to mingle,” he said. “That kind of thing is what cornered me.”
Allen and Miraldi, along with Huntley artist Laura Charron, will be displaying and selling their work at this year’s Artfest.