Judith Skillman is interested in feelings engendered by the natural world. She strives to capture the interplay of light in borders between land and water. Her medium is oil on canvas; work ranges from representational to abstract. Currently she studies at the Seattle Artist’s League, under the mentorship of Ruthie V.
The sensibility as to what makes a found or made object or scene beautiful is intrinsically subjective. I find forms within nature—that is, the natural world untouched by humans—most pleasing. While the figure has been a subject for painters since paint itself, I don’t find bodies such as the youthful hourglass woman as pleasing (even in its classical depiction, “The Birth of Venus,” by Sandro Botticelli) as seeing sunlight filter through air and water and cast its shadows over land and sea.
Beauty equals light, and vice versa. To capture waves in bodies of water bounded by sand, shoreline, island, spit, or any number of other natural boundaries, provides a strong motivation for the act of creation. The process of a painting is driven at first by experimentation with colors. If there is a natural line—the horizon provides one example—then arranging the composition so that the horizon blends in with and balances other shapes becomes the challenge. Organic imagery, such as grasses and flowers, add intrigue to stripped down seascapes and pastorals.
But no birds. If you subscribe to this aesthetic, sound must be absent from a painting unless it comes from a crashing wave or a gust of wind. In addition, rendering a sense of abandonment seems important. Where are the boats? The bathers? It is in solitude that we find, as viewers, our “aha” moments, not in a crowd. The imagination thrives in one’s personal space. The piece “Grass Sea” contains an island or boat on the horizon, but the ambiguity as to what the shape may represent excited me while painting it, as did the extra horizon above the water line. It’s my hope that the imagination of a potential viewer might be similarly sparked.
According to Genesis, creation began with light, and only on the sixth day were humans brought into the grand design. As a visual artist I aspire to honor this earth previously inhabited by amoeba, water bears, reptiles, and dinosaurs. I hope that the effect of a piece such as “Bay of Banderas” might bring the viewer a sense of the earth in flux, alive with energy and possibility.
Can craft keep pace with artistic vision? That is another question, but in the meantime, a painting may provide solace at a time when one's senses are bombarded with stimulation such that both nature and natural rhythms have become endangered.