By Will Bowen
“I don’t use brushes when I paint. I use trowels,” says Stephanie Paige, one of the featured artists at Contemporary Arts Gallery, 7946 Ivanhoe Ave. Paige will be at the gallery to greet visitors and discuss her technique at the upcoming La Jolla Wine Walk & Taste from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20.
Paige uses marble powder, which she mixes with water and applies to pine wood panels with a trowel, to create oversized modern abstract mixed-media landscape paintings. She adds color with powdered pigments, which she swirls into the mix, and actual rust powder, applying all in layers that need about a day each to dry. Sometimes she will even place “found objects” — pieces of metal from the junkyard, rebar, or bits of sand and pebbles — into her creations.
Paige has a proclivity for the colors blue and turquoise painted to look like a peaceful and serene seascape with the sky in the background. One such. called “Wind & Sea,” recounts the time she paddled her kayak up to La Jolla from Mission Bay and was swamped by 20 swells requiring a rescue by lifeguards in a powerboat.
Sometimes Paige will switch things up by applying greens with rust or a hot active red to the pine board, or change the striation of the colors to vertical. In all of her art, the thing that grabs your attention is the play of chance — the way the colors swirl or melt by their own accord.
The contrast of open space versus density of images is also important. There are often intriguing allusions or shadows in her landscapes, which are actually created by the mind of the viewer trying to make sense of randomness and abstraction.
The surfaces of Paige’s landscapes are textured, but surprisingly smooth when felt with the fingers, and she encourages patrons to “touch my art.” Even if a small piece of the marble plaster chips off one of her paintings that’s OK with her — she likes imperfection. She thinks every piece should have at least one.
Paige’s work is decorative and influenced by an eye for design, interior decoration, and architecture. Her paintings look great in the living room or bedroom, offering a pleasant meditative experience of peace and calm, which is derived from her interest in Buddhism and the idea of Benevolence — mixed in with a good dose of a deep love of nature.
Paige will often work with clients who commission her paintings by going into their homes so she can see the setting and the client’s needs and tastes.
Paige was raised in the small town of Ortonville, Mich. on 10 acres of open woodsy land. Her father was a builder and her mother an artist. She describes her childhood self as, “A nature girl who loved and rescued animals.” After experiencing a broken heart, she said she threw a dart at a map of the USA and it landed on Tijuana, Mexico, so she made a call, packed up, and came out to San Diego for a job in an art store. She began her art career by painting murals for restaurants and clubhouses. Her work with faux- and Tuscany-styles evolved into her work with landscapes on wood panel.