Sharon France has many fond childhood memories of visits to her grandparents’ remote Midwestern farm. She now lives on her own farmstead with her family where she paints the beauty around her. Sharon found inspiration in the work of Hudson River School Artists, Minimalists, Tonalists and Realists. When she’s not painting, she loves to hike. She currently lives in Illinois.
Keep reading for Sharon’s full UGallery interview.
Tell us about growing up on your grandparents’ farm.
Some of my fondest childhood memories come from the visits to my grandparent’s remote Midwestern farm. It was set down a very long lane, that eventually wound around the old barn, horse pasture, granary, corn crib, machine shed, and chicken house, to end up at their old farmhouse with a white picket fence in the yard beyond. In the summer months, the croquet set would be set up on the lawn, and Grandma would have a couple of homemade pies waiting on the kitchen counter. A little bit of heaven here on earth, it felt to me back then!
How did growing up on a farm influence your art?
After graduation from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, my husband and I settled on an old farmstead in the Midwestern countryside to raise our sons. I have found much inspiration for paintings from the quiet rural landscape that surrounds us, and that I love. My art work has been described as “having an intriguing peacefulness in its quiet simplicity”.
When I first started painting country landscape scenes, over a decade ago now, it was important to me to just paint what was in my mind, and to avoid looking at other peoples work. I wanted my paintings to be uniquely my own style, and not be mistaken for the art of others.
Walk us through creating a piece.
I paint mainly from my imagination, and to depict the rural American landscape, as it once looked, before the electrification of America. I have started adding farm animals to more of my landscape paintings done in the past few years. As a painter that leans towards realism, I work from my own reference photo’s for the animals depicted in these paintings.
To begin a painting, I most often have a vague to definite idea either pictured in my head or simply sketched out on paper. Except for commissioned pieces, I don’t often have a painting planned out completely, as I like to work by a feeling of what I envision for the painting, and and as it develops, what should then come next in the piece.
What materials do you use?
I paint in acrylic for most of my landscapes, in a series of layers. I start by painting in the first layer of the sky and then the land area. My skies are from several to many layers, depending upon the color and effect that I am working towards. For one of my blue sky with white cloud paintings, I will layer in several layers of the blue sky, lighter towards the horizon and then getting gradually darker higher up. After that has dried, I will then come in and paint in the clouds, in a series of layers also, with their being slightly shaded towards the bottom.
For the land area, I first put down a couple of layers with a large brush and then like to build up more layers either with a large brush also, or with a fan brush, with a dabbing sort of technique with the brush.
How many pieces do you typically work on at once?
As I let layers dry on a painting, I move on to another painting, and then working back and forth between a couple paintings at at time. I like to have the sky and land area fairly far along before adding the barn, house, sheds, or animals in the scene. They are also painted in a series of layers to get the final effect that I am working towards. I find it helps me to take breaks once a day or more, here and there while working on a painting, to study it and think about it before continuing. I normally work on a painting over several weeks or more before finishing it.
I have loved art and painting as far back as I can remember. I still well remember the feeling of awe that I felt, when I first spied a painting easel, setting in my kindergarten classroom!