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Batavia artist in group show at Fine Line in St. Charles

"Nearing Home," an 18-by-18-inch oil stick artwork on canvas by Nancy Gatfield of Batavia, is part of the current exhibit by the Yellow House Artists at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles. The scene depicts a rural area of western Batavia.
"Nearing Home," an 18-by-18-inch oil stick artwork on canvas by Nancy Gatfield of Batavia, is part of the current exhibit by the Yellow House Artists at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles. The scene depicts a rural area of western Batavia.

BATAVIA – Using a medium developed for Picasso, who wanted a mobile form of oil paints instead of cumbersome tubes, the members of the Yellow House Artists reveal their diverse inspirations in a group exhibition on display through March 25 at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles. Among them is Nancy Gatfield of Batavia, a fan of the art form of oil pastel.

“The exhibition is a nice blend of some abstract work, realism, impressionism, figure drawing, some florals,” Gatfield said. “I think it represents our group well [and] shows everyone has a different style. We’re one of the only oil pastel groups in the country.”

Like many in the group, Gatfield learned to paint with oil pastel and oil sticks from George Shipperley at Fine Line, a longtime instructor in the Fox Valley.

“I was looking to find a new art medium to explore, and had done painting and drawing in the past,” she said. “I really enjoyed it. Oil pastel allows you to draw like [you’re using] a pencil, and you can blend and layer. It’s oil painting and you don’t need a brush.”

She said the oil pastel medium, which blurs the line between drawing and painting, is a nondrying oil paint.

“You can draw it on,” said Gatfield, who is known for impressionism in her work. “I use my fingers and different tools to scrape it and layer it, and other mediums to thin it down. It’s really pretty unlimited. You can use other mediums under it. I’ll start with watercolor or other paint and put oil pastels on top, so it’s multimedia.”

For inspiration, she turns to more rural areas of western Batavia, and also does landscapes in other parts of the Fox Valley and upper Wisconsin. She variously works from photos she has taken, relies on her imagination, or paints outdoors right on the scene for her plein air creations.

“I’m drawn to the last remaining farmland that we have,” Gatfield said. “It’s very precious. I [try] to capture that with my paintings.”

Also in the Art Matters show is Jen Stanley of From Scratch Wellness Services in St. Charles and Chicago, who said the exhibit theme is based on hometown memories. She focuses on figures in her artwork, and has included “Tenacious Peace” in the show. It’s based on a childhood photo.

“My great-uncle was an amateur photographer,” Stanley said. “I’m going through his old photos and painting my ancestors. It’s a photo of me [at 5] and my little sister and two neighborhood friends. We’re trying to give each other bunny ears for the photo. It’s a great hodgepodge of body parts and peace symbols being thrown about.”

She said her paintings can have 30 layers of oil pastels that start with dull darks and build to lightest lights.

“It’s about patience,” Stanley said. “You have to build the background so that the brights can sit on a rich background.”

Other local artists in the exhibit include Judith Niemet of Elburn; Mary Enck and Fran Stilwagner, both of Geneva; Jim Foght, Rupali Kumbhani and Sandra Povall Smith, all of St. Charles; and Deann Alleman of Sugar Grove.

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