Truro artist Cammie Watson is from a long and storied line of artists, but her surreal ability to create sumptuous color palettes and use them in compositions is uniquely hers. Watson’s oil paintings—such as Brush Hollow, Little Pamet House, and a new work, Pamet Harbor—tap into an intuitive sense of self.
While she also works in watercolor, collage, pen and ink, and sumi-e (a Chinese and Japanese art form in which she lays shades of black ink on white washi paper), oils seem to give Watson the most freedom of color, not a small thing for her. “Color is extraordinarily important to me,” she says. “Colors remind me of the taste of food. They’re very luscious.”
Watson achieves this lusciousness by starting with an under painting of reds and yellows. “For the final painting, I paint over that, so some of the under paint shows through,” she says. “It gives warmth to the painting. It also allows something to happen without me doing it.” After the rigors of starting a painting, she steps back and lets another force take over. (She says she owes her sense of color mixing to a three-year apprenticeship in Germany with a puppet-maker.)
Watson grew up in a family of artists, writers, and illustrators. Her grandparents, Ernest and Eva Watson, were pioneers in color-block-printmaking. She and her siblings traveled with their parents from Vermont to Truro every summer. That experience and her unique perception of the Outer Cape allow Watson to capture its boats, barns, fields, big sky, and blue ocean. Brush Hollow, with its earthy colors and soft contours, has particular meaning for her: she recalls riding horses through blueberry bushes and beach roses to reach that special place on the Truro beach.
Watson, who lives in Truro with her two school-aged children and teaches at Truro Center of the Arts at Castle Hill, has won accolades from Kirkus Reviews, the Society of Illustrators, and others. She holds it all in perspective, especially regarding her children. “The children are a work of art, just as much as a painting,” she says. “They’re a work of art themselves, but much more beautiful. Watching a child develop is sort of my philosophy about my art. I like putting stuff down and watching it grow, not imposing myself too much. It’s a lot like looking at another person.”
Cammie Watson’s work may be seen at Addison Art Gallery, located at 43 Route 28 in Orleans (addisonart.com), and at cammiewatson.com. The Addison Art Gallery hosts a show of Watson’s work on July 6, 5-7 p.m., at Watson’s home studio, located at 6 Swale Way in Truro. The Addison Art Gallery is also presenting a demonstration, “Behind the Oil Painting with Cammie Watson,” on August 18 from 3:30-5 p.m.