Artist profile: Deborah Quinn-Munson

Cape Cod Art  /  Annual Art 2018 / ,

Writer: John Greiner-Ferris

Deborah Quinn-Munson painting

Ocean Sparkle • 12” x 12” • Oil on board

Over the course of a career in painting spanning more than 40 years, Deborah Quinn-Munson says she continues to enjoy pursuing the “spirited execution of a painting that conveys the serenity and peacefulness of the scene.” Her statement encapsulates entirely her personal vision, her process, and how she uses her talent, skill and experience to create a style of painting that is uniquely her own.

“The subject of the painting doesn’t matter to me as much as the structure and balance of the painting,” she says. “What intrigues me is the power and energy that comes from making marks on canvas that are meant to be there.” The scenes that Quinn-Munson chooses intentionally show the natural world at its most serene and peaceful. But, she says, even if the scene is a quiet one, it still needs to be painted powerfully. She does this through her signature thick, dramatic application of paint, a strong directional line that leads the viewer’s eyes through the composition like a raft through rapids, and masterful control of color that at times glows and pulsates like embers.

Along with the forcefulness that is so characteristic of her paintings, of late she also has been pushing the edge of the composition so that it teeters, so that shape, value and color are just barely in balance. “I love a simplified painting with a simplified structure,” she says. “So I ask myself, how can I paint something in its most simplistic form? How much, or how little, of reality do I show when a balance of shapes and color and value is achieved over an abstract structure?”

From years of experience, Quinn-Munson is able to begin a painting by going right into the application of the paint. She doesn’t work from photographs or sketches. She first constructs the biggest shapes to determine the underlying structure. There is an underpainting that establishes shape and value, while color is her final consideration. “When I choose a color, I’m carefully choosing the value, the relation between light and dark,” she explains. For both color and shape she uses a ratio of about 80/20 to determine a balance, mixing 80 percent of large shapes with 20 percent smaller shapes. For value, she first determines if, overall, her painting is light or dark, and then uses the 80/20 ratio, or even 70/30 or 60/40, to determine highlights and shadows. “As long as it’s not 50/50, which would probably make the scene less dramatic and, well, boring,” she says.

And Quinn-Munson loves the actual physical act of painting. “I love the gesture of painting,” she says. “The whole movement where I can get my entire body in there, where I actually have to take a couple of steps to complete a brushstroke. And I love to see the artist’s hand, the brushstrokes that are made, and the fact that something is done by a hand with paint.”

Deborah Quinn-Munson is represented by Gallery 31 Fine Art, 34 Main Street Square, Orleans.

John Greiner-Ferris

John Greiner-Ferris is a writer and playwright. He is the co-founder of Boston Public Works Theater Company and the founding artistic director at Alley Cat Theater. John has written many articles for Cape Cod LIFE over the years, including artist profiles for our annual Cape Cod ART issue.