Teresa Baksa, a traditional media painter based out of South Dennis, has had a long-time passion for art, but a roundabout journey to making it her full time profession. She dreamed of painting as a career after her training at Montserrat College of Art in Beverley, Massachusetts, but originally prioritized working in other industries.
She reminisces on her post art school job in Boston at a company called Teradyne that develops and supplies automatic testing equipment. This position enabled her to support herself through finishing her education at Harvard Extension School, after which Baksa decided to “cut the umbilical cord” as she puts it, and pursue art full time. She left her job and moved to the Cape in 1990, settling in Yarmouth Port where she set up a studio and gallery to focus mainly on commission paintings while still dedicating time to her personal art.
Going from living at Boston’s Fenway Studios to Yarmouth was certainly a big change, but after spending summers on the Cape as a kid, it was a no brainer to Baksa that this was where she wanted to create. “The Cape is a place where you can think; it’s quiet here. I love the quiet of the winters. It’s easier to concentrate,” she says. Not only does Baksa love the quiet of the Cape, but being surrounded by nature here speaks to her in ways the city never did.
While she pulls a lot of inspiration from nature, she doesn’t just create the landscapes and seascapes that most often come to mind when you think of traditional Cape Cod art. “I have done a bunch of landscapes and seascapes,” she explains “but by saying ‘nature,’ I am referring to quietness and the shapes and forms that are so intrinsic to nature. Right now, even working with figures almost exclusively, I still look to nature for inspiration.”
Over the years, Baksa has gone through phases of different inspirations. In 2004, for instance, she focused solely on the sea and sky in order to clear her mind. She created a series of atmospheric paintings shown at Cape Cod Museum of Art entitled “Between the Sea and Sky.” After this collection, Baksa went through more phases where she felt most inspired to paint landscapes, but continued to draw figures in order to keep up her skills in that area.
Keeping her skills sharp in all aspects of her art has paid off as Baksa currently works almost exclusively with figures, feeling like she is at a point in her life where she can express the most powerful ideas through figures. She explains that her goal is to “bring together all that I have learned and experienced in my life, and art, to create works that are alive, intense, imaginative, and full of movement, dimension, and feelings.” Baksa is currently working towards this goal through an oil painting entitled “Saving Grace.” This work-in-progress composition is meant to represent the monumental and heroic gesture of trying to save all that is good, a concept the world is sorely and increasingly longing for.
For the creation of her pieces, Baksa prefers to work with live models but still utilizes photographs occasionally. Regardless of whether it’s a photograph or a model, Baksa’s pieces all begin with a sketch. She jokes that she finds it easier to be free with drawing because it’s not as big of an investment in materials, just charcoal and paper. Beginning with a drawing also allows her to manipulate and change the composition until she is satisfied enough to transfer the sketch onto a canvas where she adds detail and color.
While at times she may find it difficult to put aside her own passion projects, Baksa appreciates commission work for the skills it taught her. She even admits the technique of sketching prior to painting on canvas stemmed from the commissions she did when she first moved to the Cape. She advises young artists to throw themselves into commission work; “let it teach you as much as it can,” she says. She counsels young artists to be flexible, open and to figure out the message they want their art to portray. She emphasizes the importance of working even when uninspired and unmotivated and reassures aspiring artists that, eventually, they will find their place in the community.
From art school, to designing printed circuit boards, and (thankfully for all who love her work) back to art studies, Baksa definitely took the long way to her dream. She owes her success in the industry to her enthusiasm for her art as well as her ability to find a message that people relate to. Those two ingredients as well as representation from a gallery that fits her needs, Miller White Fine Arts in South Dennis, have helped her art reach people that have a true, deep appreciation for it. – Emma Ryan