Texas Talent: Pam Markham

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Photos by Lisa Saleme

DELIGHTFUL. MASTERFUL. CHARMING. These three words describe both the works and the artist, Pam Markham—wife, mother, REALTOR, painter and pastelist. Pam and her husband Jeff moved to Huntsville in 1981, established their livelihood, Markham Realty, and have raised two sons, also now involved in real estate and construction businesses in the Huntsville area. Our focus is on Pam’s artistic endeavors and to learn how this prolific artist came to be the enormous talent she is. Pam’s work will be on display beginning October 19th as a One Woman Show, “COLOR…OUTSIDE THE LINES,” at the Wynne Home Art Center in Huntsville.

When did you discover your passion for painting, and who inspired you along the way?

My parents were both very creative, my father being a talented artist himself. They, as well as many friends, have encouraged me along the way. From youth, I have been inspired by my surroundings, and have always been designing and making things. Life is very exciting to me, and I am never bored. I constantly search for new ideas for my next painting.

What training have you had to further your knowledge and skills?

I earned a fine arts degree at Sam Houston State University and have trained under some great master artists in both oil and pastel mediums. Lois Griffel was my first teacher and helped me develop my confidence and an artist’s eye. In recent years, I have studied with Lori Putnam, Maggie Price, Desmond O’Hagen, and Tony Allain. These artists are at the top of their fields, and I have gained a tremendous education from studying under each. And, I am always perusing art books and magazines to continue learning techniques and to gain inspiration from others. Of course, I learn a lot from observing nature and the environment around me, then simply stepping up to the easel and attempting to capture a little part of God’s creation.

What subject matter most inspires you?

Everything! I don’t back away from any challenge, as far as subject matter is concerned. But, my favorite is nature itself, the fabulous great outdoors! My family and friends get into the action with me and have driven me down winding roads and rivers to help me capture information for paintings. I love it when they send me photos they’ve snapped and tell me to “look at the light” on something. If time permits, I will get my art backpack out and assemble my painting easel so I can capture the basics of the scene. These include:

  • A black and white study to identify the direction of the sunlight coming into the scene and the resulting shadows and highlights that are formed.
  • A basic sketch of the scene using oil paint, pastels, or watercolor to grab a few “color notes.”
  • Any other details that are important to the finished work
  • Images with my iPhone

If I don’t have my painting setup with me or have no time to do this type of study, then I will jot down a few notes and take some images with my iPhone. These studies and notes will allow me to create a scene on canvas as it caught my interest at first sight.

How do you label yourself as an artist?

I consider myself an impressionistic painter. I don’t seek to capture the exact representation of the scene or object I am painting, but instead try to paint the emotion or essence of the subject in hope that my viewers will identify with the painting. Trying to duplicate the exactness of what I am viewing would not move me as a painter. I like to punch up the color, flick paint around, and leave a few things for the viewers to imagine for themselves. If they “think they’ve been there” or imagine they recognize a person in the scene, then I have achieved my goal. For instance, in south Texas we sometimes see huge jackrabbits, and one of these guys ended up in a recent painting. I painted him in oils on a big canvas and rendered him in a loose, impressionistic style. His translucent long ears, skinny front legs, and muscular hind legs show him ready to take a giant leap off the canvas at any given moment! Other than his shape, the only totally realistic part of the rabbit is his eye, as he carefully watches us admire him. I loved painting this big guy!

I am also considered a “Plein Air” artist. This term refers to someone who paints outdoors and attempts to represent outdoor light and atmosphere in their work. This is where my art backpack has been essential. The backpack includes a basic setup for painting and a tripod that can go just about anywhere outdoors. I keep this gear ready to go at a moment’s notice and can easily set up and start painting within 10 minutes of choosing a subject to paint “on location.” It’s so exciting to try to capture a scene as it unfolds, such as a sunrise or sunset. This is my chance to paint some quick studies that may be developed into a larger piece later in the studio. And, sometimes (if I’m lucky), one of these plein air pieces becomes a fresh little painting worthy of a frame just as it was painted in the field.

One of the pieces in the show depicts a scene that caught my eye on FM 3478 in Walker County at Nelson Creek. I did a quick color sketch from my car, snapped a few photos, and then did a full painting in my studio. Oh, was that fun! Another such canvas is one of Farris Cemetery. I painted in the cemetery one day with a couple of my art friends. We took a lunch and spent the day painting among the mossy oaks, headstones, and wisteria. It was truly a remarkable day, and we each got several good studies to work from later in the studio. One of these pieces will be in the Wynne Home show.

Do you work primarily in oils?

I love to paint with oils. There is something very exciting about mixing the colors and pushing paint around with a good brush. But, oh, those pastels are wonderful, too! Since the method of application is similar in both mediums, I find it helpful to switch back and forth. In fact, one of my favorite and most popular works is done in pastel. I could have sold it several times, but just cannot part with it. On a trip to Paris, France, I spotted a woman in front of the Palais Garnier, the most famous opera house in the world. She wore a full length purple coat enhanced by a long, billowy yellow scarf which cascaded down the front of her coat. The finished work was extremely impressionistic, with no rendering of facial features, but only basic shapes, light, and shadow. This could be any woman, not bound by representations, but very Parisian. In fact, this work was highlighted in The Huntsville Item in an article a few years ago.

Tell us about awards you have won.

I have been honored and humbled by the fact that my work has gained the reputation it has. And, yes, I have won awards and am grateful to those that have seen the merit of my work. Awarding entities include the Lone Star Art Guild, the Pastel Society of Southeast Texas, the Conroe Art League, the Tomball Art League, the Woodlands Art League and the Huntsville Cooperative of Working Artists. And, I have been published in International Artist Magazine. I am so pleased that my work has been an inspiration to the public and that other artists consider my work to be of this caliber.

I’ve never sought to do art as a business or career, but it is a passion for me! I feel so very fortunate to have had the opportunity to pursue something so delightful. My husband Jeff totally understands and supports this passion and will drive miles out of the way to help me find a painting subject, or take care of our home and office so I can travel to workshops, artist retreats, or conventions.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists, and what are your future plans?

Follow those dreams and aspirations. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Anyone can learn to do art. Be observant of nature, and study the works of those artists you admire. Keep your artistic tools nearby to be ready when inspiration comes.

I will keep studying and painting. I want many more hours of “brush mileage.” I want to make the most of all opportunities to grow as an artist. You can never learn enough about art! I will be attending an invitational workshop in November at the home of Lori Putnam in Tennessee and the Plein Air Convention in Santa Fe in April of next year. Also, I am looking forward with great delight to my One Woman Show at the Wynne Home in Huntsville. This will begin on Thursday, October 19th with an opening reception from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The show will continue through the Christmas Holiday season.

Finally, I am planning to do a Spring 2018 workshop for anyone interested in trying a little “plein air” painting. We will learn to set up gear, do thumbnail sketches, color studies, and then paint a larger piece from these references in the studio. I encourage any one who is interested to go to www.pammarkham.com and sign up for my newsletter so I can keep you informed about future events.

Again, I am so humbled and honored that others are interested in my work, and I will continue to bring new canvases to life!

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