Sunday, August 08, 2010
Enjoy this article published in the Haile Village Journal by Sarah Carey.
For more information or to obtain a photo of Linda Blondheim, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Landscapes reflect artist's passion for capturing region's history
GAINESVILLE – Painter Linda Blondheim's work is a vibrant spectrum of North Florida life and land, rendered impressionistically in all four seasons, at all hours of the day and night.
From postcard-sized paintings produced quickly, when studio time is limited, to larger pieces that hang in homes throughout the country, Blondheim's work always contains undercurrents of yesterday.
Widely renowned for her Southern landscapes, Blondheim is respected by patrons and fellow artists alike for her commitment to land and water conservation in Florida and for her generosity of spirit, as well as for the painting skills she's honed for more than 30 years. Always original, Blondheim's paintings make thoughtful and interpretive use of color and composition and reflect her deep familiarity with “Old Florida” scenery as well as other venues in North Carolina and the Deep South.
Typical Blondheim landscape scenes range from public and privately owned pastures and farm fields that remain home to livestock and horses in the region, to coastal marshlands and pristine ocean and rivers. Her work captures Florida's rich agricultural history as well as its entrenched reputation as a tropical haven for visitors from Northern climes.
An honors graduate of the University of Tampa, Blondheim performed postgraduate studies in fine art at the University of South Florida before embarking on her painting career. She honed her reputation as an oil painter, but has recently shifted to working primarily in acrylics, although she still likes to occasionally use other mediums for effect and variety.
Local residents have likely seen her work at Paddiwhack, her primary Gainesville gallery, as well as recently in solo exhibitions at Books, Inc., the Vam York Theatre, Melrose Bay Gallery, and the Ice House Gallery in McIntosh.
It was in that gallery that 12 years ago, McIntosh resident Lindy McCollum Brounley, a communications specialist at UF, spotted a particular Blondheim painting...and fell in love.
“It was a vibrantly painted landscape of a stand of sabal palms in a grass prairie,” Brounley said. “Like most all of Linda's Florida landscapes, it evoked a powerful sense of 'home' within me.”
Brounley's mother purchased the painting and gave it to her daughter for her birthday that year.
Since then, Brounley and her husband have collected four additional Blondheim landscapes of Florida locations that are meaningful to them. As a Christmas gift for her mother this past year, Brounley purchased a painting of a dirt road hugging the treeline at the edge of a hilly, plowed field outside of Evinston, Fla.
“For us, Linda's paintings of our beautiful North Florida landscapes document the rural lifestyle and its unique ecological treasures that we love and hope to preserve,” Brounley said.
Although Blondheim has deliberately downsized her gallery presence in recent years, she has simultaneously expanded her Web presence, reaching out to patrons and potential patrons through a blog, Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the more conventional Web site.
“At one time, I would have never considered reducing my gallery presence, as that was how I felt artists became known, and I was not as confident in my own ability to attract sales in other ways,” Blondheim said.
To survive in today's market, she has had to devise more creative ways of marketing a broader selection of work at different price points to appeal to a range of clients – individuals who never thought they could afford to buy an original painting but quickly learn that Blondheim's art is actually quite affordable, as well as art lovers who pay top dollar for their favorite scenes.
Much of Blondheim's subject matter is captured off the beaten path and resonates with both Florida natives and others who have come to call Florida home. Among her favorite places to paint locally are Fair Oaks Farm, owned by attorney Rick Knellinger, and the Wood family's historic farm, both located in Evinston.
Blondheim visits Evinston whenever she can, particularly between October and April, before the summer's brutal heat sets in.
“I have been fortunate to have Linda spend considerable time and effort at Fair Oaks documenting the farrn in gorgeous paintings which preserve for all time, the nurturing nature of a vanishing landscape,” said Fair Oaks owner Knellinger, who has accumulated several Blondheim paintings in the past two years. “She wanders the fields finding views through which she captures the spirit of the farm and those who toil here.”
The Wood farm, which has been designated a Century Pioneer Family Farm by the state of Florida, is located on the shores of Orange Lake and holds a special place in Blondheim's heart because of her years-long relationship with the Wood family. Ashley Wood, a retired communications director formerly with the University of Florida's Food and Agricultural Sciences, said Blondheim is always welcome to visit the family's farms, lands and yards.
“It's always great to hear from our Evinston-area neighbors when we have a 'Linda Blondheim sighting', because we are so pleased to have her creative talents that so wonderfully capture the lands and environment that we all love, appreciate and work to protect,” said Wood, who has known Blondheim since she was hired right out of high school in the early 1970s to work in the IFAS print shop.
“She was there for about a year or so before she went back to school for her degree and career as an artist,” he said. “I recall seeing her several years later at the Santa Fe Spring Arts show where she was showing her work and talent for possibly the first time.”
Since then, Wood said Blondheim had developed into “one of the best, if not the best, plein air artists of Florida.”
“She can so uniquely interpret the North Florida environment, the wonderful Florida clouds and sky, the statuesque oaks and palms and the Southern landscapes,” Wood said.
Blondheim was the poster artist for the 2010 Evinston Paint-out, one of six invitational events she will have participated in this year – and that's a downsized schedule for the Lacrosse resident whose studio 11 miles from Gainesville is her late father's converted shed.
A founder of Plein Air Florida, Blondheim once travelled throughout the Eastern Seaboard to participate in numerous paint-outs, but she has come to a point in her life and career where she prefers to stay closer to home,so she can concentrate on studio work and be more available to her 87-year-old mother and to other family members.
That's one reason why she has devoted more time recently to Internet marketing, even gradually reducing her in-studio teaching and workshops in favor of “E-classes” she offers to her current students. Many of Blondheim's students are already aspiring artists seeking to reach their next level of achievement through professional consultation, but some have never previously picked up a paint brush and seek Blondheim's help to pursue their dream of learning how to paint.
“The logistics of travel, and the sheer physical demands of setting up, taking down and painting non-stop in unpredictable conditions can be very stressful, but most importantly I have come to feel that my strengths are better realized in the studio,” Blondheim said.
This year, she painted at events in Wekiva Springs State Park, Epcot Center in Orlando, Bartram Trail in St. John's County, and Winter Park as well as Evinston. The Canaveral National Seashore National Paint-out looms in November.
A self-described workaholic, Blondheim's friends know that she is also a “foodie” – an excellent cook who wouldn't consider having guests to her studio without putting out a spread of homemade munchies and dip, along with the requisite lemonade.
Her studio chili parties are something of a tradition for Blondheim fans. Patrons and others who are on her mailing list receive invitations to these get-togethers, which are Blondheim's way of showing appreciation to her friends and patrons.
At Art Salons – a concept Blondheim came up with for hosting groups of art aficionados at her studio – she whips up a fabulous lunch that might consist of spaghetti, salad and carrot cake.
Blondheim once worked as the personal chef for former McIntosh resident Louise Courtelis, a University of Florida philanthropist and former owner of Town and Country Farm. Courtelis and her daughter, Kiki, both of whom now reside in Kentucky, own several Blondheim paintings and have consistently supported her and her work over the years.
Town of Tioga resident Liz Brown discovered Blondheim's work after being invited to an Art Salon by her friend, Lindy Brounley.
“Lindy knew that my teenage daughter, Gracie, is an aspiring artist, and suggested that I bring Gracie as well,” Brown said. “We had no idea what to expect, and frankly I was a little intimidated. Would I be the only guest who knew nothing about art? Of course, I had been to art museums, and I had some haphazardly chosen art in my home, but I had never spent much time trying to learn about art.”
She added that what transpired was a lovely afternoon of lunching, laughing, and learning about one artist’s process and philosophy.
“Linda opened her studio and her home to us, fed our minds and hearts with her beautiful Florida landscapes, and our tummies with her delicious food,” said Brown, a staff attorney in the U.S. Attorney's office. “I grew up in the Florida Panhandle where 'beach scenes' are ubiquitous, but Linda’s paintings were like nothing I had seen before. Linda has a gift for capturing the essence of her subjects, so that you can smell the salt air, feel the cool spring water, and hear the palm fronds moving in the breeze.”
Blondheim asked the Art Salon participants to view the paintings in her studio, and to share which painting they liked best and why.
“There was no pressure to sound like an art expert, just an opportunity to reflect on why we are attracted to certain images,” Brown said. “Linda discussed how and why she chooses her subjects, demonstrated how she makes a painting, and answered our questions about collecting art and what advice she would give to a young artist-in-training.
“Then she told us that that she started giving her own children art to collect when they were young, and in that spirit I later bought Gracie some small florals that she especially admired to remind her of our afternoon in Linda’s studio,” Brown added. “This past Christmas, I put one of Linda’s paintings of Poe Springs on my 'wish list,' and I now enjoy looking at that refreshing scene at the end of a long, hot, day.”
Although Blondheim has deep roots in Alachua County, having been born and raised here, she can never mentally stay in one place too long. She constantly evaluates her business and marketing plans, while never losing sight of her personal need to evolve as a painter -- perfecting her techniques in a specific medium, for example, or experimenting with a fresh approach to value study.
“What I especially admire about Linda is her commitment to expanding her skills as a painter, ever immersing herself in the study of aesthetics while experimenting with color, mediums and other various techniques,” said Sharon Crute, an Ocala artist renowned for her dynamic equine paintings. “In this ongoing endeavor, Linda generously shares her acquired knowledge with her peers. As an equine artist, she urged me step out of my horse genre and take a try with plein air painting, something I would never have considered. This is how much she remains fully engaged as an artist.”
For more information about Linda Blondheim's work, or to purchase a painting, go to www.lindablondheim.com. Oh, and there will be a cake party (red velvet, sour cream pound and carrot cake are already on the menu) at her studio on September 25. Anyone interested is more than welcome to attend.
The cake party locationhas been changed to Melrose Bay Gallery, State Road 26, Melrose, Florida