Artist Dudley Zopp finds inspiration from trees in own backyard
LINCOLNVILLE — Of the nearly five acres of artist Dudley Zopp’s property, much of it is meadow and bog, surrounded by trees and shrubs — an ordinary sight in Maine when the greenery comes alive.
But, when Zopp, a painter and installation artist for almost 30 years, takes a walk around her land, she’s not just looking at what needs to be pruned back or weeded, she’s looking at what can be painted. Plants and trees about to come into bloom fascinate her. Working in both oil and watercolor, she paints moody and layered landscapes of trees, bushes, rock formations, oysters and other natural forms that require the viewer to really stand close and contemplate what they are seeing.
CRAFT Gallery in Rockland opened its first show of a selected group exhibition on May 25 with the theme of “Nature as Muse” including five of Zopp’s paintings.
One painting at the show is of a winter ash, a commonplace tree right outside her garage. Zopp said she usually doesn’t have a specific idea for a new painting, more of a flash of an insight that becomes the first layer.
“In this case, however, I was looking for a specific tree,” she said. “I had the basic idea of what I wanted on the canvas, a lone vertical tree, so I walked around outside and found exactly the one I was looking for.”
Her interest in geology and nature is threaded through nearly her entire body of work, with a career spanning back to 1991 in which her work has been exhibited in a number of solo and group exhibitions.
”I wanted to be an artist since I was three years old,” she said.
Born in Lexington, Kentucky, Zopp graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. and M.A. in modern foreign languages, and completed post-graduate studies in drawing and painting at the Hite Art Institute at University of Louisville.
She had visited friends in Maine in the late 1980s and decided to move up to the Midcoast permanently in 1996.
Her work is currently included in the collections of the Portland Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Art Museum, as well as other university and museum collections, nationally.
The home and studio she built in Lincolnville is airy and spacious with clean, white lines. The studio is cavernous, approximately 1,000 square feet and filled with easels, brushes, books and canvases, including an area for a work bench, a storage area and multiple work tables on casters she can move around for various projects.
Many wonder what it is like to be a professional artist; the common misconception is that the lifestyle is easy, hardly requiring any work or only creating when inspiration hits. In fact, Zopp’s process is very methodical.
“There are a couple of things people are surprised to find out when they ask me about what I do,” she said. “One, is that I have to keep a regular schedule and set goals, which is something a lot of self-employed people can relate to. You don’t wait until you feel inspired. I always have something in my head that I need to work on. Sometimes, I’ll sweep the entire studio, just to clear my head, before I get going. And the other misconception is that it’s easy to put together a painting. You have to put the time into it. You never quite get what you hope for in your mind as far as the finished painting goes. each one has layers and layers upon it; days and days of time into it. Days of letting it dry in between layers and days of looking at it to see if it is truly ‘done.’”
It can take weeks for a painting to fully develop as she works in layers, editing, adding, subtracting as she goes. Fall and winter are the times for creation. Spring and summer are busy while Zopp prepares for shows and ships paintings out.
And then, there is the pruning back, the weeding, the common gardening work to be done in the summer; yes, she still has to do that in order to truly see the flow and movement of what needs to be captured on canvas.
Zopp’s work and the other artists of CRAFT Gallery will have their exhibition “Nature as Muse” up until June 30.
For more information visit: dudleyzopp.com
Photos by Kay Stephens
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org