Digging Deeper: Painter Ginnie Cappaert focuses on texture, color and exploration

Ginnie Cappaert’s artwork – with its bright, strong colors and themes of nature in varying degrees of abstraction – is readily recognizable. It makes one wonder how she keeps her work and the craft fresh with each new season.

In her March blog post, Cappaert wrote, “My work this winter was focused on exploring what I know more in depth. That meant that I wasn’t reinventing anything this year, but going deeper into many of the series that I have worked on before.”

She lives above her gallery on the edge of the bluff in Egg Harbor. From her deck, and even more so from her living area, her view is dominated by sky. And this shows in her painting: cold-wax and oil abstractions with clear depictions or merely hints of landscape, waterscape and sky.

“Having a relationship to my place is important,” Cappaert said. “And my place is here right now. Or New Mexico,” she added, referring to Santa Fe, where she spends a month painting during the winter. 

But here in Door County, her time outside of painting is spent enjoying weekly rides on her horse, biking early in the morning when the roads are quiet, hiking Door County Land Trust trails, practicing yoga and cruising around in her 1952 red Ford pickup truck, unmistakably marked with her gallery’s name across the rear window.

Cappaert described her work as “landscape and my surroundings pared down to minimalism, with a focus on color and texture.” 

“My mission,” she said, “is to surround myself in beauty and create beauty in my paintings.”

This winter, she put her goal to dive deeper into her art into practice by exploring color, senses of place, textures and being alert to subtle variations in color, such as all the degrees of green during springtime.

Because she works in multiple layers – often using 40-50 layers of slow-drying oil and wax that she selectively scrapes or partially dissolves with a citrus-based solution – she typically has five to seven paintings going at any one time. It can take her months to finish one.

“I’m becoming really known for my large pieces,” Cappaert said. “Those are physically exhausting, but I am up for that challenge.” 

In between, she works on some smaller, less exhausting pieces.

The process of painting and scraping also makes a mess. When she moved from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Egg Harbor, the buyers of her Michigan property wanted to turn her studio into a master-bedroom suite. Flakes of paint and wax were not part of their interior-decorating plan.

“I had a lot of cleanup to do when I sold that studio,” Cappaert said. “It’ll be a great master-bedroom suite, but oh, my gosh, did I have to scrub!”

She is passionate about her art and her gallery, which, in addition to displaying her own work, represents 40 artists.

“What I love about the arts is when artists have personalized galleries,” Cappaert said. “All of the artists [whom] I represent are just individual artists like [me], doing what we love. I don’t ever want to carry any art that’s from a company or mass produced.”

It is important for her to be at her gallery, interacting with people, even though it means that most painting is put on hold for the summer.

“I like the people interaction because come winter, there isn’t any,” she said. “It’s just me in the studio.”

That doesn’t give Cappaert time for big paintings during the summer, although she manages some smaller works and does a lot of thinking about what to paint when the winter rolls around. 

“All of these paintings are percolating inside of me,” she said, “so that when November comes, I can hit the studio and see what happens with all of those thoughts and ideas.”

When winter arrives and her schedule opens, Cappaert focuses on painting larger because it allows her to be more expressive. She’s also using more layers and textures. 

“I have gone heavier with that than I have in the past,” she said. “The sky paintings, too, are just built on all of those layers. When I talk about going deeper, it’s just all about more and more layers and texture, and to develop more interest in the piece.”

But painting large and heavy can also be expensive – Cappaert’s paint orders run into thousands of dollars – which is the price for putting many layers on large panels using the best-quality paints. 

In her studio, she pulled out worksheets of paper with different colors of paint on them, along with notations about the ingredients of each brush stroke.

“Look at some of these beautiful, earthy colors with the brights,” Cappaert said. “Because even though my work is so colorful, I balance that intense color with this earthiness.” 

She displays her work at her Cappaert Contemporary Gallery, 7901 Hwy 42 in Egg Harbor; at Edgewood Orchard Galleries, 4140 Peninsula Players Road in Fish Creek, where she will be a featured artist this summer; and at Globe Fine Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.