Shortly after retiring to Door County five years ago from the Chicago area, where she owned an interior-design business, Julia Redwine decided to take a class at Peninsula School of Art. Now she and printmaker Dale Vanden Houten have opened Two Bridges Studio and Gallery, a combination work and exhibition space at 24 S. 3rd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay.
“I knew that I wanted to pursue art classes at Peninsula School of Art,” Redwine said, “and when looking through the catalog, the abstract painting classes caught my eye. I knew that I did not want to do traditional oil. Watercolor or pastels and the oil and cold wax spoke to me. It had a sense of freedom, yet with control.”
Redwine signed up and never looked back. She took five classes, and each instructor gave her techniques and skills that she uses today in her art. She paints on boards that she prepares with gesso, and she often uses paint left over from a larger work to experiment with designs on paper. Her paintings have evolved significantly from her early work, which was very dark.
“My paintings looked like mud because I couldn’t get any contrast,” she said. “I didn’t know how to work with contrast – to get the colors to contrast.”
Now Redwine’s painting is lighter and brighter, which she’s found the public prefers.
“Work from the first year, I won’t even show it,” she said. “I cut them up.”
Now Redwine is happy with the choices she’s made coming out of her classes at the art school.
“I like the medium,” she said. “It is challenging. There are days when, you know, nothing comes out of your head, and there are days when you go, ‘Oh, my gosh, I made something.’”
Redwine finds that she’s constantly improving and has developed confidence in line, color and texture. Now she’s pushing herself to let loose to see what happens. She doesn’t use paintbrushes, but instead relies on scrapers, a palette knife and unusual application tools such as cheesecloth and wax paper.
“Ginnie Cappaert, who has a studio and gallery in Egg Harbor, was an inspiration,” Redwine said. Cappaert’s paintings, often landscapes, have some representation but are more evocative than realist, using color and texture, and often cutting through layers in the paint to suggest scenes with trees and water.
“I love the feel of her work,” Redwine said.
A cold-wax painting starts by mixing oils and the wax, which is a solvent medium. The artist can vary the mix of oil and wax to get the desired level of transparency, then mix up colors on a smooth surface – a piece of glass is Redwine’s choice – and apply them with a palette knife, scraper or other tool.
“The process of cold wax and oil is adding and taking away, so you may add paint and then scrape away, or you may carve into it. That’s what Ginnie’s really good at – she often has about 50 layers.”
Redwine figures her paintings have about 20 layers.
At home, Redwine had little space to work on her pieces, so the studio on 3rd Avenue in Sturgeon Bay gives her much more room to expand the size of her canvases. The studio consists of a large room facing the street – formerly the sales room for Blue Ivy – where her business partner, Vanden Houten, has a press for making prints. He grew up in Door County, but lives and exhibits in Minneapolis part the year – often shapes etchings, screen prints or photographs around three-dimensional wood forms.
The two artists are excited to open the working gallery to visitors when they’re in, as well as by appointment.
Find links to both artists’ portfolios at twobridgesdoorcounty.com.