SC artist Mary Whyte to receive Portrait Society’s Gold Medal
The Portrait Society of America will honor watercolor artist Mary Whyte of Johns Island, S.C., as the 2016 recipient of the Society's Gold Medal on April 16 during the Art of the Portrait conference taking place in Washington, D.C. The annual award honors a lifelong dedication to excellence, as well as recognition of a distinguished body of work that serves to foster and enhance fine art portraiture and figurative works in America. Whyte is also a teacher and author whose figurative paintings have earned national recognition.
Some of America's most renowned artists are Gold Medal recipients, including Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, Nelson Shanks, Philip Pearlstein and Burton Silverman.
Whyte received the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the Arts in 2013.
Verner Award recipient Mary Whyte “paints pennies”
2013 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award recipient Mary Whyte recently talked about her work and the current state of the art market for "5 Questions with Ashley Byrd" for South Carolina Radio Network.
(Listen to Whyte’s explanation of painting pennies – 56 sec.)
Mary Whyte is recognized around the world for her lifelike watercolors depicting working-class Southerners, Gullah Geechee culture and people she described as “pennies” who are overlooked by too many of us.
Whyte is the 2013 recipient of South Carolina’s highest arts honor, The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award.
The Johns Island-based artist is the subject of a biographical collection, her third book of work published by USC press and authored by Martha Severens, curator of the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston.
Ashley Byrd: You painted in oils, and taught yourself a different medium, watercolor. How in the world did you do that?
Mary Whyte: I started painting when I was 16 in watercolor….and I was the one young person in the class.
Back then, there certainly wasn’t the internet and access to You Tube and videos on how to do anything. There weren’t any watercolor instructors back then. I think I’ve only had two or three teachers ever in watercolor. But I did go to art school and of course there the training is mostly in drawing and oil –and watercolor traditionally has never been seen as a real mainstay in art; it’s always been viewed as a lightweight, a preparatory medium.
The serious art schools, academies in Europe just never really teach watercolor. So it was really just through going to museums and studying the works of the masters that I painted with it. I always loved it, just the way it goes down, the sparkles it leaves behind on the paper.
I think we learn by simply doing something over and over again.
Byrd: Tell me about the use of light, a realistic light in your paintings:
Whyte: As a teacher I tell my students that it is light that describes form, and it’s how light sits on a surface or rakes across a surface or gets lost in a fluffy surface, that describes what we are looking at. But it’s more than that. To me, light is also magic. and it can really create the mood to a painting, where the light is coming from, whether it’s dim light or noontime light, backlighting. I think it can really set that stage and it is really important to me as it is to most artists.
Byrd: In your compilation of working people, these paintings of real people are not too precious, not too stereotypical, but ordinary people and just beautiful. How do you choose your subjects?
Whyte: In this new biography book, we also have a collectors edition..and I chose for the clasp a penny. And for me, the penny is symbolic of the people that I paint. and the best way I can explain it is that when most people walk and they see a penny lying on the sidewalk, most people will step over the penny and keep walking.
And so, that’s who I paint. I paint pennies, people who are often overlooked and passed by. And I think that’s where we find the real humanity. I firmly believe that you can take almost anybody, give them a makeover, give them a script and you have this sort of pseudo-celebrity person. But what I want to paint are the people that fall under this radar: real, true, honest Americans.
Byrd: How do you approach people, these pennies you see and you want to paint them?
Whyte: I really like painting people I don’t know, because I feel I don’t have this obligation to them. Of course, all of my models are compensated and they sign a permission form and they understand what might become of this painting. But when I see someone on the sidewalk, I’ve never regretted asking someone to pose for me, even if they said no. But I have regretted the people I didn’t ask.
I guess what I look for is a certain profoundness in a person. You can’t make that happen. It either is or it isn’t. And so when I see that in a person or a person in a certain situation, I simply go up and I tell them that i am an artist and I want to make some sketched or to take some photos for a painting, I always get the same two reactions from the people.
The first is that they say “You want to paint me?” and I love that, that sort of unassuming surprise of someone, that unpolished, true, natural heart of a human being. The second is, “Wait, I have to go fix my hair” and I say “No, no I don’t want you to fix your hair, I want you to be just like this, just as you are.”
So I have actually had very few people say no to me.
Byrd: Because you are truly interested in them as a person and that surprises them….
Whyte: That is exactly it! When you show sincere interest and appreciation of a person, they will open up. Being an artist, I have had so many wonderful doors opened to me, as a stranger, people that when they hear that I am in the area painting or that I want to paint them, they invite me into their home, they have given me places to stay—-to me, a stranger.
Byrd: Tell me about the market right now.The newest ways that we communicate these days, through social media, does that help or hurt people trying to make a living in fine art?
Whyte: That’s a yes and no answer. Certainly with the advent of social media, it can certainly increase the market range of an artist so that an artist is able to show their work to a somebody in Europe and sell it to that person in Europe.
I also think that in some ways it doesn’t help us as artists in that there are so many artists who have their work out there and so many artists that call themselves plein air painters or atelier painters that those particular categories of artists I think begin to lose their specialness when there are so many artists doing it. That being said, social media does give many more opportunities for artists to find their niche in the art world and to locate a certain type of client that their work may appeal to.
As far as how the market is right now, I think that a lot of artists are struggling. We are so closely tied to real estate, if people are not building and buying walls, you’re not putting something on the walls. For many artists, it’s become a more competitive market.
Via: South Carolina Radio Network
Reserve your ticket for the South Carolina Arts Gala!
Would you like your very own Pearl Fryar topiary for your garden? How about a sculpture by Mac Boggs, or a painting by Ethel Brody or Mary Whyte? These Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Awards for the Arts recipients are just four of the artists whose works will be for sale at the 2013 South Carolina Arts Gala on May 1.
Presented by the South Carolina Arts Foundation, the gala is a perfect time to chat with the artists or add to your personal art collection while benefiting the arts in schools and communities around the state. All proceeds from the gala and the art auction and sale are used for the South Carolina Arts Commission's arts education and arts development programs. Last year, the S.C. Arts Foundation contributed more than $55,000 to bolster programs such as artist fellowships, arts education and artist training throughout the state.
- What: South Carolina Arts Gala, featuring an art auction and sale of original artworks by some of the Palmetto State's most recognized artists, including functional and non-functional craft, paintings and sculpture.
- When: May 1, 2013 at 7 p.m.
- Where: the Grand Hall at 701 Whaley in Columbia
- Why: to support the arts statewide, recognize the recipients of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts and enjoy a fabulous party!
Tickets are $75 per person and may be purchased online
with a credit card or check, or by calling (803) 734.8696. Reserve yours today!
Read more and see the list of participating artists
Image: Alice Ballard, Pod 2, white earthenware & terra sig, 11.5 x 11 x 7; one example of art work in the auction and sale.
South Carolina Arts Commission announces Verner Award recipients
The South Carolina Arts Commission Board announces the 2013 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts, the highest honor the state presents in the arts. Established in 1972, the annual awards recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina.
This year’s recipients:
“Again this year we have an outstanding, diverse group of Verner Award winners,” said S.C. Arts Commission Board Chairman Dr. Sarah Lynn Hayes. “These exceptional individuals and organizations illustrate the true depth of the arts community in our state. We are grateful for their passion, their contributions and their commitment to serving as ambassadors and standard-bearers for the arts. They are certainly worthy of this highest honor.”
Awards will be presented at a Statehouse ceremony tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 2. The S.C. Arts Foundation
will honor the recipients and the arts community at the South Carolina Arts Gala on Wednesday, May 1. The gala is a fundraiser supporting the programs of the S.C. Arts Commission. For more about the Verner Awards or the S.C. Arts Gala, call (803) 734-8696 or visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com
Watercolor artist Mary Whyte’s new book celebrates Gullah culture
Watercolor artist Mary Whyte's new publication, "Down Bohicket Road," is inspired by the Gullah culture of Coastal South Carolina. The book includes two decades of watercolors depicting a group of Gullah women of Johns Island, S.C., and their stories. In the early 1990s, in a remote corner of the South, Whyte first met Alfreda LaBoard and her devoted group of seniors who gathered weekly to make quilts, study the Bible and socialize in a small rural church on Bohicket Road. Descendants of Lowcountry slaves, these longtime island residents influenced Whyte's life and art in astonishing and unexpected ways.
Whyte soon began a series of watercolors depicting these women, honoring their lives and their dedication to family and faith. "Alfreda's World," a collection of Whyte's detailed watercolors and poignant recollections of the women at the senior center, was published a decade later, drawing attention and support from the community to the small church on Bohicket Road.
"Down Bohicket Road" continues the story of Whyte's relationship with these extraordinary women, following the passing of Alfreda, against the backdrop of the ongoing commercial development of Johns Island. For Whyte, the heart of this community remains in the simple homes clustered along Bohicket Road, in the island's winding tidal creeks, and in a small church where 18 hardscrabble women gather in fellowship each week. In her book, Whyte illustrates that both watercolors and friendships can be the unpredictable results of an abundance of blessings. As shared through touching words and vibrant paintings, "Down Bohicket Road" celebrates a unique way of coastal life and a remarkable friendship that transcends all barriers—even death itself—in praise of the unifying power of art.
"Down Bohicket Road" is available through the University of South Carolina Press. All royalties from book sales benefit the Hebron Saint Francis Senior Center on Johns Island.
Book Signing Schedule
Some events require ticket purchases and advance registration. Contact the venue for more details.
Talk and Book Signing
The Florence Library, Florence
(843) 413-7064 or (843) 413-7065
Talk and Book Signing
Noon until 1 p.m.
Center for the Book
S.C. State Library, Columbia
5:30 - 7 p.m.
Books on Broad, Camden
Talk and Book Signing
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Coastal Discovery Museum, Hilton Head
Luncheon and Book Signing
Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston
Luncheon and Book Signing
11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island
Cocktails and Book Signing
6 - 8 p.m.
Coleman Fine Art, Charleston
Luncheon and Book Signing
Noon - 2 p.m.
The Lazy Goat, Greenville
Sponsored by Fiction Addiction
About Mary Whyte
Watercolor artist Mary Whyte is a teacher and author whose figurative paintings have earned national recognition. A resident of Johns Island, S.C., Whyte garners much of her inspiration from the Gullah descendents of coastal Carolina slaves who number among her most prominent subjects. Her portraits are included in numerous corporate, private and university collections, as well as in the permanent collections of South Carolina’s Greenville County Museum of Art and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. Her paintings have been featured in numerous publications, including International Artist, Artist, American Artist, Watercolor and American Art Collector. Her work can be found at Coleman Fine Art in Charleston.
Via: Mary Whyte and USC Press