Featured Artists Blog
Artists on the Bluff
2018 Summer Arts Festival
Village Green, Lake Bluff, IL
June 16-17, 2018
Click on artist’s name or scroll down to see all featured artists . . .
Kristy Kempner and Karen Shull
Mary Anne Donahue
Lucy Benvenuto Gundling
Edie Ottoman Risher
Alison Hurd Tompkins
I am a resident of Lake Forest and have painted and exhibited work since graduating from the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford University, and from the Slade School of Art at London University.
Portraiture was my first love, exhibiting at the Royal Portrait Gallery in London and completing many commissioned pieces including royalty from the Middle East.
I turned to painting “plein air” landscapes for a more relaxed rendition of painting. My style is distinctive through application of color, creating surfaces of rich texture, bright and sparkling. Each painting conveys to the viewer a feeling of nostalgia for places and scenes familiar and remembered.
My work can be found in many private and public collections in England and the United States. My Lake Forest home, part studio and gallery, displays my most recent work.
My name is Samuel Beckman. I am an American artist born and raised outside of Detroit, MI. I lived my adult life in Columbus, OH until January 2015 when my family was given the opportunity to move to London, England. We lived in the UK for almost 3 years before moving to the North Shore area of Chicago.
My work is inspired by experiences and interactions. I typically have a story behind each of my paintings, including my commissioned works. I let those experiences dictate the style and mood of the painting, but I love rich colors and high contrast. While most of my work is now oil painting, I often use different mediums for the challenge of something different.
Always drawing as a child, I learned to paint in high school with a focus in watercolor still life. I was fascinated by making my paintings feel realistic using rich, intense color to achieve it. Unfortunately as I explored higher education I moved away from my painting.
After completing my landscape architecture degree and MBA, I put my creativity to work in designing and constructing both golf courses and gardens. My two other passions. Eventually I transitioned into creating marketing campaigns for a major US insurance carrier. Aside from some sketching, my artwork was dormant.
I began painting again in 2012 to help encourage my children’s creativity. When we moved to the UK, I decided it was time to take my work public. I have been fortunate enough to have some international success. My continuing series of nightscape paintings are often people’s favorites.
My work is inspired by experiences and interactions. I typically have a story behind each of my paintings, including commissioned works. I let those experiences dictate the style and mood of the painting, but I still love rich colors and high contrast.
We are a Mother/Daughter team who live by the simple mantra “what goes around, comes around”. We live our lives with what we have, not necessarily what we feel the need to acquire. This rings true with our resourcefulness of being creative with what is around us in our everyday lives. We like to think of our passion as seeing “unusual art from not so unusual sources”. For the last few years we have been especially drawn to the practice of upcycling, which is the process of using used goods or waste material so as to produce something that is often better than the original. Upcycling is one of the world’s oldest and purist ways of living. We feel everything comes from something. What comes of it can be the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. We also believe everyone (and everything) deserves a “do-over” every now and then.
Kristy: One of my more recent endeavors stems from years (and years and years) of collecting champagne caps knowing one day I would find their purpose. Not only has the collecting been so much fun (because yes, it did involve a little partake in a few champagne celebrations) but it also became a hobby of sort and an escape from the corporate world I was consumed with. Having recently retired, I have found a new outlet on life and am having a great time with it. I am creating beautiful one of a kind trays, wine collars and dishes from reclaimed pieces and using my collection of champagne caps to ornate them. Each piece is truly original and holds its own story.
Karen: I have to say all my life I have been artistically deprived. It was not until recently I have found the time for myself to be the artist I have always desired to be. I graduated from Arizona State University with a Graphic Communications degree only to start up a plumbing company with my husband 25 years ago. Raising two beautiful, very active daughters, and running a business kept me from doing what I desired to do. But now that has all changed and I am finding my own self again with this new chapter in life. The wine bottle rings pendants I create are very dear to me. Knowing that each bottle I use was destined for the landfill (I tend to use bottles that were not intended to be recycled by the user for whatever reason) gives me a small purpose in this big world. I use the neck of the bottle for the ring and the rest goes to a friend who uses the rest for candles. When I wear my necklace, I feel a small sense of being.
Mary Anne Donahue
Variety and exploration is the hallmark of MADesigns’ Mary Anne Donahue. She has mastered a variety of mediums including painting, jewelry making, and mosaics. The majority of her jewelry making utilizes natural stones and sterling silver, but she also does intricate bead weaving and knotting. Mosaics is her current passion, and her work is like no others. Mary Anne particularly enjoys using cast off materials, such as broken china, discarded jewelry, stones, beach glass and other found objects to create one of a kind objets d’art.
Lucy Benvenuto Gundling
I graduated from Elmhurst College in 1980 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and majored in Art. I studied under Sandra Jorgensen who was Chairman of the Art Department and focused on photography as my media of choice. Sandra was a great influence and friend. She had a great passion for the Chicago Imagists as well as for Edward Hopper and De Chirico to name just a few. Sandra instilled in me a great appreciation for composition and imagery that were elements of great importance to her. I do miss her and the friendship we shared.
Since I graduated I started using pastels in landscapes and flower images, influenced of course by Georgia O’Keeffe. Over the past few years, my work has incorporated other elements of mixed media and has led into creating collages. These pieces incorporate found images, paint, fiber art, stenciling, embellishments and textures. I find this to be a very spontaneous and exciting form of expression. I search out elements that complement or contrast to evoke the particular feeling I am trying to convey.
I live north of Chicago in Lake Forest and participate in the active artist community there. I am a board member of the Deer Path Art League and also belong to the Artists on the Bluff organization. My son, Peter, is currently a junior attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The artwork of Brian Willard merges Old World craftsmanship with contemporary narrative structures and vision.
Growing up in Lake Bluff, he began studying classical landscape and portrait painting at an early age with Lake Forest artist Jacqui Blatchford. Willard continued focusing on art throughout his collegiate studies at Columbia College Chicago. In 2008 he studied at the International Institute, Lorenzo de’Medici, the result of which was a hand-bound book of original artwork and poetry that was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection.
After earning his BFA in 2009, Willard continued to create original artwork and exhibit in local art shows around the North Shore. Acting as a contributor to the non-profit arts organization Sixty Inches From Center, Brian Willard has also written extensive interviews, profiles, and exhibition reviews of different artists and shows from around the Chicagoland area for several years.
Willard continues to create both traditional, classical landscapes and portraits while also painting figurative pieces that call into question subjectivity and the perception of both the artist and audience. By creating these pieces, Brian Willard hopes to give vision to the varied levels of identity and nuance.
Creating woodblock prints has enabled me to simplify my landscapes by focusing on masses of color and relationships of form.
Being a lifelong student of art means always learning and evolving. My study of art history, travels and hobby as a gardener all influence my artwork. Changing-up my techniques and subject matter keeps my work fresh: whether painting landscapes, still-lives or abstracts, creating multi-media collage, knitting, or carving woodblocks and printmaking… All of it reflects my intention to express relationships of color, light and form.
I actively support the arts and enjoy working on public and private projects that build art appreciation. Over the years, I have helped organize and participate in multiple art-related programs and events for community organizations and schools.
Creating art and being outside in nature has been a life long passion. I started my career in advertising producing packaging for computer products. Seventeen years ago I made the choice to leave advertising and pursue painting full time. I have been represented in galleries Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin.
My artwork is a unique blend of Henna designs (traditional Indian art) and Zentangles® (drawing structured patterns). I call my art form ‘ZENNA’! All my work is hand drawn and painted by me, I don’t use stencils or motifs or graphic art.
Each piece of art reflects my love for “Zenna”, patience with intricacies, need for structure, and passion for color. Some designs are free flowing strokes of deliberate pattern while others are arrangements or circular mandalas on various surfaces such as glass, wood, paper, canvas.
About me – I live in Lincolnshire, IL with my husband and two wonderful kids. I’m excited to bring to you my passion for this art form!
Edie Ottoman Risher
With years of experience in the advertising world, as well as a business owner, I have specialized in creative marketing and design for many companies as well as not for profit organizations. Having painted in Watercolor and Oil, I now concentrate painting in Acrylic the scenes from my travels and surroundings that are enjoyable to me as well as to others. My subject matter is constantly evolving from landscapes, florals, still life, to abstract, while employing vibrant colors and details to my paintings. Lately, I have been painting vignettes of beautiful areas of interest to capture a special moment for the viewer. Many of my followers tell me that my paintings make them feel happy. That makes me happy too!
My work can be found in private collections throughout the United States as well as in Lithuania and Germany.
My mission with my jewelry design is to create classically influenced, one of a kind pieces using fine materials: gold, sterling, fine gem stones, and pearls. Showing my work at art fairs and charity events, it is always fun to see how people respond to my work. I love to do custom design or redesign work for people.
Current president of Artists on the Bluff, Sandie is a classically trained versatile artist. Her artwork ranges from more traditional drawings and paintings to contemporary paintings/ installations. She is one of the muralists in the Lake Bluff Train Station, will be painting a large scale mural for Sunset Foods(LF) and is a scenic charge artist for the Citadel Theater.
Her artwork is shown on a national scale- most recently in the past few Artprize (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 4Art Gallery and 33 Contemporary (Chicago), and in collaboration with John Hatlestad at the Elmhurst Art Museum, and the Chicago Tree Project(Chicago Sculpture International)
She is in the collection of the Chicago Department of the Environment, the Field Museum, the Coyne Foundation, William Blair Collection and many others.
She holds an MFA from Maryland Institute Graduate School of painting and for the past 10 years has been a “working artist” for Golden Paints.
Stacy Vermylen is a metalsmith and jewelry designer working in Lake Forest and Naples, FL. Her one-of-a-kind designs incorporate precious metals, pearls, semi-precious stones and vintage objects to create unique necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Stacy also does custom work, often remaking pieces of jewelry for customers who want an updated or modified design. Styles range from contemporary to traditional, with the style derived from the materials and the artists’ mood!
I was born in Chicago, IL. I have drawn and painted for as long as I can remember. I am mostly self-taught but I have been fortunate to study informally under some fine artists such as, Enid Silverman, Jason Miklik, and Romel de la Torre. I love working in oils and watercolors as well as charcoal and pastels. Most of all I love the sheer act of creating in two dimensions what I see in three. The completed drawings and paintings are my emotions and interpretations poured out onto a canvas.
Working as a painter for 30 years, Leslie Emery is a mid-career, abstract painter and mixed media artist, currently working with the techniques of reverse painting. Stretching the boundaries of conventional imagery and painting by using acrylic on acrylic sheets and producing lustrous, layered paintings and wall sculptures. The accumulated knowledge of this reverse-painting technique, the step-by-step process of building a painting or wall sculpture, a sensitivity to form and colors’ spatial and emotional properties, a deeply personal vocabulary of marks and mark making enables her to create works of art that become their own entities, resonating personal and profound explorations into associations, both directly and indirectly, pertaining to Nature and Man.
One would say I’m pretty much the typical Midwestern gal, having spent the majority of my life in Illinois. Growing up with two brothers under the tutelage of Mom and Dad, I spent many hours learning the arts of sewing, knitting, crocheting and other fiber related skills at my Mother’s side. I finished high school in 1970 and graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 1973 with a degree in Christian Education/Music. Throughout the years, I continued with the standard fiber arts until I stumbled across my current passion of wall art made from the raveled thread of rag baskets. My inspiration to use the single threads came from the human hair wreaths and shadow boxes displayed at many historic sites in the Midwest. Much of my work is Folk Art and suitable for a child’s or family room. I am developing new techniques with each new piece and starting to do more contemporary works.
My work has been on display at The Eighth Annual Fiber and Art Festival in Grayslake, IL and well as at The Gallery in Lake Forest, IL. I currently reside in Waukegan, IL, where I have lived for the past 42 years with my dear husband, our two cats and one dog.
“Having been a career artist for the last 37 years has given me the opportunity to paint (en plein air), travel and visit great museums in the United States and in several European countries. My work is driven by the use of both light and color … driving forces that add energy to the work. I believe that this light can impart a spiritual quality that resonates with the viewer. The design, shapes and the underlying abstract quality behind the painting are of great interest to me. My years as an artist have been about equally divided between the mediums of watercolor and oils, each with its own properties and end results.” — Tom Trausch
Thomas Trausch has exhibited nationally for the past three decades and has over 1400 original paintings in private, corporate and public collections.
Choosing elements from my captured photo collection and my previous fiber artwork, throwing in skies, landscape backgrounds, and textures, I create what I like to call “Photo Collages”. The elements are digitally assembled into new “visions” using Photoshop’s various layering techniques, and further enhanced with dimensional effects. I haunt local sites for my ingredients: the Chicago Botanic Garden, Spring Valley Nature Center, the Illinois Railway Museum, and many other great facilities. My interest in “straight” photography has waned, and I find the departures from reality much more entertaining!
Artist Lisa Grothman Ryan graduated from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and Major in Illustration. Soon after, she moved to New York City and began a career as a freelance illustrator. Her illustrations appeared in business, trade, medical and sports publications.
In 1998, she moved back to the Midwest to the Chicago area. After she arrived, she focused on painting and created her first few series in pastel. After a number of years, she switched her primary medium to water-soluble oils. She discovered that water-soluble oils have the same depth of color like conventional oil paints without the need to use hazardous solvents to thin and clean.
After switching to oils, Lisa worked on two series, The Intimate Lives of Fruit and Vegetables and Robot Portraits. Lisa continued with the robot theme producing both woodcut and intaglio prints. She is currently working on a smaller size series of paintings, oil on canvas, with the theme being “love of color”.
The theme of Lisa’s artwork typically revolves around the personification of still life objects. She takes all of her own reference photos. She incorporates humor and hints of relationships in her paintings of inanimate objects.
Lisa has had and participated in solo shows, group shows, a Chicago art fair, and touring group show.
Alison Hurd Tompkins
Alison Hurd Tompkins has been creating jewelry combining antique and vintage elements, semi-precious stones, pearls and other whimsical elements for over ten years.
Influences stem from designs by Coco Chanel and the artistic eras of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. The vivid colors and designs in nature along with juxtaposition of plants and flowers at The Chicago Botanic Gardens are often the inspiration for her work.
Alison has been a resident of the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff area for over 20 years.
As a self -taught outdoors photographer, my expertise and passion are images of the American Great Plains, it landscapes and wildlife. My portfolio also includes spring bogs and fall colors — much of it in Lake County. In addition, I have numerous tropical and cold weather images.