Joanne Geisel really puts herself out there.
Day in and day out she finds herself on the scene – whether that be in her studio, a classroom, a gallery, or situated before a literal landscape – to capture beauty in its purest form. It might seem like a hectic schedule to keep, but Geisel can’t find it in her to mind the shuffle back and forth too much.
“When people are given a gift, it comes with a responsibility to use it, to share it,” she says of her oil paintings focused on nature.
Since her arrival to southeastern North Carolina in 2006, Geisel has divided her time between teaching and painting, conducting workshops at such locations as The Museum School at the Cameron Museum in Wilmington, the Art Works Gallery in New Bern, and the Franklin Square Gallery in Southport. She also collaborates with the Leland Cultural Art Center, the Wilmington Art Association, the Oak Island Art Guild, and the Hannah Block Community Center to spread her love of art to eager minds and hands in a studio setting.
Her preferred setting for her own work, plein air, is as hands-on as it gets; Geisel plants herself with the best view possible and works until the light changes too drastically for her to continue. The challenge to this is, of course, the timing.
“Plein air landscapes have to be fast, but they’re my favorite to work on,” she says. “There’s an immediacy to it, both before and after the painting is finished; you have to use all your senses to appreciate the vibrancy and the life in it, not to mention to create something worthwhile from what’s in front of you.”
That isn’t to say that Geisel doesn’t spend plenty of her day in a studio when she isn’t instructing: she insists that it’s about balance, about deciding when time is best spent working from a photo as opposed to analyzing the horizon before her. While plein air painting does afford her a sense of urgency and appreciation for the subject in real time, the studio atmosphere allows her some leisure to perfect every detail until she is satisfied with the finished product.
Oil paintings, which are made possible by the usage of specialty paints coupled with a drying oil, stem from methods used hundreds of years ago, but Geisel says that with a talented instructor anyone could learn to recreate a scene or inanimate object on canvas. The greats – such as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh – are typically referenced during the instruction portion of her classes, but after that the session is entirely devoted to studying the act of painting itself.
Her classes, she says, tend to follow a basic formula that springs from whatever natural aspect entrances her most at the time: whether that be the complicated layering of colors involved in capturing water or the near spiritual quality of a clear sky. A lecture interspersed with examples to demonstrate technique facilitates Geisel’s instruction and support of her students.
“The thing is that when you get bored, that’s when you start experimenting,” Geisel says. “It’s important to change things up so you can keep challenging yourself and your art.”
The recipient of a bachelor’s degree in art education from SUNY College, which led to the pursuit of graduate studies at the same institution and a permanent certification in the field, Geisel and her husband, Bob, relocated to North Carolina after his retirement in pursuit of a small town on the coast. After the encouragement of some longtime friends, the artist found her new home and a renewed sense of inspiration.
“The goal was always to be able to call myself an artist,” Geisel asserts.
As in Passing the Pier, Geisel’s strokes in each oil painting capture the fluidity of nature and, more specifically, life on the coast of the Southeast with the occasional still-life or scene from abroad. The painting was featured in this year’s Azalea Festival Show and acclaimed by area experts for form and expression, a feat Geisel takes as a matter of personal pride.
To her, the important thing about landscapes, particularly plein air set-ups, is recreating enough energy to captivate and engage audiences of any level of expertise.
“That’s what you hope: that something about your art resonates with people, even in a small way,” Geisel says.