Art Maker: Christine Copeland, painter and illustrator

  • Christine Copeland stands beside “Turkeys” (triptych) and “Spring: Dogwood” at her exhibit “Seasons in the Forest” at Amherst Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Christine Copeland with three of the paintings at her Amherst Town Hall exhibit: “Spring: Dogwood,” “Summer: Lobelia Cardinalis,” and “Fall: Tupelo or Black Gum.” STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Christine Copeland with three of the paintings at her Amherst Town Hall exhibit: “Spring: Dogwood,” “Summer: Lobelia Cardinalis,” and “Fall: Tupelo or Black Gum.” STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • “Lobelia cardinalis,” acrylic with flow medium on canvas.  Image courtesy Christine Copeland

  • “Dogwood,” acrylic with flow medium on canvas. Image courtesy Christine Copeland

  • “Spring River,” acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy Christine Copeland

Published: 2/14/2020 8:51:17 AM
Modified: 2/14/2020 8:51:05 AM

Northfield painter Christine Copeland, who has an exhibit up at Amherst Town Hall through the end of February, lives on a parcel of preserved woodland called Masson Ridge that served as the inspiration for her new work. “The natural world is infinitely complex and changing,” she says. “Painting it can help us see this as we focus on the details.”

A longtime professional illustrator, Copeland employs a combination of soft acrylic paint and acrylic inks to blend form, color and a sense of movement in her paintings. “Acrylics can look and act very much like watercolor paints but can be corrected without ruining the support, and they retain the translucent effect of the subsequent application,” she notes.

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Christine Copeland: My current exhibit is called “Seasons in the Forest.” I live on a parcel of “Forever Wild” conserved woodland and am absorbed by not just the seasonal changes but also the changes as the forest matures and deepens.

We all recognize the value of conserving old forests for air, water, seed banks and wildlife corridors, not to mention carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation. If I can share some of the beauty and quiet power of this natural restorative system through my art, then I am happy.

HL: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

CC: I often have a Eureka moment when I have a wildlife sighting. One must be still and open to see a forest hawk high in the canopy or a painted trillium behind a tree. This quiet observation is good practice for an artist. And these encounters can be thrilling and inspirational.

HL: How do you know when your work is finished?

CC: That’s a tough one for all artists, I think. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Sometimes you can go too far. But I think you just know, just like you know when a dish has enough seasoning. I do think, however, that I will add some layers to a painting I thought I’d finished last fall. But I won’t tell you which one.

HL: Have you ever had a “mistake” — a project that seemed to be going south — turn into a wonderful discovery instead?

CC: For me it’s sometimes the opposite. I have something good and then I add more when I shouldn’t.

HL: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

CC: Helen Frankenthaler has such a command of color and the flow of paint. I’ve looked at a lot of her work in museums. J.M.W. Turner is being exhibited now in Mystic Seaport. Boy, are we lucky. Another artist I’ve just started looking at, with a hope of seeing his larger work, is Makoto Fujimura.

HL: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d be?

CC: Well, I’ve actually been a lot of things: mother, teacher, graphic designer, writer. Now I’m really lucky to focus on being an artist. (There is a children’s book in the show. The approach to those images is different than the paintings. So I’m a children’s book illustrator too.)

HL: Dream dinner party — who would you invite?

CC: Wow, I’d love to hear a cave painter talk to Michelangelo and Monet. Art as power.

HL: What’s your go-to snack while you’re working?

CC: Chocolate and tea!

HL: Do you listen to music while you’re working?

CC: No, I like it quiet.

HL: What do you do when you’re stuck?

CC:I go for a walk in the woods … no surprise.

— Steve Pfarrer

Christine Copeland’s “Seasons in the Forest” is on view at Amherst Town Hall through Feb. 28. Copeland’s web site is


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