BY CADY KUZMICH
Clifton Park — Takeyce Walter recalled an elementary school report card which read, “One day Takeyce is going to be a great artist.” After just a cursory glance at Walter’s work, it’s clear she’s lived up to those expectations.
Originally from Jamaica, Walter moved to Long Island at age 13. While she visited her mother in New York during summers, Walter said starting middle school in Long Island was a bit of a culture shock. “Let’s just say it’s a lot more strict in Jamaica,” she said. She began to fulfill her elementary school teacher’s predictions painting murals in her high school at a young age.
Walter, who is on the Board of Saratoga Arts, also works as a Media Producer at Cengage Learning, a publishing company in Clifton Park. The company publishes textbooks and is expanding to digital books. She also teaches workshops at Saratoga Arts. “I tell my students, they’ve got to put those miles and miles in, I guess, to start hitting that sweet spot.” She adds, “finding the right tools” helps.
She studied graphic design and business briefly in college. “Essentially, I wanted to do fine art but I also wanted to have a back up,” she explained. She took just one painting class in college and dove into design courses at Hudson Valley Community College in the mid-2000s after moving north with her husband, Dan, a school psychologist at Saratoga Springs.
She was working in the city when the pair began to consider moving north. Walter’s husband was familiar with the Capital Region so the couple decided to take a driving tour which she described as a whirlwind. “We drove along the Northway and got off at different towns,” she said. When the pair arrived in Clifton Park, Walter remembers thinking it was similar to Long Island, but different in all the right ways. “It was this happy medium for us,” she recalled. The couple was also drawn to the area because of Clifton Park’s proximity to SUNY Albany, New York City, Montreal, Vermont and the Adirondacks. They finally made the move in 2003.
The decision boded well for Walter’s painting. As soon as she arrived, she was overloaded with inspiring landscapes. She said she feels fortunate to live in an area with such great access to Lake George, the Adirondacks and the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Pisces [laughs] but I am really drawn to water. The water is always interesting.”
Still, even with a surplus of beautiful vistas, Walter struggled to find the time. College, work and the responsibilities that come along with the joys of motherhood all took her time and energy away from painting. With three children ages five to 19, a seven year old Springer Spaniel, Flick, and a cat named Odie, who Walter calls the “pack leader,” it’s no wonder she’s tight on time for her painting.
She described her oldest son, 19-year-old Tristan, as creative and interested in photography. “He actually has a piece in the Spring Street Gallery’s show benefitting Code Blue,” she said. Six year old Emma, like Walter, is eager to learn and loves to read. Walter described her son five year old Lucas as a “renaissance man.” While she admits she’s biased, she insists “everything he touches is golden.” He’s very involved in sports and takes himself seriously. “You know when there’s a bad call [in a baseball game] and the ref comes out and throws his hat on the ground? He imitates them. He’s like a miniature player. It’s hysterical,” she laughed.
Now that her children are getting older, Walter is committed to devoting more time to her art. She works primarily with oils and pastels, which she said she loves equally.
Last month she participated in a painting challenge — 30 paintings in 30 days. “It was actually a lot of fun. They were all pastels, except for one,” she said. Since she worked primarily with pastels in January, she’ll shift to more oil paintings in February.
For the last three years, Walter has taken part in a painting challenge she calls “Creative February.” The goal is to do something creative each day for the entire month. She started the project three years ago with her friend Kate Edwards, a fellow painter, who shared the same birthday. “Every year we say, ‘Oh, we should get together and paint for our birthday,’ but you know, life happens and it didn’t really come together.”
Walter’s children were younger at the time, so her time to paint was more restricted. Finally, she decided to make a commitment to herself. Her birthday present to herself would be to devote time to paint each day throughout the month of February. So she e-mailed Edwards the night before their birthday three years ago and asked if she wanted to join in “Creative February” with her. By the end of that month, the pair had enough art to put together a show at the Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs.
Walter said she likes to listen to music while painting. Her playlist includes the Feist’s “Metal” album and Florence and the Machine.
She is the type of painter who will stay up till 1 a.m. to get the image in her head onto the canvas. The way she sees it, “A painting starts from the minute the idea gets seeded in your head.” It could be years, months, days or in some cases hours.
She’s always had the interest and the drive to create art. “It’s really an irresistible urge you have, to create, that’s with you all the time, as an artist. I think most artists would agree with that,” she explained.
Q & A with Takeyce Walter
Q: If you had an extra hour in the day, what would you do?
A: Paint! I like reading, as well. It’s just finding the time. When I put my daughter to bed sometimes I’ll sneak a little iBook. I like sci-fi, space adventures and stories of time travel. And of course art books.
Q: If time, expenses and responsibilities weren’t in the equation, where would be your dream painting location?
A: I would probably head to France and paint with Julian Merrow Smith. He’s a landscape painter. He was one of the original daily painters who inspired me back in 2005 to start painting again.
Q: How do you think your work has changed over the years? What’s your reaction when you look back at your older work?
A: It’s just less sophisticated. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from direct observation of nature. A lot of times, when I would paint, I painted what I thought something should look like. It was also, almost like I was just copying the photos. I would work from still life photos and there wasn’t really me in it. As the years have progressed, through practice and observation and looking at artists who inspire me, I learned about aerial perspective, edges, that not everything needs an outline, that it’s good to have colors blend and get a little messy. I loosened up a lot.
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your work?
A: A painter named John Henry Twachtman. I saw his painting, “Arque la Bataille” on a college field trip at the Met. I thought it was so ahead of the times — so modern and so true. I was totally taken by the painting. I stood there for too long and got too close. I got the stink eye from the guard [laughs]. It made me want to paint scenes like that. I could have just sat there and meditated for hours looking at it.
Reach Gazette reporter Cady Kuzmich at 269-7239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.