The Artist Resident Program, established in 2003 by Professor of Art, Sue Johnson, Ph.D., has served as a home to four visiting artists this fall. The Artist House is tucked away at the top of a hill located off of Mattapany Road, and serves as a secluded hideaway where artists can escape their jobs and work on their projects amidst the beautiful scenery of St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM). The only Artist Resident who has spent the entirety of the Fall 2019 semester at SMCM is painter and professor, Valerie Hardy.
A Richmond native, Hardy applied to the SMCM Artist Resident Program with the intention of using her time away to focus on her art and produce more work. However, a wrench was thrown into her plan when Professor Johnson asked her to teach an introductory course on painting. After a 15 year hiatus from teaching, Hardy accepted the request and agreed to teach ART 206: Intro to Painting.
Hardy, who has been painting for 45 years, explained that she loves teaching painting and likes to think that “what [she does] affects [her students’] work.” Her course at SMCM has allowed her to return to the fundamentals of painting, as she has been working with mostly inexperienced painters. Hardy stated that teaching forces her to “articulate ideas in two-dimensional art in a way that reinforces her thinking,” which allows her to consider the basics of her techniques in her own work.
She remarked that starting without a foundation of painting can be difficult for students. “You’re looking at the whole world which is three-dimensional and you have to flatten it,” she explained. Hardy mentioned her process of reducing and simplifying what she wants her students to see when they look at an object in order to encourage them to make decisions with light. She starts small with one single object, and gradually adds more and has her students talk about space. One of her main focuses in her own works and in her teaching is the power of light and how it can impact one’s perception of the painting. “It all has to do with light,” Hardy asserted. She works with her students to train their eyes to see art in more complex and in-depth ways.
In her ART 206 class, Hardy began the painting process with her students by providing them with one color and asking them to create two different values of that color. Afterwards, she gradually increased the numbers of colors. This process, Hardy stated, was “exacting for students,” for she asked them to create the exact colors she assigned them in works of art. Throughout the course, the assignments have become more and more complex, with one of their more recent tasks being to paint themselves. Hardy has emphasized the importance of criticism in allowing one to better develop as an artist. “Everybody can learn and everybody can improve,” she mentioned. Aside from the ability to take criticism, she encourages students who are interested in art to spend a lot more time in museums to look at real work, allowing themselves to see actual works of art in person rather than looking at pictures on slides in the classroom. “If you’re going to be a painter,” she said, “you absolutely must be out looking at work.”
Hardy will finish out the semester with her ART 206 class and return back to her home in Richmond, VA where she will continue creating art.