Concepts Expressed on Canvas

Donna Fischer

donna fischer | the artist next door | aug. 2018

Musings on the nature of space, time, landscapes and the way we fit into it all can be found in the expressive paintings of Danica Oudeans. Though her artist statements online seem articulate enough, the artist claims that painting is really the best way for her to express ideas. With abstract works that suggest the ephemeral nature of our surroundings, Oudeans focuses her efforts on drawing viewers in and then giving them something to contemplate.

“I think for me the visual allows me to get the emotive expression across without actually saying anything. Writing is too specific. Visuals allow the viewers to bring their own perspective and their own experiences to the work.”

Oudeans sees success in a painting when she brings something of her own experience and the viewer finds a correlation with their own experience.

“I create a narrative that's meaningful to them through the work. That's what I find fascinating, that communicative process that happens when one views an artwork. My intention is that it might evoke a memory. There's all these spaces that we inhabit and they impact us and something will trigger that memory of being in a particular space in a particular time.”

You can see a collection of Oudeans paintings on display now at the Artless Bastard in De Pere. One piece in particular has forceful imagery in it, hinting perhaps at the nature of reality. Oudeans calls that piece “Time Being,” and explains that it is based on the Zen Buddhist idea that you can only ever experience anything in the present moment.

“So the space in that painting is very fractured but it's also all woven together so there's multiple layers of time and space that are all combining and intertwining in that red grid in the piece,” she says. “It's about past, present, and future, all wrapped up into one but meant to be experienced in a single moment.”

Oudeans, who has a Master of Fine Art degree from Miami University of Ohio and a Bachelor of Art degree from UWGB, seems to have an imagination that benefitted from a childhood with plenty of outdoor activity.

“We grew up out in the country in an old brick farmhouse. We would run in the fields and build forts. I was never interested in cartoons and TV. I really love the outdoors. I go on backpacking trips, and kayaking. For me that sense of openness, of expansiveness, that feeling that overwhelms you as an individual person keeps the perspective that we're just a small, little blip in this big, wide space. I try to capture that sense in a painting. It's so easy to get caught up on all the little details when really, most of the time, those details don't really matter in the end.”

Easily approachable, Oudeans isn't shy about her love affair with art.

“I can't imagine not having some sort of creative outlet. I love paint because of the way it moves across the canvas, because of the control I can have to mix colors and juxtapose colors. I call myself a color freak. I study the biology of how we see color, the physics of color.”

And again, this capable writer stresses that art, not writing, serves her expressive needs.

“I can't imagine not being able to express these things that are not able to be put into words for me. I admire writers. For me, writing is my nemesis. My artist statement is always the thing that causes the most anxiety. I feel like words pin down something so specifically.”

When not working on her own paintings, Oudeans teaches others how to use the canvas for their own personal expression.

“For me that's part of the joy as well. The ideal situation is that everyone is bringing all those different experiences and different approaches and different mistakes to the class. When you're in that classroom I try to foster an environment in which it's okay for failure to happen because that's the way good art is made.”

Oudeans asserts that her classes are small so that she has the time to meet students where they're at with their artistic skills.

Anyone interested in learning from Oudeans can sign up for her workshop at the Artless Bastard in De Pere in August. This one will cover techniques for painting in abstract.

“Basically what I do is I step people through a process. Everyone's work will look completely different; everyone is encouraged to bring their own creative style to the piece so we're all not painting the same painting. You're going to learn techniques on color mixing, choosing a color palette, compositional strategies. The class is set up where someone who has never painted before would be perfectly comfortable taking the class, but also somebody who has maybe done abstract paining before but is really trying to work on color, composition, or creating deep space.”

To learn more about Danica Oudeans or to register for her workshop go to ArtlessBastard.com. More information about this artist may be found at DanicaOudeansart.com.


Donna Fischer is an avid fan of music, film and art. When she's not writing on these subjects you'll find her gardening or snowshoeing around Green Bay.

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