Oxford artist Cindy Aune paints whimsical pieces full of varying techniques and detail. We asked her to break down her process for us.
By Emma Kent
Oxford artist Cindy Aune has been painting for a long time. But it wasn’t until recently that she started painting how she wanted to paint. For years, Aune painted to make a living, but now, she lives to paint.
“When I was younger I thought I had to do what everyone else did, but I’m doing pretty much what I want to now.” she said. “Painting is the most frustrating and the most exhilarating work I have ever done.”
Her work is abstract and colorful, and most of her pieces contain many layers — both literally and figuratively. A lot of her work features faces and people. While some of her subjects are inspired by real life, sometimes she just dreams them up and they appear on the canvas.
“Sometimes I see the person, and I’m thinking about them, but other times I’m just playing with shapes and color or texture,” she said.
The people she paints often have an eclectic look to them, with exaggerated features and unusual coloring. She mostly uses acrylic paints with intense pigments.
“I use weird colors in hair and I don’t use a lot of flesh tones,” she said.
Aune doesn’t paint using brushes, either. Instead, she opts for a simpler approach: She paints with her fingers.
Her Oxford studio is full of completed pieces, all painted in varying color schemes. Right now, Aune is gearing up for festival season, so her studio is especially full of pieces she’s been preparing to take to those events this spring. This year, she’ll be at the Ridgeland Art Festival in Madison, Art On The Square in Southlake, Texas, the Cottonwood Art Festival in Richardson, Texas, and the Geneva Art Festival in Geneva, Illinois.
She’ll also have a solo show at Jeffrey Breslow Gallery in Chicago this July. Many of her pieces are currently on display at the Caron Gallery in Tupelo.
Aune likes to do whatever she wants when painting, so she’s constantly experimenting with materials and mediums in her work. She loves to play with color, texture and proportion as well. Once she found that freedom to experiment in her work, Aune said she realized painting isn’t as hard as it’s perceived to be.
“People make painting a lot harder than it is because you’re ‘supposed’ to do certain things,” she said. “But it’s not that hard.”
Breaking it Down
Sometimes it’s because she needs to fill space, and other times it’s because she feels a painting needs a little something extra, but birds are a recurring element in Aune’s work. “They’re a good element to use,” she said. “I can change the form of them really easily.” In this piece, she added the birds at the end to give the painting an extra layer of interest as well as distract from some of the elements she doesn’t like about this piece. “Those are the last thing I added, and they distract from the negative elements.”
When she first painted this piece, Aune felt that the eyes were too far apart and the nose was too long. “It was very out of proportion,” she said. “For some reason her eyes are very big — too big — but I really like them. That’s why I kept it.” So, Aune reworked the original piece into something new. The result is a piece Aune says is very different from most of her other work. “It’s a lot more feminine than most of the pieces I do.”
Pretty in Pink
Another one of the original painting’s elements that drew Aune back to the piece was the mouth. She loves the way the lips smear at the edges and their bright pink color.
To make these watercolor-esque circles, Aune uses watercolor pens to scribble circles where she wants to add color or interest to a piece. Then, she activates the watercolor by wiping them with water, creating the reddish circles you see in this piece. The pens are typically used by watercolorists for painting intricate details, but Aune likes to experiment with using them in her work.
The patterned appearance here was created using a kraft paper stencil and spray paint. This method creates dimension and brings the subject’s hair to life through texture. Aune likes the wild look it gives the woman’s hair. “Her hair looks like it’s wisteria or something,” she said. Aune often uses spray paint alongside acrylic paint in her pieces.
Set the scene
Aune doesn’t begin her paintings with a blank canvas. Instead, she texturizes the canvases and adds color to work off of. “I like the shadows and the irregularity that it creates,” she said. She creates texture using tissue paper and gel medium, then she paints over it using drips of paint to create an abstract backdrop for the painting’s subject. Not only does this process add interest to the work, but Aune said she finds blank canvases intimidating.