Wild Sage now has some new paintings to show off the talent of local artist Amber Foote
Q&A with artist Amber Foote
If you’ve been into Wild Sage lately, you may have noticed some extra eyes staring at you (or perhaps ignoring you). Amber Foote’s enticing collection of bird paintings gives a whole new meaning to the expression “bird’s-eye view,” and we wanted to learn more! We loved hearing her unique perspective of Berks County, and the people who live here, and how she has translated her experiences into art.
Can you tell me about your artistic process?/ What determines what medium you will use (oil, watercolor, etc.)?
I had tended toward watercolor just after college. I liked the options with washes and how certain colors repelled or embraced others. I’d had more than a few professors at Syracuse who inspired me, so ten years ago, I picked up oil again, with a goal to master some of its variables.
Your paintings look almost photographic, do you start with photographs? Can you talk about the photography aspect of your work?
Yes, I almost always start with at least one photo. I started taking photos and using them as reference for paintings back in high school. I grew up in a hiking, birding family. I have thousands of photos of birds now to inspire me, but I also take photos of landscapes, cityscapes, people and farms. And, a digital camera allows you to take 101 photos of one bird; to capture the ideal eye gaze, head tilt, body shadow and feet position, over several photos, and then synthesize those views into one.
What about nature, birds in particular, do you find inspiring?
Good question. I think that I really like their varied attitudes towards humans interrupting them in their space. So, I try to capture that ‘look’ of reasoning, or stealth, or curiosity that animates them, a step beyond the Audubon-style, birding-book image. For example, a Titmouse tends to be fearless, coming very close to humans, to see 'what’s what’, with a very direct gaze. A Great Blue Heron might be entirely transfixed on a naive fish two steps away and ignore humans entirely.
Would you describe your work as being particular to Berks county? Can you talk how the local culture affects your art?
I would say my current work is definitely particular to outdoor, bird-friendly spaces, and there are plenty of those here. :-) I grew up in rural Vermont, and Pennsylvania is pretty similar, with the same diversity of birds, plants and animals, farms and landscapes.
The local culture here is great and increasingly supportive of artists and the arts. I am a member of the Berks Art Alliance, which has been around forever, always promoting artists and the arts.
Does your day job as a civil rights education advocate influence your artwork?/In what ways?
Good question. I am persistently nudging people to embrace the singular, uniquely interesting person in front of them instead of just seeing the disability, so I think my bird paintings perhaps are my attempt to extend that effort to birds.