Gallery Artists > Sonya Terpening Biography :

Sonya Terpening (b. 1954)  Artworks >>

Organizations* : AOA, NWS

A signature member of the National and Southwestern Watercolor Societies, Sonya Terpening believes that a watercolor offers the viewer a double reward. “A watercolor painting goes beyond subject matter, exciting the viewer with its transparency and fluidity,” she says. “Likewise, for the artist, the settling, flowing and bleeding of pigments in water charges the imagination. The unpredictability of the process makes each painting a challenge.”

“There are no afterthoughts with watercolor,” she continues. “Planning must be done in advance – even in the seemingly uncontrolled areas. It’s the potential of watercolor to create saturated color and soft transparent washes that keeps me painting with it.”

Terpening can’t remember a time when she wasn’t drawing, and she continues to study and practice. She was reared in an artistically inclined household: her brother is a woodcarver and both her parents paint. They understood and encouraged her early interest in art and arranged for her to take private painting lessons when she was in her teens.

Despite her early concentration on art, however, Terpening had no interest in watercolor until she got to college. Trained in oil painting since age nine, she had to take two semesters of watercolor classes in order to graduate from Oklahoma State University at Stillwater. “I put them off until my last year,” she laughs, “and found that I loved it. I’ve never painted in oils since.” Earning her degree in art education, Terpening was an avowed realist who found the school’s emphasis on abstract art both a frustration and a benefit. “I see my style as a bridge between realism and impressionism. It’s more emotion and spontaneity than detail.”

Next to total command of her medium, the most important part of her job, she says, is simply looking. Terpening’s goal is to savor the emotional moment and to convey the essence of that moment to the viewer. “When the collector feels it the way I did, then I’ve achieved my aim,” she says. “I want my paintings to make people feel good. I know there is a place for art that makes a social statement, but I prefer to document the good things about today. I’m not painting just another pretty picture, however. If the viewer looks at a piece and says ‘That’s nice, ho hum,’ I’ve missed.”

Reference: Southwest Art March 1992

  • AOA = Artists of America
  • NWS = National Watercolor Society
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