We sat down with Traverse City artist Rebecca Deneau to discover how the busy mom of three boys finds time to create what she calls her “Contemporary Impressionism” works. The key? Work around their schedule, she says, and take in the many vistas she observes when out and about and exploring Michigan with her husband and kids. Inspired by Lake Michigan, Crystal River, and various inland lakes, Deneau’s work showcases quintessential Michigan in a serene and soft light with a variety of beautifully mixed, muted tones.
BLUE: Why do you love the Traverse City area?
Rebecca Deneau: My husband and I decided to settle in Traverse City, MI (his hometown) nearly 20 years ago. I love the slower pace, the people, and the beautiful landscape of Northern Michigan. I try to live a quiet and slower life, value time together with my family, and get outside as much as possible to enjoy our area. Both my native roots in Chicago and the open lands of Michigan deeply inspire my work.
BLUE: What’s your medium and how did you jump onto the art path?
RD: My uncle was a sculptor and glass blower and I was fascinated by his world and his work. I took my first oil-painting class when I was 14 at a local art league in the Chicago area. I fell in love with the medium and continued to learn from other established artists and throughout college and have been painting ever since. While I tried many other mediums throughout the years, I kept coming back to oils. I just loved the versatility, history, and beauty of oil paints. I’m enjoying a career as a fine artist and loving every minute of it. I paint out of my home studio with my pup, Penny, nearby. When I am not painting, you can find me in the woods or on the lakeshore, exploring with my family.
BLUE: With your studio in your home, do you find it difficult to paint with the everyday distractions of family life?
RD: I have three boys and a lively household. My best time for focused painting is reserved for when they are in school. I love the flexibility of my work. I can create my own schedule and work around my family’s activities.
BLUE: What inspires a lot of your work?
RD: The Great Lakes provide endless inspiration. I love being near the water and find it so restorative. I love how the water changes color based on the weather, season and time of day. Lake Michigan is a favorite body of water, for sure. I have also painted Crystal River quite a bit and lots of inland lakes. I paint the places our family loves the most — the places where we build memories together and spend our summer days.
BLUE: Do you teach?
RD: I offer a complete online oil-painting course that is now available.
BLUE: What are your plans for the future? Any changes in style or subject?
RD: The way light affects the landscape has always interested me. My collections have mostly been based around the seasons. I would like to create some work based around the time of day. Right now, I am developing ideas for a “Morning Light” collection.
More information: RebeccaDeneau.com
Photos by: Ben Law Photography