I stumbled across Whitney Orr’s (W Reynolds Orr) work one day when I was looking around Etsy. I was struck by her bold use of color and the sense of movement in each of her pieces. I was even more intrigued by her story. Though she currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, she is extremely well-travelled and grew up in Ireland. She then moved to NYC and worked in the art world as a dealer, before becoming a professional painter herself.
Keep reading to see my interview with her!
What kind of art education have you had?
I grew up on the coast of Ireland (Galway) and had very limited access to art classes. My school, like most Irish schools, was run by the Church and Irish Catholic nuns were not focused on the arts :). But I loved art and took as many classes as I could. My mother was an antique and art dealer so I grew up seeing beautiful things – both man-made and the wild beauty of the Irish coast and the diversity of the European continent.
At eighteen I moved to New York to study at Christie’s. After Christie’s I worked at galleries and eventually became a private dealer. I continued painting as a hobby but was primarily focused on selling and assisting other artists.
What’s your creative process? How do you get inspired?
My greatest inspiration has always been travel. I started traveling around the world at 19 and have lived, worked (and/or played) in over 70 countries. I love seeing the world and my art is very much inspired by what I’ve seen and experienced. I paint in the abstract because for me it’s the best way to capture the feeling of a place. I am inspired not just by my own experiences but by my clients life experiences as well. My favorite commissions come from a client telling me about a special place in their life. Some clients have described the place where they got engaged, others where they were when they found out they we’re going to be a parent, or fell in love.
How do you go about selecting color?
I try to capture the feeling and emotion of a place in abstract. Every place on earth has it’s own unique feeling, often subtle and powerful and incredibly evocative. I never plan out a painting before I start. For me it’s a living thing that takes on a life of it’s own as I work on it. I love layers and textures, bold colors and subtle movement.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue art as a career?
Each artist should draw on their own experiences and creative strengths. Some artists have a gift for capturing life as it is others have a gift for expressing emotion as we feel it or the beauty we long for. Find your own strength and what gives you joy and make that your work. Never imitate the work of others.