Warsaw Artist Makes Most Of New-Found Talent, Techniques

Stephanie McDairmant is breathing new life into a dormant interest in art with a technique that is gaining regional attention. The 45-year-old married mother of two knew she had a knack for art as far back as her days at Madison Elementary in Warsaw, but never thought it could ever become a career. For a while, she had an interest in photography, but marriage and children soon took center stage, and in the past 15 to 20 years, she spent much of her time caring for several elderly grandparents and an aunt.

By late last year, though, those loved ones, as well as a close friend, had all passed away and McDairmant was suddenly left with time on her hands to consider the range of emotions that come with grieving. Last year, an artistically inclined friend, Nicole Keffer, suggested she give painting a try to relieve the stress. Six months later, McDairmant took the advice, tried the traditional approach with brushes, but then discovered she could create abstract art by blowing on the fresh paint to mix colors and create shapes.

The concept has since blossomed into a large collection of black-and-white paintings, and opportunities quickly began for her to exhibit and market her work. Some of her art is currently on display in Indianapolis and Grand Rapids, and on Friday her collection of black-and-white abstract acrylic paintings will be featured at a solo show at The Ballroom Gallery in downtown Warsaw above MudLOVE Downtown.The exhibit will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. and is part of First Friday’s “Art-Tober” theme. The show will feature more than 40 paintings. A video will be on display showing how she creates the images. A chance to meet McDairmant will happen Oct. 14 when The Ballroom Gallery hosts an artist’s reception from 2 to 6 p.m.

For somebody who has been painting for less than a year, McDairmant is quick to concede, it’s a lot in a short amount of time.“It’s new for me and it’s very exciting and I’m having a lot of fun with it,” McDairmant said. “And I think it’s really working for what my friend calls “stress relief.”

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How It Works

All of her work for the project that will be on display at The Ballroom Gallery began with the canvas laying flat on a table. Typically, McDairmant then applies a heavy coat of black paint that is then surrounded by white paint. She then leans over the canvas and begins blowing on the paint to move the paint and achieve different interactions between the colors. She varies the looks by changing the thickness of the paints and changing the intensity in which she exhales. McDairmant said she had never heard of the technique, but began experimenting early this spring.

The process creates little outlines that look like pebbles. She calls those cells. Larger areas that are more fluid and expansive are referred to as webbing. “I put the brush down in April when I figured it out I could do it this way,” she said.Entire paintings are completed in one sitting. The only time she uses a brush, she said, is for minor touch-ups. The desire to experiment continued to evolve over the summer, and after six months she had created nearly 50 pieces of bold black-and-white abstract art.“Actually, using my breath to create them gives me a connection to them,” she said. She calls the black-and-white collection “Severe Mercy,” a reference to the grieving process. “What a wonderful thing I get to do and share with people born out of those tough emotions,” McDairmant said.

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Expanding Interest

Interest in her work is spreading faster than some of her painting can dry and is being marketed mainly through her Facebook page, which can be found by searching her company name, “Canary In a Coal Mine Art.” A second display at the Warsaw Community Public Library recently concluded and she has already sold about 10 paintings. Samples of her art are currently on display at Art Prize in Grand Rapids and more work is on exhibit in Plymouth at the Heartland Artists Gallery.

The second painting she completed this year was chosen last week to appear on a wine bottle label after winning the annual Artist Series Wine Label contest. The contest is hosted by Mallow Run Winery and the Greater Greenwood Arts Council south of Indianapolis. The painting will appear on Mallow Run Winery’s sparkling pink catawba. A related exhibit is on display at the Mallow Run Winery in Bargersville. Another display is underway at Be The Change at Indiana Interchurch Center in Indianapolis. McDairmant is now focusing on a color collection that will be featured at the Lakeland Art Association in Warsaw in February.

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