The garage doors to the Art Studio slide open as Julia Rymer, the current artist-in-residence at Children’s Museum of Denver, sets out paint trays on two empty tables. Three tiny tots scamper into the open studio with their moms, eager to see what Rymer is setting out. As the kids sit down beside the artist, Rymer engages them in a conversation of color—discussing how blue and yellow make green, how a shade of pink can change by adding blue or purple, and the many different ways to make brown. Pink is a popular color of choice with the kids today.
More and more little artists begin to trickle in and find their way to the tiny chairs at Rymer’s tables. It’s not every day that kids get the chance to work alongside the abstract painter and mother of two, as she teaches them about all of the wonderful creations they can make with colors. Before becoming the artist-in-residence, Rymer was a working artist, teacher, and professor, who found herself looking for a way to combine her love of color with molding new artists. We sat down with Rymer to talk more about being a mom, using color in art, and how nature informs her work.
Colorado Parent: What drew you to abstract painting?
Julia Rymer: I grew up in Colorado, immersed in the mountains and the plains, and it really affected me emotionally. I studied abroad in France in college, where I was painting “en plein air,” or outside, and I found that I just wanted to paint how the landscape made me feel rather than what it exactly looked like. Nature inspires my work just through the colors and forms and the sense of calm and power that nature imparts.
CP: How do you use color to inform the emotion of your pieces?
JR: Each piece is kind of a journey; I don’t necessarily have a plan. I have an idea based on a sunset or the bright blue sky here in Colorado. I’ll sit down and play with building a color palette up that builds that feeling of being in a Colorado sunset or looking at trees against a blue sky.
CP: What can families expect from your open studio hours?
JR: We’re doing mixed media painting, so we have watercolor, acrylic, water pastels, graphite, and charcoal, which are all materials I use in my own work. We’re working on thick paper and the kids choose colors that make them feel a certain way. Then I’ll show them some of the techniques of how to mix the colors, how to build up a painting, and they go to town creating their own abstract expressionist painting.
CP: How does being a mom influence your art?
JR: As a mom of a three-year-old and an eight-year-old, I have to work fast and prioritize my time. With my eight-year-old daughter, I can set her up in the studio with me and she’ll work on her own project and I can work on mine—we can even collaborate.
CP: What will your final art installation look like at the museum?
JR: It’s going to be a series of paintings that explore different color palettes in an unusual way. So, there will be a primary color palette, a monochromatic color palette, and a complimentary color palette. I’ll play with the color schemes in each so they’re more interesting.
CP: What have you learned being the Artist-in-Residence?
JR: As a whole, I’ve noticed how open the kids are to the materials. Some of them don’t even want instruction, they just want to play with the colors. But some of them, I can show them different ways to make colors and they think it’s really cool. I feel like I’m broadening the spectrum of the kinds of materials they’re open to. At the same time, they’re really interested in color mixing, so by the end of a session we’ll have made a wide range of very unusual colors. It’s cool to see how engaged they are with color mixing.
Need to Know: Julia Rymer’s open studio hours take place in the art studio at Children’s Museum of Denver most Fridays and Saturdays through March 23, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Join Rymer on Friday, March 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for extended open studio hours, when she will unveil an exclusive art installation for the museum.