Molly Cranch’s mother always encouraged creativity. . . so as a young child, Molly spent a lot of her time drawing and painting.
With a BFA in painting and a K-12 certificate in art education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Molly now teaches art to 350 elementary school students.
To recharge her creative juices, Molly makes it a point to spend time in her studio creating art that gives her a sense of purpose, outside of her students, and allows her to enjoy her own moments of peace.
Alyice: Why did you choose acrylic as your medium?
Molly: I studied painting in college and learned to paint using oils, so for many years, I painted in oils and was able to develop a unique sense of the material by working in layers and washes of color.
When I had my first child in 2006, I decided to switch to acrylics because the fumes and the toxins in oil paint were too risky for my health and my children’s health.
Since then, I have learned to work with acrylics in order to retain the sense of layered colors and softness that is so easy for me to achieve with oil paint. I have been asked many times if my paintings are oil, and I explain that I no longer paint in oil but I try to retain the same qualities of oil paint through acrylic.
Alyice: What do you wish you knew about acrylics before you got started?
Molly: I am not sure because my understanding of the material changes and evolves with me as an artist. As my ideas change and evolve, so does my technique.
I know that there are many products out there which can be added to acrylic paint to create unique effects. Perhaps I would like to learn more about them, but currently I find that they interfere with my thought process. I like to keep it simple with paint, water, and a light coating of varnish at the end.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Molly: I lead a very busy life as a mom and stepmom to four boys, and also as an art teacher. I have limited and precious time in the studio so I have to be very focused.
Rarely do I start with small studies. Usually, I jump right in with painting using source materials such as nature photographs, books, and nature journals. I also like to work on several pieces at a time.
I paint quickly, often focusing on technical issues such as proportion, color, or composition. Then I put the painting down for a few days and try to come back to it with a fresh perspective.
Alyice: How has your style changed over the years?
Molly: My style has definitely changed and evolved over the years. Certain themes such as birth, growth, nature and family have always been a part of my work. However, I have explored these themes through different styles of painting and subject matter.
I have basically gone from painting realistically, to painting abstractly, to now painting somewhere in between.
Alyice: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
Molly: Technically speaking, a good composition includes a variety of shapes that are arranged in a dynamic manner. I have a very longstanding series of paintings of birds, and when I am arranging a composition of birds I think about qualities I want to convey in the composition. Qualities such as a sense of light, atmosphere, and movement are key elements in my compositions.
Alyice: You’ve had your work commissioned, and licensed to be used in the film, “The Five Year Engagement.” How did that come about?
Molly: The movie was being filmed in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The set designers were looking around for art and found my pieces at the Ann Arbor Art Center. They purchased the painting and contacted me to ask if I would be interested in signing a release form to include the painting on the set of “The Five Year Engagement.” So of course I said yes!
Alyice: How does it feel to have your work shown in a film?
Molly: It was very exciting and quite an honor to have my painting chosen to be in the film. Those moments of success give me a sense of validation, and encourage me to continue doing what I am doing.
Alyice: You have also had your work commissioned and licensed for use in The St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Can you tell us how that came about?
Molly: It’s interesting to think about the history of how both of these event occurred.
They both developed over time and through a lot of effort to put my work in front of the public, whether it be through gallery exhibits or art fairs.
I was in a show called “The Artist Project” in Chicago in 2008. A company which specializes in designing hotel spaces contacted me after seeing my work and asked me if I would be interested in working with them. I agreed, and three years later I was sending out my painting to be a part of a really unique and unexpected venue.
Alyice: Can you share a little bit about the process of licensing one’s art?
Molly: This is an aspect of my career that I am just beginning to explore. As I said, both of these experiences have evolved out of the connections I made when showing my work in more traditional gallery/art show settings. I have been doing all I can to educate myself about the process, and hope to one day make more conscious steps in that direction.
Alyice: Is there ever a time you would not want to license your art?
Molly: I feel as though the product or vehicle carrying my image should ultimately reflect my aesthetic and intention. If a product lacks integrity or is not related in any way to my image, it wouldn’t be a great partnership.
Learn more about Molly and her artwork at www.mollycranch.com.
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In addition to working on canvas as most painters do, acrylic painter Debbie le Sueur paints on a wide variety of textured and colored leather—including one painting on an elephant’s ear—to create wildly rustic, unique paintings of Africa's largest and most dangerous animals.
In African Lion, seen below, soft leather in the. . . read more
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