South Carolina artist Heather Wanamaker’s realistic eye-catching paintings share the world exactly as she sees it. View more of her art on her website.
I’m pretty sure I was born to be an artist. But as an only child growing up in a home where creative expression was discouraged, I had a frustrating childhood. I remember desperately wanting to finger paint, but my mother said it was too messy. I loved to paint-by-numbers at home and do art projects in school.
By middle school, art was no longer offered, and my parents would not enroll me in private classes. When I asked for an oil painting set for Christmas, I was reminded that I wasn’t great at art so why would I want a paint set?
At 19, I used my first paycheck to enroll in art classes. Although those first paintings lacked the technique to be called “good,” they ignited a passion for painting that never burned out.
I was drawn to everything about painting: the effort it took, the colors of a fresh palette, the unique smells, even the mess it made. However, after I was married and started a family, my easel was moved to our basement where it eventually warped over the next 25 years in storage. The painting I did during that time was on ceilings and walls, not what I would call “fine art.”
Upon retirement, I returned to art classes at an atelier in Oyster Bay, New York. I was taught the methods of the old masters. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I knew these lessons were the foundation skills necessary to grow as an artist. For that child artist still deep inside me, one compliment from my instructor meant everything to me. It meant I wasn’t “bad” at art. I was learning to be a real artist and I belonged.
Although I paint commercially popular landscapes of my life in the low country and seascapes of our summers in New England, my favorite subject matter is still life. To me, it is the most creative of the genres. That’s where I get to choose the objects, create the vignettes, and set my tone. Millions of apples have been painted, but never the one I painted in the arrangement and lighting that I chose. It is my “original.”
So often we see objects as simply objects. Usually, we don’t even notice them. The thrill I feel from painting is when I reach the point where I know it is turning out the way I envisioned. I love a challenge, which is why I paint a wide range of subjects each with something new for me to learn. I’m leaving a legacy of myself and gifts for others to experience through each painting.
I’ve been honored to show my work at local galleries, and regional exhibitions over the years. I’m enjoying adding to my catalog of subjects each year as I travel the world and continue to truly see, paint, and share the “everyday” that makes my world beautiful.
Heather Wanamaker invites you to follow her on Instagram.