Peyton Hutchinson: The Artist Who Loves Color
By Pamela A. Keene | Photography courteys of Kathy Miller and Susan Scarborough
Mississippi isn’t known for gorgeous landscapes, but artist Peyton Hutchinson aims to change that with her textural paintings.
Peyton Hutchinson loves color. The Madison, Miss., visual artist grew up in Meridian and began her painter’s journey while still a little girl.
“My middle school teacher, Carolyn Causey, told my mother that I was good at art and that I might benefit from some art lessons,” she explains. “I walked down the street to Mrs. Causey’s studio – it was in her garage – and she taught me the fundamentals of black and white drawing and pastels. It was specific and detailed, slow and methodical; I was in high school before I got to use oils… color! I had a good base.”
Hutchinson majored in painting at Ole Miss, but as her parents were paying the bills, they decided that also getting a teaching license was a good idea.
“I didn’t know there was such a thing as an art scholarship,” she laments. In her junior year, she found her love for painting natural landscapes while studying abroad at the Marchutz School of Art in Aix en Provence, France.
“I learned en plein air painting and loved it,” she enthuses. “The sunflowers and poppies inspired me – the actual fields where van Gogh and Cezanne had painted. The quick way you have to paint, because the light is constantly changing, the clouds are moving… it’s mesmerizing.”
Hutchinson met future husband Burney at an Ole Miss baseball game; after graduation, he enjoyed a short career in the minor leagues. “We were on the road,” she says, “but I could paint while traveling.”
An early strategy was simply to “paint what would sell,” and attend art fairs. “We went to the Double Decker Art Festival in Oxford,” Hutchinson remembers. “That was the beginning. Burney got a job in insurance and I painted. We didn’t have any children yet, so we went to art shows most weekends.”
She did everything herself: set up the tent and tables, displayed the art, made sales, and delivered to the car. “I was able to sell enough paintings to purchase our lot in Reunion [a subdivision in Madison],” she proudly states.
Hutchinson’s process has evolved as she has studied with renowned artists Greg Cartmell, Camille Prezwodek, and others. The lessons learned from each artist helped her to hone her own technique. Reunion’s lush trees, golf course, and running paths helped inform Hutchinson’s signature style: colorful, stylized trees, trails, sunlight, and water, quickly applied with a palette knife instead of a brush.
“I learned that technique of thick, fast, textural painting from Jerry Fresia,” says Hutchinson. “And I just love painting what I see.”
“I feel like Mississippi is lucky because we have so many wonderfully talented artists: Bob Tompkins does still lifes, and Jere Allen is known for figurative abstracts. I want to be known as a Mississippi contemporary landscape painter. I live in Mississippi, and I think it has gorgeous landscapes! From Pickwick Lake, to the Mississippi Delta, to the trails in Reunion and the Gulf Coast, there is just so much to offer.”
Now, with three children aged six to 13, Hutchinson has learned to paint even faster. “We took a vacation at the beach,” she explains. “I took my paint box to the water’s edge and started with a red background wash to create contrast with the blue water. Then I filled in with a brush, blocked in large colors, mixed paint with my palette knife, and captured the sunrise. I painted an eight-by-ten canvas in about a half-hour so I wouldn’t miss the light.”
As Hutchinson matures in her art, her goals have changed, too, and she now only does about three shows a year. “I recently did my first virtual/live Instagram art show with 20 paintings in all sizes and price ranges,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just got up there and was excited, and talked about my paintings, and half of them sold!”
In addition to her website and galleries across the state, Hutchinson also displays her work in a mini art gallery in her foyer. The artwork ranges from early black and white sketches to pastel drawings and oil paintings, up to her now iconic works of Delta rice and cotton fields and Reunion trails.
These days, Hutchinson sets aside time each day to paint and clear her head. “My kids know that I need time to just paint,” she says. “I love being outside and painting, but I also work from photos back in the studio so I can do large-format works.”
She concludes, “My future as an artist has changed so much over the years. As much as I paint, I hope my craft is getting better and better. I don’t know why I have this gift, but God gave it to me. All the circumstances came together for me to make a success in art. And with the internet and social media, the whole world is available now. I’m excited! Who knows where I will be in five years.”