Atelier: This month, we're featuring local artist Veronica Hanley-Enciso! Veronica, please tell us about yourself and what you make.
Veronica: I’m Veronica Hanley-Enciso. I’ve been working at Felix Doolittle since 2013 mostly in the administrative side of the business. While I get excited for all types of art, my fascination with color led me to studying painting in college. My artwork is mostly in acrylic paint or other water-based paints. I enjoy doing portraits and figurative art, but I find inspiration from many types of styles and mediums beyond traditional painting. Most of my art can be found on my Instagram account @VHLE_art.
Acrylic paint on canvas, Self-Portrait from 2016
Atelier: What kinds of materials and media do you like to use?
Veronica: For my current workspace, I like to use acrylic paint, acrylic gouache, acrylic ink, or watercolor. I tend to be sensitive to solvents so I decided to stick with water-based paints rather than continuing with oil paints. They’re more manageable in terms of keeping my space clean, which is important since my workspace is also my living space. I use homemade glass palettes in various sizes. My go-to palette right now is 5”x7”, a little small but very portable. My paint brushes are simple synthetic and natural blends, nothing fancy. I prefer painting on paper or hardboard more than canvas. When I have the proper space, I love to draw with chalk pastels. I use watercolor mostly for doing paint studies and sketching. More recently, I’ve gone back to trying out more digital art now that I have Procreate and an Apple Pencil. I’m hoping to combine my skills with traditional materials and take advantage of the unique features and applications of digital tools.
acrylic paint on hardboard, portrait of cat named Bob Dylan
Atelier: What’s an art supply or tool you’re currently obsessed with?
Veronica: I was gifted Black 3.0, which is an extremely matte black acrylic paint. The creators of this paint from Culture Hustle claim it’s “the blackest black in the world”. I’ve tried it out on some of my inktober drawings and it’s so dark it looks digital. It’s also so dark that if you draw on it with a regular graphite pencil, the pencil marks contrast against it and shimmer in the light like silver ink.
(left) Black 3.0 acrylic paint (background only) and pen on paper, St. Dymphna for Inktober 2019
(right) pen on paper, illustration of a woman thinking
Atelier: What’s a creative goal you have for the year?
Veronica: My long-term goal is to get my portfolio back up online and be more representative of the art I want to do. Knowing that it might take longer than a year to finalize a new portfolio, I’m focusing on three projects this year to help me get there.
I’m doing several experimental color wheels to come up with more long-term art pieces. I put the color experiments in one dedicated sketchbook so I have my own little reference book of color.
At some point this year, I’d like to enter at least one juried art show. I’ve done a few in the past and fell out of the routine. It gets very daunting when I don’t do an art show for a while.
The last goal I have is to create art digitally. For now I’ll just be focusing on familiarizing myself with one program, Procreate and work my way up to doing more finished pieces.
acrylic paint on paper, Self-Portrait from 2019
Atelier: What piece of advice would you give to a beginning artist?
Veronica: Putting art out into the world is essential for becoming an artist. It can be scary when you’re starting out and facing a negative response to your art is pretty much inevitable at some point. I think the best way to navigate displaying your art is learning how to critique so for one you can help give constructive criticism to others as well as distinguish between a subjective response and true advice when other people give their opinion on your art.
I had one bad experience when I was a teenager where I submitted an art piece to an online competition. It didn’t go so well and I was pretty discouraged by the comments I received. I ended up responding by asking the commenters to give me some pointers on the technical aspects. Thankfully, one person took my comment seriously and told me I could improve on the line weight in the drawing. That simple pointer meant a lot to me. It gave me a stepping stone from being a total beginner to a concrete goal that would help me continue learning.
A good critique gives you a path forward from the level you’re at and helps you understand what you’re doing right. This is especially important when you’re evaluating your work on your own. I completely agree with the saying that we are often our own worst critics. I’m a big fan of Nancy Reyner’s book Create Perfect Paintings for learning a good critique process. She gives very clear steps and examples of how to do a thorough critique of your own work. When you’re stuck a simple step by step process can be a life saver.
acrylic gouache on paper, Virgin of Altagracia, the patron saint of Dominican Republic
Atelier: How do you overcome art block?
Veronica: I’ve always relied a lot on books to learn about art and find inspiration. Since my kids are young, the library has been a goldmine for inspiration. I look for books we can all enjoy that are beautifully illustrated. For books that I need to get from the main Arts section of the library, I put them on hold online and pick them up at the front desk to save time. I started keeping an art notebook where I write down my ideas and different art prompts while I’m looking through books or looking up things on the internet. It helps me browse the art more actively and get prepared for when I finally sit down to do art.
The other thing I’ve done to overcome art block is participate in art challenges like inktober. Making a commitment to do art daily has been great for building confidence and getting over the hesitation of staring at a blank page. It also helped force me to create a routine around set up so I’m not wasting time on small decisions or getting stuck with something overly ambitious and doomed to fail.
acrylic gouache on hardboard, portrait of dog named Ginger
Get in Touch
You can find more of Veronica's art on her Instagram account, @VLHE_art.
selection of Inktober 2019 drawings