For many years, Linda Kollar was a commercial artist. She really liked her job but yearned to break loose and paint what was in her soul.
Then one day, when Kollar was in her 50s, she took a class with Karen Rosasco, a prestigious Oakroom Artist known for her adventurous spirit.
Kollar discovered watermedia and never looked back. Now she paints with watercolor, liquid acrylics, ink. Anything that’s water-soluble. She squirts water on paint and sprays water on charcoal dust.
62nd Annual Stockade Villagers Outdoor Art Show
WHERE: Stockade District, Schenectady
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (Rain date is 12 to 4 p.m. Sunday)
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 952-0946, http://stockadeartshow.com
“This is liberating,” Kollar says. “I’ve been doing the opposite for years. I’m trying to loosen up.”
To understand how far Kollar has journeyed on her new path, you have to travel down a rural road to Glen, a Montgomery County town where many Amish farmers make their home. From the gravel driveway in front of the artist’s house, there are only cornstalks as far as you can see. Beyond the corn, green hills roll down to Amsterdam.
Kollar’s recent paintings hang on her living room wall: a street scene from Chinatown, a dark-haired ballerina in a rose-colored tutu, a Maine seascape and a portrait of an African warrior.
The subjects, color palettes and styles are so different, you might think they were made by more than one artist.
“His hat is made of lions' fur,” Kollar says of the young Maasai tribesman.
That painting started with a photo that a friend took on a trip to Africa. When Kollar shows you the photo, there is only a bare resemblance.
“The watermedia process starts with an idea,” she says.
In the past 10 years, Kollar has been taking home top awards at many area exhibits, including the Arkell Annual Juried Art Show, the Hagaman Art Show, the Colonie Art League Holiday Art Show and the Pruyn House Exhibit.
In 2006, she was named outstanding abstract artist at the Central Adirondack Show in Old Forge.
Last year, she was juried into the Cooperstown National Show. This year, Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh purchased a painting for its permanent collection.
In 2011 and 2012, she won the “Best Depiction of the Stockade Neighborhood” award at the Stockade Villagers Outdoor Art Show.
Kollar, a member of the Cooperstown Art Association and the Old Forge Art Guild, has been exhibiting at the Stockade show for more than 10 years. If the weather is fair, she plans to be in Schenectady again this Saturday, joining 100 artists from all over the Northeast at one of the oldest outdoor art shows in the country.
In a small room off the kitchen, Kollar’s studio is a simple set-up, with two work tables and shelves that are neatly stacked with books, cards and magazine clippings. Because watermedia can get messy, a square of old kitchen flooring is taped over the carpet.
On the wall is Kollar’s koi fish painting, an homage to another one of her teachers, Chinese-American artist Cheng-Khee Chee.
The way of watermedia
Using the fish as an example, Kollar explains how watermedia works.
“You just want to build layers of paint. There’s a lot of texture and color,” she says.
To create a “seaweed look,” she brushed paint at the top of the paper and squirted water on the paint.
“I’m letting it move on its own.”
She adds texture with cardboard, bubble wrap, cork or Saran Wrap.
"I press it into wet paint already on the paper or paint on it and use it like a stamp on top of the painting. I paint a lot with Q-tips,” she says.
“The more texture you can get in a painting, the more alive it seems. Watermedia is fun to work with.”
At first, she didn’t like watermedia. It was too abstract.
“Now I strive to try. Good abstract is about shape and color values,” Kollar says. “It’s a freedom that I don’t have with a controlled watercolor.”
Kollar studied with Rosasco for several years, beginning in 1995, when the Delanson artist taught in Amsterdam.
“When I first met Linda, she was creating realistic watercolor paintings in a meticulous fashion,” says Rosasco. “She had excellent drawing skills and a good sense of color but the work was stilted and tight.”
Rosasco, who teaches watermedia in weeklong workshops around the U.S. and Canada, tells students not to be “reporters of fact, but more like the poets.” The artist says “Linda has now mastered this technique, and her paintings are imbued with a sense of rich mystery that are totally her own.”
Kollar grew up in the Delaware County village of Sidney. In high school, she took every art course available and dreamed of being an illustrator.
“But I’m a country girl. I didn’t want to live in a big city.”
She earned an advertising degree at Mohawk Valley Community College, and for 30 years she worked as a commercial artist.
For 21 of those years, she was employed by Olson Sign and Graphics in Scotia, where she was a graphic artist, and her husband, David, was general manager.
At Olson, she ran the machine that cut vinyl for signs. She designed and installed all kinds of lettering and banners, from signs for doctors’ offices to large graphics on tractor trailers.
“Every day was something different,” she says.
In 2008, when the Kollars retired from Olson, Linda embraced her new life as a full-time artist.
She and David also have two grown children and three grandchildren.
“I paint every day in the winter, and sometimes all day, for eight hours,” she says.
In the summer, her studio time is trimmed a bit as she tends to her vegetable garden.
In the basement, Kollar cuts mats and frames her own paintings on a large table next to her clothes washer and dryer.
On Saturday, Kollar is bringing 35 to 40 paintings to the Stockade show, one of her favorite exhibitions.
“All my friends are there. It’s well attended, and the public supports it. It’s one of the few art shows that is all art, not art and craft,” she says.
Kollar doesn’t have a website, and she’s not on Facebook. But wherever she exhibits, she enjoys talking to people about her work. She also invites them to visit her home studio.
And her booth is always on North Ferry Street.
“I stay in the same area every year so people can find me.”