Drawn to Nature

Water, land and blooms leave a lasting impression

BY Christine R. Gonzalez

Camellia Expectation, 16 x 20 inches, oil on panel.
Camellia Expectation, 16 x 20 inches, oil on panel.

Catherine Crumpton paints what she is drawn to — trees, bushes, ocean waves, wooded trails, anything to do with nature. But she has a special love for flowers.

It can seem intimidating to paint the complex plants, but she advises to “just look at the basic shapes, values and color as you would with any other type of painting, and just let yourself go. For me, it is my favorite thing to do.”

“Flowers have always appealed to me,” she says. “I mean what’s horrible about a flower — nothing.”

Wilmington artist Catherine Crumpton finds inspiration in nature. Photo by Allison Potter

It is evident that Crumpton gets inspiration from a variety of outdoor activities: spending time on the family farm in Roxboro, combing area beaches, watching sunsets over still waters, and snipping blossoms to bring natural beauty indoors to capture it on canvas.

Her “blossoms” collection highlights a variety of local favorites, including peonies, azaleas, dogwood, and even “something like roses” that is left to the imagination.

She has a special fondness for Camellia Expectation.

“Those are my camellias, actually. I go around and steal things from peoples yard’s usually, but those were mine,” she says with a laugh. “And the pewter vase they are in was one of my mother’s favorite vases.”

Most of her flower works are supported by unique vases. In the nearly white-on-white Splash of Sunlight, pale, leggy rosebuds look like they’re being blown by the wind on a sunny day. Subtle squares of blue vase are reflected on the white tablecloth.

Splash of Sunlight, 36 x 36 inches, oil on canvas.

Seeking Light was inspired by the morning light coming in from her doorway. She hurriedly placed tulips in a vase on the floor and captured the sunlit orangey-red and yellow-tipped flowers for a blast of color.

Seeking Light, 12 x 9 inches, oil on canvas.

Water is often the focus of her landscapes, but she also likes the challenge of bringing trees and bushes to life.

Lowcountry Trail was an experiment. I wanted to focus more on the greenery than the sound. The light and color in the bushes, those kinds of things inspire me,” she says.

Her artistic journey has ebbed and flowed, as it does for a lot of artists. As a child, she was fortunate to take lessons from portrait painter Mary Cameron Clark.

“She taught a traditional way of oil painting, from start to finish. She had a beautiful style of teaching. She remained my mentor until I went to college,” Crumpton says.

Attending college, working in the pharmaceutical industry for decades, and raising two children left little time for painting. She retired in 2013 and opened a studio in downtown Durham but running the business did not allow enough time to paint. It took a move to Wilmington to get her art back on track.

Spring Walk, 30 x 15 inches, oil ‐ on canvas.

“I’m still in learning mode, and I always will be for the rest of my life,” she says. “I have an impressionistic style I think in some cases. I’ve tried to get even looser than that, but it’s hard once you’re established where you feel comfortable to jump off and do something different.”

Crumpton enjoys painting with cohorts and mentor Sandy Nelson. She and friend Jean Rosenberg opened a gallery off Wrightsville Avenue. It was just getting popular when the pandemic hit, and they decided to close.

“It would be great to have a spot like that again. It helps to have people around who can offer advice, mentor us, and have a space for workshops,” she says.

Her work can be viewed at CrumptonFineArt.com, at Gallery Citrine, and at Water + Color Gallery at Riverlights.

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