WBM march 2018
OWELL approaches her
canvas from a traditional
plein air perspective —
focusing on light, color
and quick movements.
“I usually start with an
underpainting and often
add a quick sketch of the scene in an earth
tone,” she says. “I build up from there, getting
the colors to look exactly as I’m seeing them.
That’s the amazing thing about plein air: you
can truly capture color from real life. But it
changes so fast, so I need to get color points
down immediately; details can come later if I
have to finish in the studio.”
Chief among Powell’s motivations is her
young daughter, Maebel. The two raise
chickens at their home in Southport and
have rarely been separated in the seven
years since the child was born.
Powell was gaining traction in her art
career, showing her work in local galleries
and making big strides in her technical abil-ity,
when she learned that she was expect-ing.
After her daughter’s arrival, Powell’s
priorities and perspective changed.
“Everything came to a screeching halt,”
she says. “I wanted to spend as much time
with my daughter as possible since I won’t
ever get this time back. And that balance
continues to be something that is difficult for me; she’s the most
Powell’s most recent paintings have a palpably emotional,
and often maternal, quality. The artist’s whimsical brushstrokes,
muted and simple color palettes, and choice of small, intimate
canvases create a feeling of warmth and care that is subtle but
In particular, her portraits of horses demonstrate her ability to
imbue her subjects with a protective and loving energy.
When Maebel was not yet 2, the small family moved to
Beaufort, North Carolina. They were only there for a few years,
but it was an isolating experience.
“I didn’t know anyone there; it was a very lonely time, and I
felt lost,” she says.
Boat rides out to Shackleford Banks provided a kind of sol-ace.
The small barrier island, part of the Cape Lookout National
Seashore, is famously home to about 100 wild ponies. Powell felt
an instant sense of companionship with the majestic animals
and made several trips to see them.
“I could see the wild ponies from the shore on Carrot Island,
and I was fascinated with them,” she says. “I started taking boat