Tidewater Women's Fran Ward recently interviewed Reba McConnell in her Virginia Beach studio.
Tidewater Women (TW): Reba, tell the readers about yourself, please.
Reba McConnell (RM): I am a watercolorist and a photographer. I am also a mother of two. I was born and raised in Virginia Beach. My parents grew up here, too.
TW: What is it that really makes your heart sing?
RM: I have always felt connected to the water, especially the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a special place for me. My connection with the water is what shows up in my art.
TW: You have a wide range of talent from photography to painting. Can you describe your artistic process?
RM: I can describe the result first. I always end up with a surprise. I start with a surprise, too.
TW: What sets your art apart? What makes your art recognizable as yours?
RM: What stands apart is how I see it from the beginning before I have used any artist materials. I start by seeing the image in reverse. It’s like looking at the negative of a photograph. I see the shadows of the image, and then I tap into my inspiration to see how it will develop. Just like a photograph.
TW: What comes next?
RM: I see the color scheme.
TW: All of that has been envisioned first. Then how does it become an artwork?
RM: It is applied in layers. I sketch first to establish guidelines. Then I add watercolors. I let the paint do the painting. Finally, I add the ink element to follow the lines and shadows. It is like developing a photographic negative. I wait and see what shows up.
TW: Have you always been an artist?
RM: No! I was in the food and beverage industry for years and thought I always would be. But a fire was burning inside me. I needed to express myself artistically. I am self-taught. This is a method I have developed. This is the process that works for me.
RM: As a parent, I am being an example for my children. I want them to know that I am doing what I believe in. I hope my children can follow their passions when they discover what they are. I have a passion for service. I listen to what people want, and I can provide that through my art.
TW: Can you give an example?
RM: I paint curvy women, real people. I like to help women appreciate their sizes and shapes and show them how beautiful they are realistically and naturally.
TW: My final question is always: What would you like the readers of Tidewater Women to know?
RM: It took a lot of years for me to give myself permission to be myself. Don’t wait. Find your passion and express it. Do it a little bit at a time. “Fake it until you can make it!” I used the ends of pencils to practice my skills until I could get art supplies.
TW: Thank you, Reba, for sharing your philosophy, your art, and what’s in your heart.
Contact Reba McConnell, professional artist and photographer, through her her website www.eastbeachart.com/