ALLISON CHAMBERS URGES people to escape to happy places through her art—the Lowcountry, Napa, Provence, San Francisco, Vancouver.
She knows for herself the therapeutic and creative power of art, having come to oil painting after her own business painting murals and faux finishes.
“I’ve always been a creative person,” says Chambers, who lives between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, and shows in several galleries throughout the Southeast. “I had a painting business, doing furniture and walls, but then my journey changed 13 years ago when my husband, Jay, pushed me toward fine art and encouraged me to follow that passion.”
At the time, she and Jay had just married and blended their family, and Chambers found herself a mom of six with four new daughters.
“I took some oil painting classes and was in way over my head, but I found my dream come true standing at an easel and learning this thing called oils. Sometimes I get so lost, I could do it for days and days,” she says. “I just absolutely love it.”
Chambers describes her style as “color and texture-driven paintings on a medium to large scale with impasto style,” and confesses to liberal use of a palette knife. As for the therapeutic release, she will often journal onto her canvases and then paint over the words she has written.
“I did a series of boats and Lowcountry scenes in one of my favorite limited color palettes. One piece is called Safe Place, another Peaceful Harbor and another Calms My Soul. These paintings all have stories journaled underneath that speak of my thankfulness for my family, my art and the coast.”
Art does more than imitate life for Chambers; it reflects it. “Another favorite title that I have just revisited is Put Your Ego on the Table. This is something I had to learn as a stepmom, and I was reminded of this important lesson recently,” she says.
In addition to creating and showing paintings for her clients and the galleries that rep her, Chambers also teaches. She holds about six to eight workshops per year, in her home studio and in other galleries. She is particularly fond of her plein air workshops in the South of France through Huff Harrington Gallery in Atlanta.
“I teach part time. It has helped my journey,” Chambers says. “It’s so rewarding to watch others catch on to this excitement.”
Even though she is more of a studio painter—landscapes, treescapes, beach scenes, marinas, boats, florals—Chambers takes much satisfaction in outdoor painting.
“As a plein air painter, you’re learning more from the way light hits objects, and you have to make quick decisions. All those things put together are magic. I like to do small studies outside and take them into the studio and do more impressionistic works on a larger scale,” she says.
Chambers has focused on landscapes because they remind her of places she’s traveled, and that makes her happy. “My dad and I like to say we have salt water in our veins!” she reflects. “We both love the coast so much. I grew up going to many beaches and the coast as a kid. I love painting those scenes and abstract landscapes.”
As much as she paints for the joy it brings her, the artist has a practical side, knowing that art appeals to people differently.
“A man and a woman will be looking for art together, often come in together, and the woman is drawn to more abstract works, but the man wants to see something in the painting,” she says. “Mine are kind of in the middle, a looser interpretation of reality.”
So, for instance, while Chambers loves a salt marsh and all its vicissitudes, she doesn’t paint it exactly as she sees it. “I almost never paint things as they are but try to make them more interesting, like adding colors to the browns you see in the marsh.”
As she grows her gallery presence and continues her artistic path, Chambers invites those who experience her work to contact her to find out more about the stories behind the paintings. Create, paint and share—that’s how her artist’s journey comes full circle. “If anyone wants to know part of this story, I’d love to tell them what the titles mean,” she says.*
Freelance writer and editor Connie Dufner is a proud Texan transplant living in Washington, D.C. She is a former editor for Modern Luxury Dallas and The Dallas Morning News who has been covering interiors journalism since 2001.