Thursday April 14, 2016
When Martin LaLonde is not working on legislation in the Vermont State House, or dedicating time to his role as a member of the South Burlington School Board, he can often be found with watercolor brush in hand in his basement home studio.
The public is currently being treated to the fruits of his off-session labors. LaLonde, one of four South Burlington representatives in the Vermont House of Representatives, has 19 of his watercolors on display at the State House in Montpelier for the month of April. During breaks from committee work or time on the House floor, legislators have enjoyed viewing the paintings. Government staff, lobbyists, and the visiting public have also taken in the show.
LaLonde took up watercolor as a later-in-life hobby. Soon after he moved to Vermont with his family in 2007, LaLonde launched into his new stay-at-home parent role, becoming involved in Rick Marcotte Central School with then-kindergartner Tess and third-grader Griffin. He found, however, that he had some extra time when he was not helping out in the school, so he started taking classes in watercolor. He had been introduced to the medium during one of his stays at the Tyler Place in Highgate Springs prior to the move to Vermont.
Martin found an instructor and mentor in Retha Boles of Pittsford, who guided him in the technique of realism and glazing, where one slowly builds up the colors, values and textures in a watercolor painting. He expanded his technique in workshops with several other artists, including Robert O’Brien, John Salminen, Joel Popadics, and Jeannie McGuire. In November 2012, LaLonde had his first show, at the SEBA Gallery in Burlington. It featured paintings, some of which are included in the State House show, based on old and new reference photos from the LeRoy Hunting Club in Alpena, Michigan, where LaLonde is a fourth-generation member.
As LaLonde explains it, he is a slow painter, spending several weeks on each work. “I enjoy painting from old black and white photos, which gives me the freedom to work out color schemes. I’m also attracted to a broad range of subjects: figurative, floral, architectural, and landscape,” he said. Although he uses a controlled and planned style, he appreciates the spontaneity and challenge of the medium, and has learned that watercolor is more forgiving than is commonly thought. “I definitely make mistakes,” noted LaLonde. “But over time, with instruction and experience, I’ve learned how to fix them or even incorporate them in the finished painting.”
Does painting watercolors help him in his legislative role? “Well, often creating laws involves fixing mistakes,” LaLonde suggested. “And the lawmaking process is fluid, sometimes spontaneous, challenging, and requires great patience. On the other hand, painting is a solo project. The results are solely my responsibility and, for the most part, in my control,” he explained.
The show will be up until April 29th. Soon after, this legislative biennium should end and LaLonde will have the time to begin working on some planned painting projects. To view more of his work, go to martinpaintings.blogspot.com.