PROFILE: Tricia Mansfield

February 27, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse
BY T MICHELE WALKER – Before becoming a full-time artist and the newest board member at the Boca Grande Art Club, Tricia Mansfield spent the early part of her career in environmental policy, work that continues to inform her artistic process to this day.
“Long story short, I have a master’s in environmental policy,” she said. “Starting in the eighth grade I spent my time on the beaches and dunes of Cape Cod, studying turtles. Even in my adult years I had jobs doing turtle research and radio tracking. There was a sense of being outside of myself as I observed nature. It’s the same sense I have as an artist; the role of the observer.”
Becoming an artist was all about the timing for Tricia. The hours required for turtle tracking and being a stay-at-home mom didn’t work well together, so she began to follow her passion and took a class.
“I went to a shop where I was quilting at the time and saw they had a sign-up sheet for a class in folk art painting,” she recalled. “I loved it. I went from painting patterns to saying, ‘I want to paint what I like, what I see.’ That was my beginning as an artist. It goes back to my turtle days, because I found that same curiosity and inquisitiveness about nature and observing things. I was getting all of those same feelings.”
The medium is not as important to Tricia as the story she tells with her work. From working with a laser burning machine (which etches the work with heat) to doing woodwork and making frames and scarves, the different forms of art have been a window into new ways of telling a story.
“The medium isn’t as important as knowing that when I paint something, it brings out a feeling or a story,” she said. “When you look at my pieces, hopefully you can see a story or something that means something. I just love working with watercolors, because when the wet paint hits the paper it just takes its movement and creates things that I couldn’t have imagined if I had tried to control the way the paint moves on the paper. It is like the paint and paper have a relationship that speaks to you when you paint and mix colors.”
The native New Englander who grew up on Cape Cod is inspired by the beauty of Boca Grande, loves the vibrant art community and finds the island endlessly inspirational. Her most recently commissioned work was a painting of Our Lady of Mercy, the Boca Grande Catholic Church. 

“I painted that about a month ago. It was a friend of mine who asked me if I would paint it for a friend whose daughter got married at the church. I wanted to paint a story and I wanted to get it right. I wanted the painting to show off the beautiful wall in front and the flowers, and I emphasized those elements so that they would speak to us through the painting.”

Tricia’s latest project and the subject of her Trunk Show are her painted scarves, which were inspired by COVID-19.
“I felt isolated when everything shut down, and there was the fear of touching something, getting groceries, and shopping – we were all quarantined,” she said. “I was enjoying painting but I also wanted to challenge myself to go beyond that. I was always interested in painting on fabric. I finally decided to just do it. I didn’t start off knowing that
I was going to make scarves, I just knew I wanted to print on fabric. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something a little bit different.”
Pushing the comfort zone has been a consistent theme in Tricia’s life. It becomes apparent as the conversation comes back to her earlier work as an environmentalist and how it informs her artistic process.
“I spend a lot of time outdoors looking at nature,” she said. “If you’re looking at a beach scene with trees and grass, you start to notice where the predominant winds are coming from, because the grass or trees are leaning one way. You start to get a good understanding of the environment around you, and the same applies if you’re out studying turtles or nature and looking at their environment. You’re looking at what influences them to do what they’re doing, so it brings up a lot of the same thoughts. It puts me in the same spot, like being outside of yourself.”

She continued.
“I was reading about eastern versus western painting. There was a story about an artist who got hired by a wealthy person with a farm and lots of goats. This artist was hired to paint these prized goats, so he was given a place to live and the artist was there for a whole year, observing. For a whole year the artist was out with the goats, but he didn’t do any paintings. Finally he sat down and he painted it all in one day. The idea is that it took that long for this artist to be one with the goats and to know them, to feel them, and then to be able to put that in his paintings and tell the story. He nailed it. To tell a story, it takes an observant eye.”

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