Like some abstract painters, Tami Bitner has found a sense of freedom and relief as she composes her non-objective canvases.

Earlier watercolor efforts, characterized by painfully exact, realistic imagery, never seemed to satisfy her.

“It had to be perfect, so I was always afraid of making a mistake, of wasting the paper,” she recalls. “It got to the point where I would stare at the blank paper, reluctant to even begin.”

Part of that inertia was due to conflicting advice from instructors at a local art association, where one advocated the use of reference photos and the other did not.

“Eventually, I questioned my creative ability by doing paintings that ended up looking just like the photos,” she says.

“I had always been drawn to abstract art…looking at it and analyzing it. So, I decided to change direction.”

Bitner’s initial abstract lessons were not helpful.

She struggled with the conceptual nature of the style. Then the Hummelstown woman was introduced to Linda Benton McCloskey (“Gallery Space,” Nov. 2011) and turned the corner.

“As an instructor, Linda was very willing to share not only her knowledge and experience, but also her tools, as well,” she says.

One can see McCloskey’s influence in her student’s work, which is not an uncommon trait.

The expressive application of color, strong composition, surface texture and willingness to experiment are apparent in many of Bitner’s pieces.

“I want them to interpret my compositions through their own experiences and worldview. That’s what’s so engaging about abstract art. It can mean so many different things to different people,” says Bitner.

The artist’s basement studio is filled with her work. Its eclectic appearance makes it look like an exhibit of different painters. Some emphasize curvilinear elements, while others are angular.

A few include representational forms. Bitner confesses to moving in that direction. It adds an indefinable appeal to her paintings.

The application of collage materials, like pages from old books and sheet music, provide still another dimension to some of the pieces.  The nature of abstract art compels a personal assessment by viewers.

“I want them to interpret my compositions through their own experiences and worldview. That’s what’s so engaging about abstract art. It can mean so many different things to different people,” says Bitner.

“I’m strongly influenced by nature, music, texture, shapes and spirituality,” she says, “and I strive to create pieces that remove the objective walls around us to reveal the excitement from within the work itself.”

Bitner has produced some encaustics, but the need for good ventilation constrains that process to the warmer months. So, her primary medium continues to be acrylic.

“I favor Golden acrylics,” she says, “but I do have some Liquitex and Atelier Chroma colors in the box.” She purchases pre-stretched, primed canvases from various sources.

As one might expect, her choice of brushes includes nylons and some bristles.

“I’ve used cheap foam brushes, too,” she adds. “You get effects from them that cannot be reproduced with standard brushes. And a few of my paintings have been done entirely with a palette knife.”

Although the volume of her work suggests otherwise, Bitner laments the lack of time she is able to devote to her avocation. She is employed full-time, teaching computer to k-5 students in the Lower Dauphin School District.

Bitner is represented locally by Harrisburg’s Gallery @ Second (galleryatsecond.com). She has won awards from the Art Association of Harrisburg, Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania and the Waynesboro Studio Art Club.

Her work is currently on display at Penn National Insurance through July. Schein Ernst Eye Associates at Capital Med Center hosts an exhibit from October through December.

For more information on the artist, visit tamibitner.com.

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