For artists not wanting to be pigeonholed as one genre or another, this question can seem intrusive and annoying. “Why should I have to limit myself to any one way, why can’t I be constantly evolving?” This may seem like a valid response, but for an artist that wants to become a professional artist, it is a question you must ask yourself and answer honestly.
Who are you can be as simple as where do you live, or how old are you? It can also be as complicated and detailed as, “I’m a classically trained photorealist painter who now works with found objects, clay, and a pottery wheel to create abstract constructions based on our consumer culture.” As human beings, we are constantly evolving and I would hate to see anyone who stayed the same at 50 as they were when they were 20 years old. We need to grow and evolve, especially for creative individuals, but who you are and what your story says about you is vitally important to why people relate to your art and want to own parts of it. As an art consultant and former gallery owner myself, I found that clients and collectors were most interested in the artist’s story, who they are or were. Once you tell their story, the client feels they know you in some way and can relate to you, and possibly can be a part of your creativity.
When artists begin to write their artist statement or biographical portrait, they must know who they are, and what it is they want to share with the world. You may not be comfortable sharing everything about who you are and why you are the way you are, but it is important to know what influences you and the factors that helped shape who you are as an artist. What influences you? This does not mean listing other artists you like and try to be like, nor does it mean what art movements have been interesting enough for you to follow. When asked the question “what are your influences” an artist must be prepared to share a bit of themselves that does not have to do with copying anybody or anything else. It has to do with who you are as a person and as a creative being, and why you would continue to work so hard at something that very few ever succeed in.
Art history honors the 1st and the most original within all new movements, it does not recognize the ones who thought that movement was interesting and followed along. I tell my kids frequently, “be a leader, not a follower.” Artists should honor that which is unique to them; be a first-rate version of your own self instead of a copy of someone else. A museum would never give a solo show to an artist who touted themselves as “influenced by Mark Rothko.” We all love Mark Rothko, but that is just not interesting to be purposely just like another more famous artist. What is more interesting would be that your work was influenced by living on a farm in rural Iowa and doing crop rotations every spring, creating mathematical grid patterns within a flat surface, and that the colors you use remind you of the rotting corn in August. That is unique to only you.
Growing up in a suburb just outside of Chicago, Carolyn Emole gained experiences and lessons seen in her art today, with multiple layers highlighting aspects of her unique experience. Carolyn describes her work as ethereal, mystical and emotional. In her paintings, whether on wood, paper or canvas, she uses layers of translucent oil paint to create what some refer to as atmospheric environments, playing with color and gesture. The black and white charcoal flowers in her paintings are reminiscent of the black and white winters in the city, juxtaposed along with the warm rich tones of summer and autumn.
In Los Angeles, Carolyn attended the Santa Monica College of Design, Art & Architecture. There she studied with such nationally recognized artist’s as Peter Alexander, Laddie John Dill, George Herms, Debra Sussman and more. She then set off to explore the European lands of the masters, which expanded her voice and enriched her abstract forms. Carolyn now lives in Austin, TX where she continues to gain inspiration from her surroundings and her life.
Growing up as the youngest of six, Carolyn found solace in coloring and painting alone in her room, and listening to jazz music. Her father was a professional saxophone player and jazz music continues to be a great consolation for her when she works. In addition to music, Carolyn gives full credit to some of her influences from other artists, mainly Georgia O’Keeffe and Mark Rothko, which her work is reminiscent of, yet lighter and unique to her.
Carolyn will attest that as an abstract artist there are some misconceptions about her work. Some people assume it symbolizes the female & male body parts, and that abstract work is either shallow or easy – and Carolyn couldn’t disagree more. The one thing she would like her collectors to know about her art is that there’s much more to each piece than meets the eye and that her work comes from her emotions and not the human figure.
The highlight of her work is highly personal as she states, “My work is first and foremost about emotions. Emotions that are reflective of a time, a place, and/or a person. Of things gained and things lost. Color is the spark of the progression. Dreams filled with movement and visions of layers and forms. They all play themselves out to me. And when I embrace the canvas – these things are alive in me. The journey begins, into the future, into the past, yet they all breathe in the now.”
When asked about her advice that she would give to young artists just starting out now, she says, “You should learn everything you possibly can; to study, to read, to listen and ask questions. Then go lock yourself in a room and forget everything you’ve learned and just create and find your voice.” I think that is good advice. The debate over whether to get an MFA degree is one that won’t be solved anytime soon, and you’ll probably hear many different opinions on that question, but Carolyn does not believe it is necessary if what you really want to do is to sell your work and exhibit.
If there is one thing she wishes she had known in art school that she knows now, is not to listen to the skeptics and to continue to work, to create and surround herself with other artists. Carolyn’s goal as an artist is not much different from thousands of other artists, which is to be able to support her-self creating her work and to have at least one piece in a museum.
Carolyn’s work can be seen in hotels, corporations and private residences here in the US and abroad.
Painting Portland In a New Light
In the new series of urban landscapes by Portland based artist Tracy Leagjeld, her ability to capture the essence of a place is evident after the initial painterly style and colors draw the viewer in for a closer look. Leagjeld prefers to work in series, whether that be the outdoor landscapes of central Oregon, or the downtown streets of a large urban center. Tracy’s collectors are well aware of her beautiful outdoor nature-based landscapes, however I think this new series of urban landscapes will broaden her audience to a much more sophisticated understanding of her work. What most people don’t realize is that Tracy paints locations wherever she may be, including locations such as Mexico, Italy, and Napa Valley among others. After recently relocating to Portland from Bend Oregon, Tracy’s attraction to the contrast of light and dark and how it affects color is focused currently on the urban landscapes of the city, resulting in the new series.
Tracy comes from an artistic family with her mother and sister both painters, her son a professional photographer and her daughter an accomplished painter with an MFA. Like most artists, knowing when the painting is finished is not an easy task, but Tracy has learned to stop and sit back and return to the pieces later. She adds that they are usually done before she thinks they are, and if she keeps working on them, they would tend to be overworked and lose the looseness that is associated with her distinct style.
Fueling her passion for creativity is a compulsion to try to figure things out, to have to get it right, and that continues to motivate her to continue pursuing her art. “The beauty is,” she says, “I’ll never figure it out, so I expect I’ll be painting until I am very old.” When asked about her definition of success as an artist, she responds by saying that the true definition of success is when you don’t need the approval of anyone else and you have total faith in your own direction and vision.
If she was not an artist, the other career she could see herself doing she says would be a botanist or zoologist or some kind of scientist. As a native Oregonian, Tracy grew up with the ducks and geese and abundant nature all around us in the Pacific northwest. She had charts on her bedroom walls that she would use to track the survival rate of ducklings by different mothers and spent hours studying them. Her observations and interest in nature have undoubtedly enhanced her ability to really see her surroundings and have contributed to the richness of her work. One of my mentor teachers in college was the famous photorealist Robert Bechtle and he stressed over and over the importance of seeing and observing your surroundings and he had his students spend countless hours outside and inside drawing and painting, simply observing what we see. It was not until many years later that I came to understand his methods.
To see more of Tracy Leagjeld’s work, please visit: