Caryn attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design where she received her BFA in Art Education, and has a Master’s Degree in Art Education from Boston University. She spent several years as an Art Teacher in Newton, Massachusetts and on the island of Nantucket before returning to her home town on Cape Cod.
Caryn’s paintings are impressions of landscapes from Cape Cod, Nantucket and the surrounding area of New England as well as other places and countries she has travelled such as Brazil, San Francisco, Honduras and Thailand. Caryn defines her style as abstracted realism, working from photographs to reduce the subject matter to its most essential shapes and textures.
Carrie: When did you first realize the importance of art in your life?
I think while I was growing up being good at drawing or being good at art in general was how I defined my identity and who I was. I was very shy when I was young, and I did not enjoy being the center of attention but I desperately wanted praise and to feel valued, and I think art became my way of demonstrating my value and worth to people around me.
Now that I’m an adult I think my attitude towards art has definitely changed. Art is a way to experience and reframe the world around us, to take in and redefine what we see in life into our own version, to display and show to others so that they may see the world as we do, and feel the things that we feel. And it’s not always about painting the prettiest picture. I’m forever grateful to the Art Education program at Mass Art, which was so incredibly powered by contemporary art and contemporary practice. It forever changed the way I see the world, and it shattered and rebuilt all my conceptions about what art is.
Carrie: How would you describe your art?
I would describe my art as abstract realism. I see my paintings as a sort of fantasized version of real places.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
My workspace is usually pretty messy, I’m lucky enough to have a spare room to contain the mess in. I paint with oils as well as with gouache paint, and rather than have to clean everything up when I switch mediums I just paint at my dining room table when I’m using gouache paint. I paint small with gouache, and it’s so much easier to contain and clean up that mess than with oils.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
I work from photographs, and I never know exactly what a painting will look like when it’s done. I usually take the composition from the photograph and then simplify everything else down to shapes colors and texture. The result is a recognizable image, the viewer can tell it’s a landscape, a cliff, a field, but it’s usually only an impression of the image in the source photo. Though some are more true to the source image than others, it varies.
Instagram has been a great way for me to go shopping for source material from my own photos I’ve taken over the years. I’ll scroll through old pictures from past trips and I’ll think oh yeah that was a good one! And i’ll see where I can go with it. It’s like an archive I can draw from and always be adding to.
Carrie: What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?
I hope viewers will find some sense of calm and peace when they look at my paintings. I’ve always been interested in escapism, getting away from reality and trying to live in some kind of alternative. I love fantasy genres, sci fi and anything that takes you away from the day to day grind. I want my paintings to be that way, a fantasy version of life that we can escape into when we need to.
Carrie: What do you wish you knew that you now know about your creative process?
It takes time. Lots of time. Time is the biggest investment for me, and how to use it most effectively. I can procrastinate, and I always hate myself for it later. If I could go back 10 years and tell my 18 year old self anything, it would be to paint more, spend more time on the creative work and trust that everything else will fall into place.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
When I feel stuck I’ll go back to an old piece I never quite finished and see what it looks like with fresh eyes. I’ll have multiple paintings happening at once, and I’m surrounded by unfinished work. Which doesn’t sound very productive, but it somehow works itself out. I can’t approach the creative process like a formula, it doesn’t work that way for me unfortunately. If I’m really not getting anywhere I’ll just prep some canvases and be prepared for the next time I go in my studio.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
My oil paintings take me forever! That’s how I got into using gouache paint, I was so frustrated at how long it was taking me to finish one oil painting that I just stopped one day and dug out an old gouache set from undergrad and started playing around on a scrap of paper. And then I made a whole series! Sometimes changing things up when you’re stuck is good.
Carrie: Any new projects or series on the horizon?
The only plans I have are to just keep painting. I’m participating in an event this summer that will require a large body of work, so I’m just going to keep going and see where I end up. I’d like to have my work in a few more gallery shows this summer, and I’m currently selling prints at one shop, and I’d like to expand to a few others.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
Pinterest. It’s a bottomless source of imagery that’s really soothing to just scroll through. Even if it’s not directly related to something I’m working on I love just filtering through all these great ideas and images. Sometimes something will jump out at me and it starts a train of thought that leads to some kind of production, other times I’m just enjoying looking. That’s a big part of being an artist I think, is looking and seeing what other people are doing. Art doesn’t happen in a vacuum, nothing is created that is completely new and unheard of, we take what we see happening around us and we make our own versions.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
Fellow like minded creative people, that are just out there living their lives and making time for whatever it is they make is inspiring to me. Life can be exhausting, it’s easy to give up and say you don’t have time, or energy to devote to your interests. It’s much harder to take what little free time you have and focus your energy on creative work. Because that’s what it is, work.
Carrie: What does the word artist mean to you?
An artist is anyone who makes, creates and shares their work with others.
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