Artist Statement

By Charlotte
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I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing and coloring. My mom taught me to watercolor when I was five and my brother and I had Marathon Color Days with our raggedy box of crayons.

Our New Car

But, art was not my first and only love …

My First Piano Concert

I took piano lessons from the time I was five, until I finished high school. I was pretty good and my dog loved my playing.

In spite of practicing many eight hour days, I realized that I wasn’t good enough to make my dream of being a classical concert pianist a reality. Also, I didn’t want to spend my life teaching and interpreting other people’s brilliant compositions. (Yeah, arrogant teenager.)

I was lucky enough to attend a school in the suburbs of Chicago that had a great art program – painting, drawing and ceramics – and a great young teacher, Luanne Forbes, who had just graduated from the School of the Art Institute. Between school, the Art Institute’s classes for Young Artists and forays with my friends to the halls of the Art Institute, I saw for the first time that art meant a lot more than a bunch of boring old religious paintings that all looked alike. (Arrogant Teenager rears her head again.) It was a lot of fun.

One day, an artist came to my high school to give a talk about making a living as an artist. While she painted a picture, she explained how she worked as an artist. This was also a revelation to me. I’d never thought about being an artist other than as a fun hobby.

After high school, I went on to get a degree in Painting, Drawing and Printmaking at the University of Florida. While at art school, I had two very different and excellent art teachers, Hiram Williams and Marcia Isaacson, who influenced me in two completely different directions.  Hiram was of the Francis Bacon school of freaky art.  Marcia, on the other hand, embraced the whole photo-realism stream and made wonderful and huge graphite drawings of antique photos.

During school, I painted semi-photo-realistic paintings, but my paintings kept edging me to a more expressionistic style. 

While I was still in school, my Dad, who was the Vice President of Follett Publishing Company, became more interested in art and arranged to publish several art books, including Fantastic Images, by Franz Schulze. Naturally, the vice-president’s daughter got an advance copy.

After graduation, I returned to Chicago and slowly abandoned photo-realism and embraced Chicago Imagist and expressionist works. I loved the obsessive, deviant images which let me run wild with clashing colors, dreams and dark images of people looking into the abyss.

Hairy Whooo R U?

Life happened. I got married. My husband and I started a business. I was still painting and drawing, but my paintings were directionless for a long time.

I studied the work of other artists and discovered my favorites were German Expressionists. Their styles began to seep into my own.

With the help of another teacher, Eleanor Ferris, I finally put together a series of neo-expressionist paintings with a Beauty and the Beast theme. A friend of mine put together a show for me at a local restaurant. I was thrilled. Nancy did a terrific job hanging the show and it looked great. My art career seemed to be finally coming together.

Three days after the show opened, the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington killed thousands of people and our country was at war. The restaurant owner asked me to take my paintings down. He said they were scaring people.

In the subsequent economic turn down, we lost our business and I had to take a real job. The closing of my show was trivial in comparison to the real problems and sufferings of 2001 and after, but it was a painful blow to me.

Painting seemed somehow pointless after the losses of that September and losing our business and the premature closing of my first show. I didn’t pick up a brush for a long, long time.

One day I was spinning through Google, looking for something about Vincent Van Gogh and I was looking at all the beautiful images. Before I clicked away, I saw a photograph taken at his grave. Someone had written a note of a piece of paper and left it on the headstone. It said “Thank You – Vincent.”

XXX drawing -Grave and Note – Almond Tree – crossroads

That note made me reconsider what I’d been doing as an artist. Art has always been a personal and somewhat self-centered occupation for me. I’d never thought about the impact painting, mine and others, had on people. I realized for the first time, that everyday people, people who weren’t artists or deeply involved in art, were inspired and affected by art.

The note from an unknown admirer of a long dead artist, inspired me to appreciate how important painting is, even to people you may never know or meet. I bought some new colored pencils and started drawing again. Those first drawings were like a drink of fresh, cold water.

I spent the next two years playing with colored pencils, watercolors and acrylics – refreshing my skills, learning new techniques and playing with art supplies that hadn’t even existed.   For a while, I worked in a photo-realistic style, but before long expressionist painting won out, and I started a project to illustrate and old and very scary book – Dracula.

It’s good to be back.

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