Watercolor artist embraces making mistakes as a way to grow in her craft - Albuquerque Journal

Watercolor artist embraces making mistakes as a way to grow in her craft

“Pink Hollyhock,” Carol Carpenter. (Courtesy of Sumner & Dene)

bright spotCarol Carpenter remembers watching her grandmother create dolls from hollyhock blossoms.

“It just fascinated me,” the Albuquerque watercolor artist said.

Today, Carpenter is locally renowned for her hollyhock paintings. Her work has generated a flurry of awards: first place in Albuquerque’s Masterworks and Best in Show for miniature works as well. Sumner & Dene Gallery carries her paintings.

Born in Kansas, Carpenter flourished in an artistic home. Her mother painted and created mosaics with glass tile. She thought all mothers were so accomplished. She took paper and pencil to drawing classes at the Wichita Art League with her mother. But she is largely self-taught.

After moving to California and attending community college, Carpenter transferred to the University of New Mexico.

“I thought I’d be an art teacher,” she said. “I took some classes but they didn’t have watercolor.”

Still, she graduated, got married and had kids. But the artistic gene called to her.

“By the time my kids were 2, I thought, ‘This is so dull; I sound like Mr. Rogers.’ ”

She began experimenting with watercolor, knowing they were nontoxic. She juried into the New Mexico Arts and Crafts Fair, where they accepted three of her paintings. Additional art shows followed.

She fell in love with watercolor.

“You just lose yourself and it’s just like you get into this zone and you don’t know what’s around you,” she said. “It’s just like a magic thing.”

She lightly sketches the composition first, often working from her own photographs, still taking classes and workshops when she can.

“You can’t ever learn everything there is to know about watercolor,” she said. “The mistakes are where you learn,” she added. “Sometimes what you think is a mistake can be the very best part of it.”

“Old Ranch” emerged from a photograph of the landscape in southern New Mexico, complete with old trucks and outbuildings.

“Grant Street, San Francisco” captures both the beauty and grit of image-packed Chinatown. She filled the scene with dangling paper lanterns.

“I lived near San Francisco for a long time,” Carpenter said. On “the sides on the buildings I used a different technique. It was overwhelming to me, so it looks full. It has that real detail, but on the right it looks smoother, so you have that contrast.”

The languid “Along the Seine” came from her first trip to Europe. She painted the image from her own photograph.

Carpenter said she was dazzled by the greens.

“I can’t even tell you how thrilled I was,” she explained. “It was two years ago. The landscape was green; it was real deep with different light on it. There the light is darker. I had never seen that before.”

She is about to attend a four-day San Diego workshop that includes some plein air (outdoor) work.

“I feel like I’m branching out again,” she said.

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