Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Artist Patricia Allingham Carlson

From the time she was a preschooler, Pat Carlson knew she wanted to paint. When she was 12 years old, she sold her first painting. Following is an interview with Carlson and pictures of some of her work.

CFR: What inspires your work? What is the passion behind the painting?
Seeing and wanting to show what I see. I don’t know what it is about artists that they want to first copy then interpret what is there, but we all are compelled to do so. Then being moved by the feelings about a place or lines of a person’s face or even the idea of what could be causes more creating. I talk about having “artist’s eyes” with my students. I think some people may have a heightened sense of sight, and that perception becomes more developed the more it is used. Along with a strong imagination, the “artist’s eye” drives me to show my vision.The beauty of nature, a play of colors, a shadow seen through squinted eye that turns into something else; all drive me to do art.

I believe that some people are born with a predisposition to perceptual acuity. It may even be hypersensitivity. For example, I've known some people who can't stand tags in their shirts, it bothers their skin. Or babies who respond in unique ways to music.
So with this heightened sense some "see" more deeply, or respond to what they see on a deeper level. This seems to lead to the development of an "artist's eye".
As long as I can remember, I was looking at things very closely, peering, trying to understand how they fit together. I know that I was drawing tulips with separate petals in kindergarten, with the teacher remarking upon it. The other children drew the standard saw edged tulip form, but I just saw that was wrong.

Maybe I look so much because I had an inborn desire to draw- but I think the other way around.
As an educator I have seen children with little apparent art ability go on to work at developing their skills for years- self motivated to transcribe their vision, and becoming very fine in their art skills. One young woman spent THE WHOLE SUMMER drawing her hands, in all different positions, and the work she showed me in September was close to that of a master's.
I sometimes try to teach the idea of artist’s eye to others, and those who are motivated get it. 

Some things to try:
Pick a natural( or manmade) object- a gnarled stick, a seed, a flower, an leaf- and really study it. See how it is formed, to the smallest detail. Look at the shadow play of leaves on a surface, squint your eyes, and try to see all the faces and strange images that seem to form.
Pick up a painting or photo, and hold it up in front of the mirror, see if you can notice anything different you hadn't noticed before.
Make a random scribble then try to turn it into something.
Take the time to stop and really look at anything that delights your eye, try to see something new about it.
Taking a walk with someone using artist’s eye can be quite a drag for a partner, we dawdle most seriously.

CFR: What is your favorite painting you’ve done?
I mostly enjoy paintings that declare themselves; I set up and imprint a wet painting with color, then view it later. When an image appears by accident, which I can clearly develop, the resultant work is most spontaneous and feels “right.” Some of these paintings are Dreamweaver, Fairy Paths, and Corner of my Eye. I have a lot of faves, these were hard to choose. All three of these paintings captured the essence of exactly what I want to paint — mystery, worlds within this world, yet unseen and only hinted at by tales and oddities. They are imbued with the sense of “other.”
All three were also immediately evident, in part, after the initial under painting.
Dreamweaver reveals the suggestion of a gorge in a forest, with a female figure casting magic into the air. Thus it incorporates the beauty of nature with the mystery of a magical woman of unknown origin.

Corner of my Eye…I have long been intrigued with the notion of the "veil between the worlds." The feeling one has that there is more out there than we could know, and based on legends and myths and their kernel of truth, there is. Alternate dimensions, the world or kingdom of faerie, imagination...When this painting was first uncovered from the undercoat, an elf-like boy and a woman's faces were immediately evident. The surrounding landscape and building features were also obvious. So I added the misty veil to show a parting of the veil between the worlds, a fleeting glimpse, much like the words in that awesome Pink Floyd song, Comfortably Numb…"when I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of the corner of my eye..."

Fairy Paths… I tried something entirely new for me, based on a painting in an art book I'd purchased. I experimented with ink, wet paper, cut out circles laid on the wet paint, and threw on some salt. When dry and uncovered, it was exactly right, ready to be worked to completion. That was very exhilarating; an experiment which did just what I'd envisioned.
The artist who influenced that painting was Joan Rothermel. Dream Series paintings. Other favorite artists are: Susan Seddon Boulet, who paints wonderful works of Native American spirituality, and Margo Bartel, who paints dreamlike landscapes.

CFR: How did you develop your style?
Hours of exploration, reading art books, and a willingness to take chances. Research acted on with a sense of play, and listening to my inner voice. I worked from an early age to learn how to show things right. I had a wonderful high school teacher, Art Nagel, who encouraged me in my attempts, and gave me some technical knowledge. I also had a hippy professor who gave me private instruction in watercolor in college, and really spurred my love for that medium. Other students complained of his pot use and groping, but he was a gentleman and great instructor to me.

As an adult, I first worked with watercolor and ink, and developed a style to show landscapes and fairies. This work met some good interest, and so I began more exploration. I bought and read watercolor technique books, and taught myself to do them. Zoltan Szabo was very helpful with his books of demonstration and technique. When I felt I had realism down in a way that I was happy with, my next influence was Charles Reid, a watercolorists whose books showed how to use color and splatter paint about, and to paint in a looser manner.

Having always been drawn to the drama and emotional expressionism of Paul Gauguin, and the beauty of Monet's impressionism, I next set out to be less realistic, more of what I ended up calling an organic abstractionist. My concern was not so much perfection of image as to giving a feeling of the place, person, or dream I might have.

As my imagination seems to be my greatest asset as an artist (as well as for personal entertainment, I'm rarely bored) I go with it in my artwork. Even if an imagined form seems weird or out of place, I usually go with what I see, or often dream of. Whole series of paintings occur in this manner.

Other media I use, most often in combination with watercolor are pastel, tempera paint, powdered tempera, pencil, opaque white ink, collage, plastic wrap, salt, rubbing alcohol, wax paper, conte crayon, even Crayolas.

CFR: What were you like as a kid?
I was a happy kid who enjoyed imagination games and stories, exploring the woods, doing my “artwork,” and playing.

CFR: Did you paint as a child?
You know, children in the 60’s didn’t have access to the plentitude of art materials today’s child has. I worked extensively with my Crayola crayons to develop color shading and realism, all self taught. At age 12 I received a set of pastels and really enjoyed learning that medium.
I did not paint much until high school art class, learning use of tempera and oil paints. Watercolors of a good quality were introduced in college, where I received some private instruction from an old “hippie” professor who knew how to use them correctly. They became my favorite medium at that time — portable, reasonably priced, and fun to experiment with.

CFR: What did you want to be when you grew up?
I yearned to be an actress, then a scientist or an artist. Lacking confidence in my abilities for the mathematical requirements of the sciences, I decided upon art as my focus. In order to provide a more reliable income, I also obtained my B.S in art education so that I could teach.

CFR: Were your parents artists? What were their jobs?
My father was a fine craftsman and an engineer, who could build or fix ANYTHING in his spare time, from fine furniture to a house, all components. My Mother was a homemaker who had the artistic gift; she took instruction from me after I completed college, then she became a professional artist, selling many paintings and taking awards.

CFR: Did you grow up in a traditional family setting?
Yes, two parents and two sisters. One difference was my parents desire to travel extensively, bringing their three girls along. By camping we were able to afford to visit every state in the continental US, and also flew us to Hawaii, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Nassau, and Europe, where we traveled in a rented VW camper bus.

CFR: Who were your childhood heroes?
Truly I had no heroes, but a number of figures influenced me in positive ways in my life. My Father taught me my deep love for nature and the ways of the earth, my Mother taught me to love to read which led my imagination. Billy Mummy from the TV show Lost in Space fueled up my interest in exploration and science fiction. Several teachers, Mrs. Carmichael in grade 6, and my high school art teacher Mr. Nagel, both strengthened my belief in my own abilities.

CFR: Where were you educated?
I attended college at Temple University and Penn State, and graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Science.

CFR: When you’re working, what is your day like? Are you a disciplined painter? Do you paint every day? Do you jog first, meditate? Give readers an idea of A Day in the Life of a Real Painter.
I think any artist from actress to musician is aware that some days you just have it – the magic is there and you can take it to the moon. Those days are golden, and the most productive of any. Other days you hack away at your craft, making strides and getting it done, but with the awareness it is not your best. I plod on through on those days, so in that [respect]I am disciplined.
To try for a golden day, I set the mood with music, evocative and dreamy artists like Deep Forest, or Enigma. Then I set out all my materials and see where that takes me. On the best days I “come to” several hours later and, feeling stiff, review what I’ve done. If the work is good, the dance music goes on, and I take a break to see what to work on next.
I often will put the work away until later in the evening, then look again from a distance, or hold it up in front of the mirror to gain perspective. My family is all used to being asked for feedback and critique, as well as my art students, and I refine from those suggestions as well.
Painting on the best days is exhausting and exhilarating. On the plodding days it requires far more self discipline. But I wouldn’t want to ever stop, as it is a constant compulsion.

CFR: What person has been the biggest influence for good in your life?
I guess the attributes I most admire and strive for involve living your life on your own terms, trying to always help others, and acting as right and kindly as you can. My Father came close, Mother Teresa led a life of sacrifice and giving, and Jesus Christ embodied the ultimate in giving, but who could ever live up to that?

CFR: Who are your heroes now?
People I admire are my husband, an artist friend, Ralph Nader and Bill Gates. My husband has high integrity, a spirit of adventure, and the drive and interest to learn anything he wants to learn, and to learn it well. He can figure out how to build or repair almost anything, and I mean that literally.
My artist friend, Carol, has made a real career out of being an artist, and has built her promotions and products into a business that I believe supports her. She seems to have moved through and past losing her husband, and journeyed on in a way that honors his memory.
Ralph Nader seems to be a man who is living a life very true to his values. He seems to be a politician who would not sell his soul to succeed, and would not back down from what he saw as right, even to win .I saw him speak as a college graduate, and felt an aura of goodness about him.
Bill Gates, reminds me of the geeky guys I respected in high school but would not have dated. Bill worked his tail off and seems to have done so with a whole spirit, undeterred by early social nerd syndrome. He used his genius to develop Microsoft and gained the respect of the world. He married a lovely wife, has a nice family, and lives with enormous wealth. AND he gives back very generously to help others.

CFR: What do you do for fun?
Go hiking and camping, read, garden, paint, cook, hang out with family and friends, watch some favorite TV shows, and learn about nature.

CFR: What’s the best (bravest, kindest, most honorable) thing you’ve ever done, the act you’re most proud of?
I am sure that every person acts with small kindnesses many times in their lives. I try to help people, care for the environment and living creatures, listen to the troubles of people with sympathy and volunteer my time occasionally. I guess I am proudest of the time and care I gave to raising my children, and I am rewarded by having them now be such fine adults.

CFR: You do workshops. What is that all about?
I have run art workshops for adults centering on a theme such as experimental watercolor technique, landscape or floral painting. Three to seven people will attend a 6 week session in my studio for 2 hours a week, paint, chat, and hopefully learn something. I also teach children on an on-going basis in year round 10 week art classes. There is a whole lot of fun in my classes! After graduating from college, Penn State, I found that budgeting had been cut for art for most public schools. I briefly waitressed, hated that cause I stunk at it. Then I called around and got an assistant teacher position at a nursery/day care. Loved it! Worked my way into a teacher position with the owners endorsement to receive a Pa. Private school teacher certification. I changed jobs after several years when I could not ever progress at that position. My next position was for the Montgomery Co. Intermediate unit, where I assisted in a special ed classroom. The students were aged 16-19. in a public hs setting, and were then termed "emotionally disturbed, or learning disabled". Terms have since changed. This job was usually interesting, as the staff was nice, the kids nice but unpredictable, and I was mistaken for a student in the hallways.
When I became pregnant, I served out the school year and took a break to have my kid, Lindsey. When Lindsey was 2, I started a little nursery school program at my home, 2x a week, some income and friends for her.
The next year I advertised on local community bulletin boards to teach children's art lessons in my home. My daughter loved sitting and working with the big kids, and the art classes took off.At the peak, I taught about 60 kids a week, 5 separate days, after school and saturdays. When organized soccer hit the area, I lost my saturday classes. Over the years I have maintained 15- 35 students a week. They attend once a week, usually 4:30 - 5:30.
I currently offer class on tues, thurs, and advanced class on friday.
I run 4 sessions a year, 10 weeks in duration during the school year, 8-9 weeks during the summer. It is amazing how demanding extra curricular activities have become over the years. Many demand attendance every day after school, and it becomes harder each year for students to take a day off for art.
Personally, I think it is too much on the kids, and they become too over scheduled.
Their art time is so important to them, to be calmer, quiet, reflective- although my classes can and usually are lively.
In fact, my worst days are lightened and brightened when I work with the kids. About 20 kids over the years I had the privilege to teach from grades K or 1st to high school senior. I have had the vicarious experience of "motherhood" to many, in that I get to watch them grow up and bloom both physically and mentally. I am in touch with and still see many post graduates from college. How lucky is that?
Parents should be aware that many of their children tell a teacher everything said and done at home. I do not and would not solicit information, nor do I gossip when I hear it. But.. make sure things are right for your child before you send him to class after a big fight with your spouse, and that you temper what you say to your child's maturity level.
I have just about split a gut with the funny things the kids have said over the years.
I also see he sad, the depressed, the problem children and teens, and have provided some discreet council and intervention over the years. I have taught many special needs children, and have tried to make every kid feel valued and recognized in my class.
I teach traditional subjects such as landscape, people, face and figure, florals, water and skies. A animals are a favorite of the kids, along with cartooning and fantasy. Perspective is unloved but needed. We cover many art materials as well including watercolor, pencil, charcoal and pastel. Tempera paint and acrylic, paper mache and clay are used, along with copper foil, mosaic, and painting on old wood.
Frequently the children's parents express their own longing to get involved, and I will set up a workshop, a couple of hours a week for them. We have touched on many aspects of watercolor, however the adults do not have the time to commit themselves for too long, and classes usually fizzle out after 6-7 meetings. I hope my art classes will continue on for a long time, as I feel they contribute to many children and I know they make my life happy.

CFR: How has your work been recognized so far?
A proud moment of mine was being presented with the finest art student award in my high school graduating class of 900 students. I have also won quite a few awards at the fine arts juried shows I have participated in over the past 26 years, both in Bucks County, Penn., and in New Jersey.

CFR: How can people learn more about your work?
Anyone interested in seeing my paintings can visit my web page at, where I have a gallery and other information about what I do. To see or purchase my art as prints or on gift items, follow the links on the page to my stores: Imagekind, Zazzle, or Cafepress. For a more interactive experience, visit or join my face book art page at The Art of Patrcia (misspelling occurs on FB page) Allingham Carlson. There you can see art in the process of creation, hear about different techniques I use, see a daily painting, see group projects, and post questions or comments.

CFR: How do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully as happy and healthy as I am now, pursuing the same interests plus some added wisdom and increased skills. I am a very happy woman, and feel blessed right now by all that I am surrounded by. If I can still be as happy in 10 years, man will I be lucky!
My goals right now are to continue to improve in my art work, to bring in more financial gain from it. I am trying to attain wisdom, more patience, and more gratitude on a spiritual level. Personally I hope to continue to have the ability to hike and travel and camp for a long time, as these things bring me calmness and joy. My gardens are also a joy to me, and I have fun experimenting with botanical adventures.
Longer term goals? If I could become more successful in commercial aspects of selling art and art products, I wish to downsize my current home and buy a small house on a BIG lot, complete with a stream, river, any kind of water feature. This home would have room for more gardens, cool natural landscaping, small woods, and a greenhouse — big enough to play with plants all winter. I would also love to take a cruise to Greece and tour the ruins. A yearly cruise to a warm island wouldn't hurt either.
Another wish would be that my husband could quit the corporate world and become the luthier/ fine furniture maker he dreams of being, full time.
Being well recognized in the art world would be a fine thing, and I'd love to design a book cover for Stephen King!
One other wish is to become a grandma…oh I can't wait for that!
So I guess in 10 years, you'd have a happy woman, gardening, hiking, camping, painting, enjoying nature, playing with grand kid(s), teaching young people- and the older- art, who gets to take cruises occasionally and sit on her porch and look at the water every day. And selling paintings regularly. Oh — and who gets to illustrate for Stephen King.