By Sue Dolamore
Monique Carr is a modern impressionist oil painter. She grew up in Montreal, Canada, traveled in the Caymen Islands and ended up settling a little over 15 years ago in East Tennessee. After 25 years as a graphic artist, she took the leap to become a full time oil painter in 2009.
Within the last year, Monique has transformed her work. Before that, she was unfulfilled by her paintings. Since turning to full time fine art, Monique has been on a journey to find her way. As part of her search, 4 years ago she gave plein air a try. She struggled with poor equipment and the elements and neither liked what she produced nor enjoyed the process. If others liked this activity so much, why couldn’t she? Monique stuck with it. She took workshops with Peggy Root, Jim Carson and Guido Frick and joined a local group that enticed her to get out and paint regularly. Still, she felt her end product was too ordinary. What would she have to do to find her own style, something that set her apart, and gave expression to her unique spirit?
This feeling is not uncommon among creators of all kinds but what does one do about it? Monique has come through this dark night and has discovered an approach that keeps her excited about her process and in anticipation of the next artwork that will emerge on her canvas.
She described her transformation as something of an electric shock to her brain that would instigate a reprogramming of the way she experiences painting. In order to get to a new state of processing what she sees she learned to let go of her assumptions, expectations and fears. She realized that in order to create something exciting, she had to be brave, letting go of what others would think, and even what she would think so that something new could manifest
Now, she begins with clearing her mind, and coming into present moment awareness. And in those first moments of her process, there is gratitude for the chance to do what she loves, to be in an open space of receptivity, and then to begin to translate what she is taking in through all of her senses, onto canvas. Because of this state of openness, her work is fluid and evolving but it has taken on a style that is clearly identifiable as hers. There is bold color and fluid brushstrokes. She has a new confidence in her work and she is loving her art. Her life is more complete and she relishes in the fact that she is privileged to share the beauty that she sees and the joy of painting with the world.
She recommends to other artists that they let go of the stress in their bodies before they begin painting, enjoying the moment and allowing all of the senses to become engaged. Enjoying the process of painting and being persistent through challenges are key to finding your way.
The style that has emerged in Monique’s work is out of the ordinary. Literally, when she chooses her subject she is seeking to make something new out of something ordinary. The common scene is transformed by the magic of color, composition and form into something stunningly beautiful.
She paints with oils, most often using transparent colors and keeping them light enough for the canvas to shine through. You might even say that she is using oils like watercolors. She says that the illusion of thickness can be achieved by just a few thicker bits of paint added at the end of the process, often with a palette knife.
Her color palette changes. Some colors that she uses are: Indian yellow, Windsor yellow, yellow ochre, Windsor orange, oxide orange, transparent orange, cad red light, alizarin crimson, permanent rose, French ultramarine, cerulean blue, pthalo blue green, veridian, sap green, mars black and titanium white.
She loves Gamblin’s solvent free gel. It’s texture is fun to work with and it gives body and shine to the paint. While studying with Guido Frick, she was encouraged to use Damar varnish, which she also likes as it speeds up the drying time, which can be helpful.
Monique values what she learned from others, which helped her build a foundation upon which she could discover her own voice in her work. Along with workshops with Peggy Root, Jim Carson and Guido Frick, Monique also repeatedly watched a set of DVD’s by artist, Quang Ho. I looked him up in order to find out a little more and came across an interview that seemed to add to my understanding of Monique’s recent transformation. Ho talks about how our preconceptions interfere with our ability to see. Learning to see better in painting is about getting back to pure perception with clear present moment awareness. He shares his personal Ahh Hah moment in this interview. You can listen to Quang Ho on ArtChat here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Z10o4yfo8
Monique took this message to heart and daringly let go of her preconceptions and began to see, feel and sense something beyond the obvious and ordinary and her paintings have become exciting representations of more than just what is visible. The multisensory and multidimensional experiences of plein air are showing up on her canvases and that is far from unfulfilling. As her work is new every day, she delights in life as an artist.
In talking with Monique and in reviewing her influences and experiences, I see one very strong factor that has contributed to her journey to find her way. Underlying the influences of her teachers, the medium, her subject and her skill, Monique has consistently set an intention for herself and her work. That intent is to bring forth something extraordinary. By setting this intent and then letting go of everything else, she has created an opening for the greater force of her spirit, to find a way to come forth into form. She is so clearly committed to this that she hides an exclamation mark in each of her paintings, as a symbol of her purpose, to bring a “wow” factor into every painting. While it may take perseverance to achieve, there is great power in setting a clear intent and large rewards in reaching it. Monique has found her way.