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April Feature: Carol Walthers

Carol allows spontaneity to guide her while creating. She experiments with the endless possibilities that her medium allows and applies those discoveries in her work. She explores a range of themes mostly focusing on humanity; relationships with ourselves, each other and our environment. Figure drawing is an ongoing passion, which she participates in several times a month.

A multidisciplinary artist, she works primarily in watercolour, pastels and oils. She has achieved signature status with the Pastel Artists Canada, Toronto Watercolour Society, and the Colour and Form Society.

After graduating from the Ontario College of Art, she became a founding member of Gallery 44, a Toronto photography cooperative, creating and exhibiting photographic silver prints and other alternative photographic media. During that period she was awarded an Ontario Arts Council grant to create photo-serigraphs as a member of Open Studio in Toronto.

She has paintings in public and private collections, and has participated in numerous shows and received several awards. Recently retired from a career in the print industry she is now a full time artist.

Q: Tell me about what kind of work you are currently making?

"I am currently working in watercolour. Using mulberry papers I am making abstracted works playing with negative, positive, distortions in scale, repetitive icons. In some pieces negative wax resist icons are worked into recognisable imagery. Allowing my imagination to take the lead in creating very personal expressions of how I feel about what I see happening around me.

We live in a time of significant changes to our environment and society. We face many challenges and collectively feel frustrated in how little control we have to improve the outcome.

I am completing a body of work that will include watercolour and mixed media paintings. I have titled my project “Legacy of Destruction” a visual record of my impressions of the practices and impacts of aggregate mining. The scope includes the concerns of farmers and the public regarding loss of farm land, potable water, clean air, dangers to our health, and other consequences. I have been moved by the resolve of neighbouring communities pushing back on corporate giants despite considerable obstacles."

Q: What is a day like in the studio for you?

"My day in the studio starts by reviewing my project plan. For that I’ll revisit my notes and sketches. Before painting I spend time mentally constructing the painting I am working on. Then I will make more sketches and map out the work to scale of the finished work. If I’m working on a watercolour I will spend time selecting the type of paper I will use from my collection of Asian handmade papers. I will experiment with the wax stamps that I have made before using them. If it is possible to complete the painting in one session I usually work until the painting is finished, taking breaks when the paper is drying.

Depending on the day I might spend a few hours participating in online life drawing sessions. Occasionally I will mix up my day by reading and watching YouTube videos of gallery exhibitions hosted by Mary Lynn Buchanan."

Q: Who are your most prominent influences on your art practice?

"Two artists who directly influenced my current work are Linda Virio and Suzie Dwor. They shared the current techniques I am exploring. What I learned was the jumping off point, and through experimentation I have expanded on their methods. Canadian artist Rod Prouse packs his paintings with iconic imagery creating loose whimsical abstracted landscapes familiar to Southern Ontario. Georgia O’Keeffe’s method of mental visualization has been very useful in my practice. O’Keeffe would create her paintings in her mind to the point that the actual painting was secondary. Masters such as Cezanne, Soutine, Modigliani, and Alice Neel made their own work and vision compelling. In their daring portraits they chose to discard traditional realism to go beyond the expected, creating a new experience. Berthe Morisot’s pastels are very loose, feminine, welcoming. I have had the privilege of seeing many of her works while in Paris.

I continue to expose myself to many styles and artists to expand my perception of what art can be. I draw inspiration from artists who are connected to social issues and challenge our perception."

Q: What are your preferred mediums to work with and why?

"Watercolour paints can be worked with transparently or opaquely. For this reason I find them more versatile. I was unhappy with the dull appearance when applying the paint on traditional watercolour paper as it absorbed the pigment. When I was introduced to a method of using watercolours on Asian mulberry paper, I found my solution. Using a wax resistant method to inhibit the paint from spreading over these tissue thin papers opened a world of possibilities. In this way I can control the intensity of the colours with washes and the opacity of the paint. The paper is available in many variations. Some with fibers for texture, and some without. Textured papers tend to work well for landscapes while smoother papers are useful for portraits.

My work in pastel evolved from life drawing sessions. I began to appreciate the intensity the pure pigments in the soft pastels and then expanded my use to larger finished works. The immediacy of the medium gives me the option of making dramatic, exciting line work to accentuate areas in portraits and scenes. Pastels are ideal for plein-air painting. Easy to rework and blend they are more forgiving than many other mediums.

Cold wax in oil is another versatile medium for creating unique, experimental works. The option to add collage elements lets me include left over bits of paper. I have only dabbled in this medium, but I am excited for the possibilities I have yet to discover."

Q: What major themes, concepts or methods are rooted in your practice?

"Exploration and experimentation is a constant, and as a result my artwork is continually evolving. It is important to be inspired by each day’s revelation. It has allowed me to develop my artistic vision.

Mid 2022 I took a major change in direction by tapping into my imagination. After many years of developing my paintings on mulberry papers I arrived on the ideal method to unleash a conceptual approach to a theme. Abandoning realism I was free to apply experimentation in every piece."

Q: Where can we find more of your work?

"My work can be found online on Facebook. Locally I exhibit regularly at the People’s Gallery in Waterloo. You can view the work on my website.

I will be having a solo show at Kitchener City Hall, details are TBA."

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