One of my intentions with this blog is to highlight fellow artists whose work is inspirational and beautiful. This might help you discover these artists as well and become fans.
Today I want to introduce you to Sonoma County artist Carole Rae Watanabe. I love Carole’s use of vibrant color and the way she layers those colors, patterns and textures. I love her free and loose style and admire that because I know how “tight” I can be when painting and that it is difficult to just loosen up and paint with your whole arm, not just your fingers.
How I discovered Carole Watanabe
The story of how I discovered this vibrant and talented artist is interesting as well, if you will indulge me. About five years ago or so, I read a book called The Wishing Year, by Noelle Oxenhandler, which is about a woman experimenting with manifesting into existence a few things that she had been denying herself. In her book, she mentioned an artist friend of hers on several occasions and how this artist helped her paint again, and freeing her soul just a little bit more.
I was curious! At the end of the book, Noelle had acknowledged some of the characters of her memoir, and Carole Watanabe’s name came up. I quickly did a web search on her and found her website and her work.
I understood immediately how Noelle Oxenhandler was drawn to Carole. I was attracted to her use of bold color and the different styles she has from maritime paintings, to abstract to still life works.
Carole also happened to have a book for sale called The Ecstatic Marriage of Life and Art. Looking through the sample pages online, I knew I had to have it and I immediately ordered the book. It is her story, her art journey, her philosophy on how to be an artist and overcome your fear of putting yourself and your work out there. She gives business advice, too. And all throughout this book are her wonderful, absolutely beautiful paintings.
So moved by her work, I wrote her a good old fashioned letter expressing my feelings about her story and her art. She wrote me back and we arranged that I would come and meet her!
Meeting Carole in Person
Carole lives a good hour’s drive from my home and at this time my son was still preschool age, so I could not be gone for more than a half day. I was beginning to paint again and I brought a recent work to show for her to critique. She is a master, in my opinion, and any advice she had to give was eagerly anticipated.
She very graciously welcomed me into her home and studio and we had a lovely time together. Her paintings are even more amazing in person than what you could ever conceive from photos or online images. I asked many questions and wrote down all her nuggets of wisdom, and I still return to those notes.
I got to not only visit Carole Watanabe, but assist her at a few of her exhibitions. I helped her out one day during Open Studios. If I remember correctly, I may have helped her out on a couple of occasions, feeling such joy in serving her.
In return for my help, she unexpectedly and generously gifted me with an original painting, Goddess of Cabria, which you see above. My painting has remained front and center in my living room ever since, and it brings me deep happiness every time I look at it.
The years following
Unfortunately, after these visits, I chose to follow a path that would bring more immediate income, as our family finances were in need. My focus was not on my art any longer and so I fell out of touch with Carole. I am still on her mailing list and follow Carole on Facebook.
This has gone on for several years and I have not seen her in person since. I still see what she’s doing, though, and am noticing how her style is changing. Her current website of newest works shows earthy tones for many of her paintings. Other themes, such as her Esprit Du Monde, show bright, more blocked chunks of solid color.
What I love about Carole’s paintings
One of the things about Carole’s artistic scope is how she works in many different styles. She does abstracts. She paints still life, she paints figurative and landscape canvases. Bright work, muted work, more realist, more expressionist. She does it all and yet, when looking at one of her pieces, you can tell by the brush strokes and shapes she uses that it is a Watanabe.
I like that she doesn’t block herself into one particular style painting only a couple of subjects. She still paints on themes, but the themes are wide enough to support many different subjects.
Maybe as an emerging artist, I should remain tight in my vision until I get better and more well known, then branch out into more and more topics. But Carole Watanabe is, and always will be, a treasure and source of inspiration. My book, The Ecstatic Marriage of Life and Art, is well worn and I have gazed endlessly at her paintings, in real life and in print, to figure out how she blends her colors and how she applies the layers. It is a dream of mine to be able to watch her paint and see her techniques. Hmmm and maybe even take a lesson. <sigh>