Artist of the Month: Nicole Caulfield

Zen, (colored pencil, 30 x 40) by Nicole Caulfield

Hometown: Keene, NH

Early Art Years
After graduating from Northern Illinois University School of Art in 1997, I didn’t have a steady job until 2003. I was starting a family and taking care of my daughter; it was after my second daughter was born when I began focusing on my art.

Art Career:
I split my time between making, selling and teaching art. I taught adult classes and workshops in my media until last year, when I switched to teaching children. It’s a great way to stay open to new experiences.

I work exclusively in colored pencil. It’s something I started when my kids were younger because it’s fast, there’s no mess and it’s not toxic. I appreciate that you can choose how long to spend on it and when to work. All of my work is realism-still life and figurative including portraits.

My inspiration came from several works. The stark divided composition derived from David’s Death of Marat, which includes large flat planes to separate the composition. These compositions look different when compared to modernist pieces. The girl leaning on the center made the calm bands of gray solid and real. There are a few inconsistencies: her hoody is modern era, but in its stark white harks, it dates back to earlier times and the man-made concrete she is resting on clashes with the naturally stacked rocks.

Working Process:
With my sporadic work schedule, I rely on photographs. I have spent a lot of time improving my camera and lighting technique. I prepare my composition by combining photographs in Photoshop and adjusting the lighting and colors. The digital reference is never set in stone, allowing me to make compositional decisions as I create it. I don’t typically make preliminary drawings or thumbnail sketches. I then reduce my reference to black and white. I make it even smaller by three to four values and adjust it if it’s necessary.

I draw a simple contour on my paper and usually start with the focal point (the face on a portrait) working my way out and then down to avoid smudging. I construct the background and touch elements along with the focal point. In a portrait, the beginning of a face will start with three values of flesh tones in large shapes (Obama’s HOPE portrait) and I continue to refine it with more planes of values and details.

Time spent on paintings:
It depends on the piece’s complexity and size. Zen (30×40) is large for colored pencil but not too complex. I completed it in approximately 90 hours.

Current Piece:
I’m working on a series that is much more lighthearted and less likely to match modern furniture. It’s a series inspired by Norman Rockwell, illustrating scenes of daily life in 2010/11. It will focus on our dependence on gadgets and the new dynamics of family.

Click here to visit Caulfield’s blog and see more of her work.


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