Signs of the Times

From street scenes to steel plants, Carolyn Latanision likes to put a sense of time in her paintings. “I want to say something about the era in which we live,” she says. “If someone were to look at my paintings in a hundred years, they?d know a little bit about our lives today.”

To capture that essence in her work, Latanision spends a good bit of her time soaking up her surroundings. “I bump into people in the street because I?m too busy looking around me,” she says. “There are so many visual stimuli. No matter where I am, whether it?s on a city street or in the woods or on the beach, I always find things I have to paint.”

The daughter of an art teacher, Latanision grew up creating art from the inspiration around her. Now an art teacher herself, the Winchester, Massachusetts, artist takes photographs wherever she goes. She then devotes a lot of time to studying her shots and plotting the painting steps in her mind before she even picks up a brush. For Quandary (watercolor, 20×29), which was inspired by a shop window in New York City, she took a variety of shots of her son and daughter-in-law in front of the storefront. “I thought the interaction between the two of them and that group of mannequins would make a thought-provoking piece,” she says. Purposefully removing the reflections in the glass, Latanision wanted the people and the mannequins to be more visually connected.

Quandary (watercolor, 20×29) is a 2000 Art Competition Finalist.

Working on such a detailed portrait created a number of challenges for the artist. Getting the background around all of the figures was particularly tricky because she used layers of several colors without using masking. “I used Twin Rocker handmade paper because it?s very white, which I wanted for the mannequins, but it won?t accept masking,” says Latanision. “So I did each layer of color independently, letting each dry before I began another. Then I completely rewet the area in order to have the wet-into-wet effect.”

Another issue was detail. With so many figures and details in the piece, Latanision not only challenged her skills but also her patience. By the time she?d finished the piece, she?d spent between 40 and 50 hours on it. But for now she?s content to work diligently on her realistic pieces. “When the pleasure of working in a particular way begins to wane, that?s when I find myself changing.”

As an artist, Latanision embraces change and enjoys exploring new territory in her work. “Rather than relying on things that have been successful in the past and continuing to repeat them,” says Latanision, “I always try to set up a new challenge.” As such, her pieces say something not only about our times but about the artist herself.

Catherine Anderson is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Watercolor West and the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Society. Visit her Web site at

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