Sunday, August 25, 2019

EXPLORING ART and ARTIST: Paige Carpenter

Thank you for joining us on this journey of meeting so many unique artists whom Shelley has brought to us through the OOAK Artisan Showcase Gallery and website!  This month I spent some time interviewing Paige Carpenter, a lovely artist who has broadened her art to include many artforms, including character design, costume design, illustration, fashion and graphic design, use of lights or illumination in her artwork, and a striking use of bold colors and sharp lines that really focus the viewers and draw them in to the subject.  There is a striking combination of mystical fantasy and stark reality in her artwork that is not to be missed.  I hope you enjoy this short walk through Paige’s world:

First of all, a common question to get us started, for those who do not know you at all, I can pretty much tell that art has been inside of you for a very long time because your soul is expressed in everything you make.  When did you first discover that you had this inclination toward art in your life and how was this revealed to you?

As a kid, my mom was an art teacher so we always had a ton of art stuff around the house. I was always creating stories in my head and I was fortunate enough to be able to express them as they were onto a blank canvas, so to speak, instead of trying to project them onto something already premade like… a plastic barbie doll.

I would say that I was a pretty solitary child and had a penchant for crafting the world around me, imaginary or not, absent of whatever current culture was dictating at the time. Art was just a medium to visually see what I had floating around in my head whether it was stories or imaginary friends or places and revisit them time and again.

I always like to ask an artist what early influences you had in developing your interest in art, and do they still influence you or have new inspirations evolved that have turned your direction at times?

I can’t really say for sure. We never watched a lot of TV (if at all) but I read a ton of books and my mom was always sure to have a new book in my hands every week. We also would go to a lot of museums and live theater productions so I was constantly thinking about stories. I was fascinated with storytelling as a live visual medium, something up close that you could see, sense, touch, or feel in the moment.

As expressed on your website, you have many areas where your art touches.  These include character design, costume design, Illustrator, fashion design and graphic design.  Do you have a favorite area that you feel the most creative in? 
FIDM Debut 2014 “Jazz”
Illustrations & Sewn/Built Costume: Theatrical 1920s flapper party dress
Copyright © 2014 Paige Carpenter
Model: Kalyn Hemphill (LA Models)

Probably costume design. There is SO MUCH one can say with clothing! I call it textile hieroglyphics! The balance or shape of something as simple as a sleeve or a shoe or some trims or accessories or just the textile design itself speaks volumes about what people think of themselves inside their head, every garment it a hard coded choice, even the ones people think they made without care show a decision. Why this shirt? Why blue? Why this particular blue? Why stripes? Fashion design touches on these elements yet is such a huge corporate/cultural/money controlled beast but costume design allows me to dig deep into a singular person’s psyche and really understand what clothes mean on so many levels, personal, professional, societal, spiritual, cultural, time periods… it’s amazing!

I see many themes as I look at your art.  I would like to touch on these themes and get your thoughts on where these themes developed or how you are inspired by these: 

 "Above the Sky and Below the Sea"
 Copyright © 2019 Paige Carpenter
Use of color - You are not afraid to use bold colors, and you seem to have a strong command of these colors.  Meaning, you use them with such preciseness to communicate the mood of the subject.  In your Renegade Officers and village women, you sometimes use the smallest accents of bold colors just peeking out to somewhat soften the harsh exterior of the uniform and the times they are living in, and yet sometimes you make the entire costume in a bold color which sends a surge of power and excitement.  And then other times, the absence of color makes a strong statement as well.  The village women from Cliffs of Freedom, Yia-Yia and Anna Christina have very little pop of color and yet are so distinctive in their characters.  And the costumes from 1920's showgirls from "JAZZ" are fun and popping and embody the dynamic surge of economy and culture of the roaring 20's.    Do you find that you use color, or the absence of, as a specific tool in guiding the observer to be moved in a particular direction?

It’s funny that you mention colors as I feel like this is one of my weaker points, I am constantly switching around and testing colors after the sketching portion is done. Personally, I only wear black in real life, so I tend to view my art in terms of silhouettes instead of colors, like if I have a dark or muted color in one section of the drawing, how does this silhouette a lighter or brighter color near it? How are the silhouetting each other? What shapes are the colors creating against each other?

Diversity - Not just in people, but in the subjects of your art.  I loved seeing your earlier "costume challenge" drawings, in which you drew costumes of people from different cultures.  For example, the Mughal Man from 17th-18th century Mughal/India, and the Berber people of the High Atlas Mountains near Morocco, Africa.  How do you go about researching the different cultures and influences before taking on a project such as this?   

There is a lot of misinformation out there so I try as hard as I can to be as accurate as possible with my historical artwork. Sometimes that means rejecting amazing references or images because they are juuuuuust slightly too out of range for a particular piece that I am working on. For any historical pieces, I settle on an “end date” where anything labeled after that is automatically rejected and I usually try to stay within about a general radius of a chosen site, accepting that there was regular trading before stores were a thing and someone say, in Turkey, may have a textile or piece of jewelry from Armenia or Syria or Greece (those are modern countries of course, I have to constantly check historical maps to make sure I am landing in the right countries). I make sure that any references I do get are from reputable sources like museum catalogues or historical fashion databases. Pinterest will label anything from 1100 to 1920 as Victorian and WHEW does it grind my gears!

On top of that though, there is also the understanding that these are still human people who have relationships, feelings, personalities, faith, working lives, money (or not) and understanding the human element in historical costume design really adds a lot of flavor to the research.

Also, what I call diversity in canvas - you create art on non traditional canvases, such as the corset/bustier, and Ouija boots.  What is the most interesting piece of art that you created, and is there a "canvas" that you have yet to create art on but would like to?

They are as yet unpublished, but for my job at Disney, I have created a few videos where I take my illustrations and animate them to bring them to life! Nothing TOO complicated yet but I love the surprise of a static illustration suddenly coming to life on screen.

I would really love to work together projection mapping on costuming in a live setting. Right now live projection mapping on a moving surface is in its infancy but I would love to combine illustration, animation, and costume work like that.

"Glass Bowls Aren't Home"
Copyright © 2019 Paige Carpenter 
I have been trying to think of the word(s) for this theme and I think it is to collate, or balance, two contradictory looks in one drawing.  You combine in a drawing the raw and harsh reality of a subject with this smooth finishing touch that just softens it a bit and makes it easier to gaze at.  Your edges are smooth and defined, and yet the subject may show conflict or suffering.  Besides the use of color, I see this as another way you capture the observer and invite them to look more closely at the subject.  Am I way off base here or is this something you have developed over time, and has this been intentional or has it just evolved naturally?

I think it has just evolved like that! A lot of my newer work (that will be in the show) shows very soft, fun, heartfelt subjects and I think, subconsciously, I’ve drifted towards a very messy, so called “crunchy” style where the brushes speak independently and have a ton of texture themselves to offset how cute the work is. In professional illustrator settings for film and theater, work needs to be as clear and finished as possible as the illustration itself may be used as a basis for a pattern maker to start their work!

Animal influences - Between the obvious in "The Luministic Moose", half man, half moose, and the not so obvious in the Personification of Birds collection, where the observer has to look more closely and sometimes the observer decides which manifestations of the bird they see in the picture, to the bat wings costume, you have enjoyed the influence of animals in your artwork.  What type of animal do you enjoy drawing and how did you begin bringing animals into your artwork?

 "A Gift, an Offering"
 Copyright © 2019 Paige Carpenter

Oooh owls are definitely my favorite. Big birds with big weird eyes, who couldn’t love that! And with all sorts of different ones and a ton of mythology spanning thousands of years. I love bringing the symbolism of animals into an already symbolic illustration especially since historically, animals were used heavily as symbols for viewers who could not read or write and I am fascinated with that.

I love your use of mystic art into your drawings.  I see this influence in many of your projects, and I can tell that you have a soulful connection with these works of art.  I hope Shelley includes your facebook cover photo.  There are so many things to look for in this picture!  And I had to look closely.  What I thought was a potion bottle on her head, as I looked closer, saw that this is actually a skull with antlers!  then as I look more, I love the apothecary bottles with, again, that very subtle pop of color, and the crystal eyes are mesmerizing which captures the mysterious effect of the mystic world.  You have other works along this theme, including the ouiji boots and the Moon Phase robe, and I see the mystical theme in every animal artwork you do.  Has this always been an influence for you and if so, how does this influence guide you in your life and in your artwork?  

It goes along with what I believe in, I am a practicing witch and at times, I use my art to discover pathways and connect with my spiritual side. It probably sounds silly but those ouija boots (before I wore them into the ground and they got destroyed on the streets of LA whoops) and the moon phase robe are objects that I wear/wore as part of my craft. I was also never really shamed for my interest in, let’s call it, alternative spirituality or alternative fashion so there was never a need to be rebellious and angry, just curious which allowed for both my spirituality, art, and fashion to grow organically without labels and for them to intertwine into each other. 

"But She's Magic"
 Copyright © 2019 Paige Carpenter

In illustrations, it can add another layer of symbolism that the viewer can understand. I think a lot about renaissance portraiture that can be ever so subtle that the meaning has been lost in time or so iconic that its timeless.

Along these lines, sometimes when I look at an artist's work, I see a life that has evolved and changed over time and their artwork reflects those changes/struggles/ discoveries in who they are.  When I look at your artwork, I see something different.  Although we are always discovering ourselves to some extent, I see a woman who has known who she is from deep within and the evolving for you is not so much you trying to find yourself but rather the new ways you have found to express who you are.  How has your vision of who you are, and/ or how you express that, evolved? 

I think about this a lot! I am grateful and privileged that I had a supportive mom that I never had to heal from, and I always feel that instead of changing and evolving, I am simply on a road of discovery, finding bits and pieces of a larger whole that somehow, I always knew what it was and what I needed to find.

So, I end lastly on the first thing that appears on your website.  These works of light art.  I am assuming many of these have been used in the Parade of Lights in Disneyland. I remember attending a parade of lights at Disneyworld and marveling at what a beautiful artform can be created with lights!  Some of it was very obvious and some did require some imagination.  I loved your pictures of the light creations you have designed, and I also love the use of light in your costumes, especially the light up flower hair clips, which have such a softness to them; you almost don't even know you are looking at something with lights!  Did the use of lights develop through a request for this type of art or have you always used light as an adjunct or form of art? 

"A Winter Vision"
Copyright © 2019 Paige Carpenter
I worked on the Paint the Night Parade as an Entertainment Costuming Dresser when I first started working at Disney and it is DEEPLY amazing the way lighting elements fuse directly with textiles, song, and choreography, and using the darkness of night itself to really tell an instant story, since the parade can rush by you in a matter of 20 minutes from start to finish. They are so bold (and also incredibly complicated MY GOD) and ever since I worked on the parade, I’ve been in love with the idea of glowing costumes and adding that layer of magic to something already awesome. Lighting, along with sound and articulation are on the cutting edge of costume design and I am so grateful to work with and be inspired by the art all around me everyday at my job.

Tell the OOAK Artisan viewers about the show in August.  What style of your art are you planning to show and what do you hope to inspire in  the observers as they come to view your collection?  (I am sure Shelley will end with the details of when and where they can come to see your collection.  I wish I could be there!!  I live and work in Holland, MI so I don't get out to NY often.) 

The theme was children and while I personally do not wish to have children of my own, I want to inspire an innocence that is within us (cliche, I know). It’s a harsh, weird world out there and I remember hearing a quote that “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” and I find in my art and in my life, I want to bring comfort or peace or joy to people when they look at my art. There is a lot to say in each piece but I want it to be a conversation, a dialogue where the viewer is allowed to reflect and hopefully find a deeper understanding of themselves.

Paige Carpenter

Thank you so much, Paige, for sharing a piece of your world with us!  I have an upcoming trip to Disney and will look at the parade of lights with a new vision, knowing what background and experience goes into the artist/designer!  I loved the quote because your artwork truly does have that effect.  The Renegade Officers and Village Women draw the viewer in with the use of color and clear cut edges, but there is clearly a life that the person in the picture is living that makes us stop and think of the hardship he or she is enduring, and you capture that beautifully. And in the midst of reality, you capture fantasy and innocence.  I would like to wish you the best of luck in your future as an artist and I can already see that the hopes you have as an artist will materialize for you! 

Join us here at OOAK Artisan Showcase to see Paige's work in our solo artist gallery space, through Sept 1, 2019. All pieces designed and produced by Paige Carpenter were specifically designed for this show. These pieces are archival prints, matted and framed and will not be offered in this capacity in this region in the future. 

OOAK Artisan Showcase is located at 425 W Thomas St, Rome NY. Check out our Facebook page for current hours and events. 

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