We had the good fortune of connecting with Monica Carroll and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Monica, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I think the work life balance question is uniquely challenging for creatives because you need to weave the “creative freedom” question into the balance as well. I think there is a direct correlation between freedom and creativity and maintaining some freedom to explore while in the studio has been a priority for me. To do this, I have taken “day jobs” that pay the bills and I have not relied on my art as a primary financial support. I have been lucky to find salaried roles that offer training or inspiration for my work as well. I have worked in galleries, museums, studio art departments and cooperative art centers. I currently work full time at CU Boulder in the College of Media Communication & Information and find myself amongst other painters, poets or musicians on the staff who use the same formula. I have often taken on team player, supporting roles, not leading ones…so at the end of the day I could make my children and my studio practice my main focus.
Family responsibilities have probably had the biggest impact on changes in my work life balance over the years. I have three children (now adults) and being a working mom returning to school to get an M.F.A was immensely challenging. Those were the hardest work/life balance years. That said, my children have always inspired me in my practice – they are very creative and independent, so I could often weave my roles as mom and painter together.
I also feel extremely lucky that the things I do to stay healthy – Nordic skiing, running, and hiking also play a role in my work. While life always informs an artist’s work, I have the added bonus that some of the time-consuming things I do to stay happy, healthy, spiritually refreshed are also visual research for my work.
Overall, I believe that tapping into one’s patience, persistence, optimism and the ability to be open to surprising developments along the way will naturally lead one to a work /life balance that has a healthy dose of creative freedom as well.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am an artist fascinated by the persistence of painting as a contemporary art form in our digitally saturated world. While I work primarily in oil paint and watercolors, lately I am experimenting with layering digital image-making into my practice. I am intrigued by the ways in which modern and contemporary painting have creatively absorbed other art media – sculpture, photography, even performance –and I am inspired by painters who explore the potential of other media within painting. Painting never “dies”. It just keeps reinventing itself.
I am currently working on two projects. In one I am experimenting with layering various digital and analog image making methods. These pieces are created by layering stages of image-making and responding to each stage in paint. Oil painting, photography, scanning, printing, drawing, and photoshop tools are all employed in the process, with painting as the constant refrain. Image sources include the original Iphone photo taken at an event in nature, the digital image of the very large oil painting created back in the studio, and the watercolor response to that image on paper. The resulting work is a watercolor and pigment print on rag paper. Memory, technology, touch versus digital tool, and “real” versus “fake” are all at play as I recycle, re-print, re-paint. While working on this series, questions of time, labor, distance, presence and memory all arise.
I am also starting a series of works in response to the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit. The question I am pondering: What does this mean that we chose to view painting through two screens – a large screen of moving images and our own hand-held screens (Iphones). Being a person who likes to engage with the material of paint, this seems both off putting and oddly alluring…that no matter how far we remove ourselves from the actual picture plane, the paint on canvas..…we still want to look at paintings. Why is that?
Working in series and projects is my preferred process. I sit with a question and make work as I mull that question over. I especially love the start of a series…when you have no idea where something is going to take you.
Like most artists, carving out enough studio time is the greatest challenge. Persistence and patience.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
It would be a mix of country and city. For country, I would start with a day trip to Brainard Lake. Free, spectacular choices for trails and every season is a different type of adventure. For city –top two floors of the new wing at the Denver Art Museum would be part of the tour—for the story of the West through the lens of American landscape painting and through both traditional and contemporary Native American works. A scooter ride to the Robischon Gallery; it never disappoints. A meal at Avelina’s, order the charred octopus if its offered. Music is fun through Sofar Sounds because its unpredictible…but that might take same advanced planning.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My children and my close friends, especially my fellow painter friends. My children because they stepped up and became more independent at a younger age than a lot of children do. On some level they seemed to understand that I had dreams and goals beyond our family life and they made space for that. I am grateful. And my fellow painters Becky, Bonnie and Jill who have helped me to focus, to set goals and to take my studio practice more seriously than I was giving myself permission to…..and they continue to offer love, adventure, encouragement and and laughs along the way.
I have a number of local shout outs, too: I am grateful to the Firehouse Art Center in Longmont, the R Gallery in Boulder, and Mercury Framing in North Boulder for their commitment to building community around art in Colorado.
Thank you Chip Bruss!