in carolyn lavender’s studio

I get my fix of “looking”  before I focus on what Carolyn Lavender is working on. There are lots of cool things organized into this studio.

Carolyn collects objects.  The round container (above) makes me wonder why the characters are set aside. There’s rhyme and reason in all the nooks and crannies of her space.


The work titled Woods/Gifts is a small drawing Carolyn shared a glimpse of, in an earlier post. It’s what she is working on now. The delicate,  graphite drawing sits on her studio table still unfinished.

She’s gathered various object creatures, photographed and photoshopped them into woods, and created a narrative. I think storyboard as I connect and layout all the elements.

She tells me about the animals in the composition.  They’re all … things that Ted gave me, she clarifies.  I hear the what and when of each, they take on personal character. Ted Decker and Carolyn have been friends for over 20 years.  Ted, an independent curator, will carry this drawing in his own personal luggage, to exhibit – in Rio. She has a deadline, and it’s just around the corner.

We go over her process which I find totally complicated and completely interesting. I ask her to repeat things several times because I can’t seem to focus and catch it all.  Part of it is that the studio space is visually stimulating. The other part is that her work is labor intensive.

She’s photographed each of the animal objects and placed them (Photoshop) into other photographs of the  Stehekin woods. (Carolyn is originally from the Northwest.  We’ve had great conversation about our very different backgrounds.)

You can see at the very top of the image (above), a quality print of the scene she’s created. She had a number of reject prints that didn’t work for one reason or another.

She follows with making a tracing of the entire composition. The tracing is transferred onto a prepared piece of drawing paper.  While she draws, by her side and used for continual reference, is a copy of the print.

All her materials are on the desk and include the molding paste to prep the paper, the graphite pencils and the final varnish spray. I want to note that she preps a good quality paper on both sides with molding paste. I hold one, it’s got good weight and feels substantial. I am not a thief but I consider becoming one with the paper in my hand.

Because her process fascinates me I decide to pull together elements to the drawing she last completed.  It exhibited here in Phoenix and eventually it will be on its way, along with a few others she’ll start on next – to Washington – for a 2 person show. Carolyn is busy.

Notice again the same process play out: objects, photos, Photoshop, print, trace, draw.

The graphite detail in the trees is intense and wonderful.  She does say she doesn’t feel like she’ll be drawing this way for too long … I am feeling a little boxed in [by all the textures].

Before I leave we discuss what she’ll be doing for our exhibit.  She’ll be working with a bit more freedom.  And in one case much, much larger. There will be creatures.

Detail from
“The Woods – Fabrication”, 2012 11 x 30″ graphite on prepared paper.

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