This month, we sat down with Connecticut-based landscape painter, Carol Young. A longtime Sorelle artist, Carol is a plein air painter and studio artist whose contemporary work is primarily identified by a bold use of light and shadow along with iconic depictions of structures within the rural landscape. We chatted with Carol about her background before becoming a full time artist, which artists have inspired her most, and where she’d like to paint on location next. Read our discussion to learn all about Carol, or skip to the bottom of the page to watch our live Virtual Q&A which took place on September 21, 2023.
Our Discussion with Carol Young
Where are you from originally and where are you located now?
I am originally from New York - born in the Bronx and raised in Pelham, NY in a house that my dad designed and built. I moved to Fairfield, CT in 1996.
How did you get started as an artist, and with your current style and medium?
I have always enjoyed drawing and painting. My dad was an architect and very creative, so I think I inherited his creative energy. At a young age I would paint rocks and sell them for a quarter to friends and neighbors. When I made my first sale I was hooked. I was a fine art major in college, and was very inspired by the work of Edward Hopper. I loved his sense of light and shadow and the simplicity of his style. He was a great influence. I took that inspiration and created my own contemporary style. I use light and shadow in a very dramatic way and use bold shapes and colors. I love painting structures with interesting peaks and valleys.
Artist Carol Young's Connecticut studio, The Creative Barn.
How would you describe your artwork?
Contemporary realism, perhaps. The subject matter is recognizable, but it’s not traditional. I like to paint structures that have history, and although they might be old, they would fit in a contemporary home because of my color palette and simplistic style.
What is your artistic process like?
I start with a reference photo that I have taken - maybe of a barn, vintage cottage or seascape. I usually do a pencil sketch in my sketchbook to get familiar with the composition. I then coat my canvas with a Cadmium Orange, and I sketch the painting in Alizarin Crimson. When I layer my colors on top of the sketch I let the orange and red peek through here and there. It makes the painting glow and gives it a natural feeling.
What is your favorite part of your creative process?
I love being inspired by a subject. I travel country roads looking for interesting landscapes or structures and I photograph them in strong sunlight. Sunlight is so important to me! The play of shadows is what I love to paint. When I am painting something that interests me the process really flies. I also love to paint plein air (on location). Painting with all of the senses is so fulfilling. You see, hear and smell everything around you. Usually the paintings painted plein air are very heart-felt and gestural.
Artist Carol Young's painting easel when painting "en plein air," outside on location.
What’s the most challenging part?
Admin work! Keeping up with presence on social media. I love to just paint, but to be an artist you really have to promote and sell yourself. It takes up a lot of time.
Your work incorporates really striking color choices. Is the process of selecting your colors an intuitive one, or do you plan your palette in advance?
I usually have an idea in my head of what colors I want to use. Sometimes the subject just lends itself to a bold or soft palette and I go with it. I like to change up colors - maybe changing the color of a roof on a barn if I think it will add interest to the painting. I push the color and contrast in my work.
What is it about the American rural landscape, particularly that of New England, that is so appealing or inspiring to you?
History. There is something about old architecture within the landscape that really interests me. I think about the families that have lived in a certain house or worked in a barn or on a farm. New England has such charming architecture and endless subject matter for me. I get very sad when I see these structures being knocked down and erased from the landscape and from history. I try to preserve them on canvas.
Carol Young's contemporary landscape paintings stacked in her studio, the Creative Barn.
It seems like you’re able to draw endless inspiration from these New England rural scenes. Are there any other locations outside of New England you’ve ever thought about painting?
I’ve always wanted to paint in Maine and Nova Scotia. From what I have seen, I think I would be overloaded with inspiration from these landscapes and would be in heaven!
Do you have a favorite season to capture in your work?
I love spring and summer. Strong sunlight, contrasting shadows and green landscapes! And I can also paint on location.
Are there any particular artists who have inspired you?
As mentioned, I love Edward Hopper’s work. I admire the work of Wolf Khan. I had the pleasure of meeting him, and that was very special. Charles Sovek was a fabulous artist and a great inspiration. I did several workshops with him and learned so much.
From your first painting to those you create now, how would you say you’ve grown as an artist?
I think I have learned that I don’t need all the details. Over time I have stripped down the minutiae. I don’t need to put every water ripple in a seascape scene, or every tree branch in a tree. The viewer can put all that together if you give them just enough information. It’s more organic and to me more interesting.
Carol Young (left) and a paint brush on a paint palette (right) in the artist's Connecticut studio.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self as an artist, what would it be?
Have confidence in yourself as an artist. I left my career as a Creative Director in 2013 to pursue my dream of being a full time artist. I wish I had done it sooner.
In 5 words or less, what is your goal as an artist?
To move people.
Now for something different: Are you a morning person or night person?
Hmmmm. I guess I aspire to be a morning person! When I get up early, I love all that I accomplish in the day.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee first - but I do like tea as well.
Mountains or beach?
True Crime or Rom Com?
Rom Com first - but like True Crime, too.
Since it’s September in New England – apple picking or leaf peeping?
I love apple picking.
Paintbrushes in cups with dabs of paint on a palette in artist Carol Young's art studio.
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
Can I be a bird? Owls fascinate me.
What’s your favorite place on earth?
A big part of my heart belongs to the North Fork of Long Island. My parents had a lovely vintage cottage where I spent my summers growing up. Now my husband, my daughter and I have our own cottage there. Long Island has the perfect mix of the sea and of agricultural land that I love. I am amazed by the light on the North Fork, and I am always inspired to paint the landscape there. I hope to retire there in the near future (retire may be the wrong word - an artist never really retires).