We recently interviewed Carlynne Hershberger, who presents her fascinating portfolio and talks about evolving as an artist.
ABI: How did your art evolve to what you are doing today?
CH: My art began with colored pencil. I did mainly landscapes and florals for about 25 years. I loved it, but over time I was itching to do something different. I felt like I was stagnating. From pure colored pencil I went to mixed media, combining colored pencil with watercolor, ink, acrylic and oil pastel. Every week, I would get together with my friend Kelli Huff and we would experiment with different media. That led us to publishing the North Light book Creative Colored Pencil Workshop. So once I got a brush in my hand, I wanted to do more and that led to working on canvas.
I switched to working in oils and acrylics. I loved oil, but the quick drying acrylic hooked me with the ability to build layers. Building layers meant texture, and I discovered all those beautiful jars of texture gels and then began adding extra elements such as wire, paper, thread and stones. I spent some time playing with designs from nature – everything from satellite images of earth to the intricate patterns of a single stone – a macro view of nature to a micro view. The background inspiration throughout all the different media has been nature’s patterns, colors and textures.
After working abstractly for a while, I wanted to come back to the more traditional landscape. But I also wanted to bring the abstract feel and texture to it. I began playing with tissue paper and super heavy gesso to prep my canvases. Working with larger brushes on top of all that texture really pushed me to loosen up and focus on the essence of the landscape. I’m certainly in a different place than when I did everything with a pencil point.
ABI: You use gold leaf as a material in your work. Why is this significant, and how has it defined your art?
CH: I first used gold leaf when I was exploring extreme textures and elements. I loved the contrast of matte against gloss and I especially loved the organic look of the gold as it cracked and broke on the surface. Because I use so much green in my work, I tone all my canvases red before painting to get the bounce of complimentary colors and that red also works well when coming through the breaks in the gold leaf.
I don’t remember exactly what triggered me using gold for the skies in my paintings, but I do remember thinking I wanted something that reflected warmth. For me, the typical blue sky wasn’t cutting it for expressing the Florida heat. The shine of the gold also enhances the texture underneath, but the one thing that intrigues me most about it is the way the painting changes with the light in the room. There’s an aliveness to it somehow and I think that’s one of the elements that appeals to people. And probably a lot of people are like me; I just like shiny.
ABI: Tell us about your newest direction.
The bird’s nests. I’ve always had a fascination with birds. If I believed in reincarnation I’d want to come back as one, maybe a crow, they like shiny things too. I’ve also had a wren building nests in my mailbox for a few years. I saved those and have been given others so I’m building my collection of nests to paint from. I include these new paintings with the landscapes because they really are part of the landscape, just one small piece of it.
I also use the nest as an element in a symbolic series that I’ve been working on for years. It’s a personal story that’s about loss, and very healing for me. I wanted to bring a piece of the personal into the landscape work and I found that in the nests. They’re about home, love of the natural world and continuing life.