Abstract artist Carol A. McIntyre has a gift for embracing and even actively seeking change. In 2006, she went through a bit of a metamorphosis, dying her hair from strawberry blond to red and legally changing her name from Carol V. Gray. But this major shift in her life wasn’t the first, and it probably won’t be the last.
One of McIntyre’s most influential periods of change occurred when she was 36 years old. Up until that point, she had worked as a school psychologist and the chief negotiator of a teacher’s contract. She was then entrenched in the corporate world as a training manager.
Amid her success in her business career, she made the decision to become a full-time artist. “I turned my stiff corporate suit in for an artist’s smock and haven’t looked back,” McIntyre states.
From Realism to Abstraction
Early in her art career, McIntyre worked in watercolor and a realistic style. During that time, she says, “I did not understand abstract painting and never thought I would paint in that style. This memory makes me laugh. Now I work intuitively, celebrating the many aspects of my life that have impacted me.”
Of course, this change happened a little more gradually. McIntyre calls the development of her current style “a life-long process.” It has been shaped over time, she says, by “many hours of painting, experimenting, more painting, journaling, reflecting, talking with other artists, listening, going to shows, looking at different works of art, reading, studying and more painting.” The influence of this developmental process is clear in the thoughtful, reflective nature of her paintings.
McIntyre creates each of her intuitive abstracts with acrylics, oils, or cold wax medium, depending on the effect she is striving for with a particular piece. Her home and studio space, which she designed herself, is situated on 2.5 forested acres near Colorado Springs, CO.
Her work is influenced by her life among the trees and her love for nature, especially water and “the big skies of the prairies and West.” Mixed with a general sense of curiosity, a passion for understanding color, and a strong desire to bring more beauty into the world, each of these elements “have left an impression and often appear in a painting in one form or another.”
A typical day for McIntyre starts at the computer, taking care of daily business and organizational tasks. After working there for an hour or two, she uses her studio time as a reward.
“Over the years,” she explains, “I have learned this is my most efficient daily rhythm versus beginning the day painting and then rewiring my brain for computer work.” She spends anywhere from one to six hours creating, taking occasional breaks to go for a walk or eat lunch or “late afternoon munchies” that her husband of 34 years often brings into her studio.
McIntyre shares a glimpse into her creative process:
As you can see with “Interior Quest,” many layers of paint have been applied. However, before I started with my initial mark making, I determined my color palette. I have discovered that this keeps my color choices manageable. It doesn’t mean that I won’t add a color if I deem it necessary, but I prefer to push the boundaries of my original palette. I have no preconceived idea of its outcome. I also present myself with a challenge in each work to stretch my comfort zone. These challenges can vary from trying to express an emotion to experimenting with a new technique to staying within a certain value range.
When I paint, I have an on-going dialogue with my painting, in that I let it give me clues as to its direction. This conversation tends to start about a fourth to a third of the way into the painting. It is a process like what fiction writers often say about how a character develops throughout the novel.
I love texture and fooling the viewer into thinking there is depth even though the painting surface is two-dimensional. Throughout the application of paint layers, I turn the painting to paint it from different orientations. This, I believe, keeps it balanced and keeps me guessing and engaged.
In the past few years, I have started taking photos during every phase. Seeing the image in a different medium helps me to see it more objectively – I don’t know why – and I often catch visual elements I don’t like or do like. In addition, I always look at the painting in the grayscale format so that I can evaluate its values and composition.
Viewers frequently express appreciation for McIntyre’s use of color. One of her intents with each painting is to create “color harmony” by starting with her chosen “color chord,” her palette. She builds on this “chord” to create a chromatic symphony. A sense of depth and the mystery that comes with it is also key to her work.
McIntyre’s paintings have won multiple awards, including the cover article for Watercolor Magazine. She served a two-year term as president of the Minnesota Watercolor Society and earned a signature membership with the Transparent Watercolor Society of America along with associate memberships with the Oils Painters of America and International Pastel Society. She is also the author of the award-winning book I Just Want to Paint!: Mixing the Colors You Want.
Currently, McIntyre is creating a new series for a solo show scheduled for April 2021. When she isn’t painting, she enjoys walking in the woods, having one-on-one conversations with friends and her husband, reading, gardening, traveling, sewing, cooking, and working with carpentry tools. Her friends have described her as a “truth teller” and “rule breaker.” These elements of her life and her art remain constant through the beautiful and never-ending flow of change.
To see more abstract paintings by Carol McIntyre, visit her website at www.CarolAMcIntyre.com. You can also find her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/colormaestro and Instagram at @colormixingexpert.
View past artist features here.