Caroline “CR” Rousseau began her artistic career at the age of four, creating her first painting in the form of a large ‘mural’ (on what was her bedroom wall). Her grandmother was her first supporter, and her grandfather her first critic. Although she is mostly self-taught, CR studied art informally with other artists and took art classes during her university years.
She attributes most of her training to her interactions with people and nature. “The real training,” she explained, “for me has been in the form of communicating and connecting with people, places and experiences via self-expression.”
CR plays with a host of mediums, such as oils, acrylics, water color, ink, photography, print and other media. In addition, her work has spanned various genres from landscapes to abstracts and small to large scale pieces.
“It has always been my intention to play stylistically and experiment,” she told me. “I don’t hope to stick to a single style or medium, rather I like to work with a multitude of them—sometimes throwing the ‘kitchen sink’ at paper or canvas to see how it works. Playing gives way to an evolution and makes space for me to get out of my own way and enjoy feeling the flow of creativity.”
When she opened her first studio at the end of Seattle’s Post Alley in the early 1990s, she created large paintings of small items blown out of proportion, such as a massive fictitious postal stamp. Her live/work loft was often packed with works-in-process. She evolved her work to landscapes and later to emotive abstracts. Her landscapes and abstracts are often inspired by water, having spent many summer vacations on the California coast. She fell in love with the soft hues and the light that plays on the sea, the golden tones that bathe the Cypress trees and the surrounding scenery. Many of her landscapes were created while visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea, where she exhibited a good portion of her work.
CR is honored to be informally considered the “Eighth” of “The Group of Seven“, a collective of seven Canadian artists, who in the early 20th Century decided the unique Canadian landscape should be memorialized in a distinctive painting style, which deviated from the traditional European style. She’s privileged to be thought of as an American cousin to this distinctive style, infusing abstract elements with twists of color to represent elements of the natural world.
Today CR is focusing on abstract expressionism, immersing her canvases and wood panels with peaceful yet energetic new color palettes, free-flowing organic shapes and centering compositions. “I love abstract expressionism. It is freeing. A dear friend of mine once called abstract art ‘paintings without nouns.’ that’s a fun idea. To me, it’s an emotional language of human expression, and it’s exciting to see what comes through and takes shape,” she said.
Current projects include a large commission that she can’t quite discuss yet, but she described it as, “stepping out of my comfort zone…I’m exhilarated by it and a wee bit scared of it, it’s something I’ve never done before, but I can see it and feel it already.” In addition, she’s gearing up for a series of abstracts inspired by the seasons we might universally and internally experience, as well as through living life on Bainbridge Island.
CR’s new work will be on exhibit for the First Friday Art Walks in September, November and December. You can find them at Blackbird Bakery during September and October and the Bainbridge Public Library for the month of December. “It feels good to connect with our island community in these beloved spots,” CR shared.
She is also working on a show with Alexander and Nye Home in Pleasant Beach Village in Lynwood Center. The show will speak to the shop’s modern and classic design aesthetic along with the vibrant work of CR’s abstract paintings. The collaboration is scheduled for later this year.
Caroline and her husband, Christopher, hadn’t originally planned on moving to Bainbridge Island from their home in Seattle. As avid travelers, they dreamed of warmer climes, travelling throughout the coast of California, Portugal, and France, finally deciding on France. However, the pandemic put a halt on those plans, which eventually led them to explore Bainbridge Island as their new home.
“We love living on Bainbridge Island,” she told me. “The people are kind, they make eye contact (coming from Seattle, that’s actually a thing), they say ‘good morning.’ The air is fresh and it smells/tastes so good to breathe here. We love the tall Evergreen trees and long glacial-carved roads. Being surrounded by nature and seeing wildlife is kinda life-affirming. Even our dog is happier here!”
In addition to painting, CR consults with art collectors and interior designers on framing and presentation, working with different artists, galleries and studios to place the perfect piece of art in a collector’s space. In her free time, she and her husband love to cook and find local fresh ingredients here on Bainbridge. Out of this love, they created Finding Fresh Bainbridge, a new blog/website that focuses on sharing the freshest locally grown veggies, eggs, herbs, flowers, and wine with Bainbridge Islanders by identifying and mapping out all of our wonderful island farm and flower stands. They created it because they love doing it and to help connect local gardeners and farmers to the community. If you’d like to read more about Finding Fresh Bainbridge, click here.
Over the last couple years with the pandemic, its impact on travel and the art world in general, CR worked a little closer to home, exhibiting primarily in Seattle and Edmonds, Washington. Her work has shown in Canada, California and Washington State. It hangs in private collections around the country. She’s pleased to get back to her easel and happy to call Bainbridge Island home. To see more, view her work online, at Studio Rousseau – Art, Paintings, Abstract Art.
This article first appeared in Arts & Humanities Bainbridge – Currents Online: Stories | BainbridgeCurrents.com
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