Spotlight on: Carol Porter
PCA Summer Program Alumna (’17 & ’19)
Carol Porter is a Washington, DC-based artist and designer who has spent two summers in Paris taking PCA classes. Particularly dedicated to her continuing education and a lover of world travel, we asked her to share a bit about her experience in Paris and what makes her keep coming back.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Born and educated in Washington, DC, I have spent my entire life as an artist: As a kid, by taking painting classes at The Corcoran Museum School for Saturday classes; then on to McKinley Magnet High School, where I always took art and music classes. My college time was spent studying graphic design. I attended Howard University and Moore College of Art and Design, where I earned by BFA in Graphic Design in 1971.
Professionally, I applied my creative skills to designing for television stations, advertising agencies, newspaper and magazine. I felt I had to be practical because self-support was a necessity to live well.
In 2008, I left my last employer, The Washington Post newspaper after having worked there 37 years. I felt that I could move on to pursue other interests, but I have since returned as a contractor at the Post. I was Art Editor for their youth journalism program, Newspaper in Education (NIE). After 12 more years, I recently resigned, again! I used my design and illustration abilities in that program. It was a way to stay connected to journalism that focused on young future citizens of America.
Now, I paint more in classes, travel more, stay touch with friends, take care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually.
How many years have you participated in the PCA Summer Program, and what makes you keep coming back?
Two years. I first attended PCA in 2017 for a class with Monroe Galloway, American fine artist. The subject was Painting en Plein Air in Paris. I thought this class would get me out and about the city, and not stuck in an enclosed studio all day. We did have studio time in the mornings, but ventured out into the city to study our subjects. The second class was taken in 2019, taught by Lindsay Grime, a freelance illustrator. The class, Contemporary Illustration, focused on advertising and book illustration. Coming from a publishing background, I feel much of my work straddles two worlds: one as a fine artist, and the other as an illustrator/graphic designer. A great match!
I have returned because the subjects fit my purposes, and they do change from year to year with the visuals we see in 2020 — and beyond. The school is forward thinking about its selection of course matter.
What is special about your summers in Paris?
I return to Paris because I love the look of the city. Its aesthetics of beauty and what is important to French artistic sensibilities. The colors, the textures—the food and wine too! There is a connection to my home town, Washington, DC, starting with the Revolutionary War. Many of our towns and streets are named reflecting French involvement. My grandfather’s middle name was Flournoy (English adjustment for Flournois). Many French Huguenots came to this country in colonial times. We have names like Pierre L’Enfant and General Lafayette as plazas and parks in DC.
I take my fashion, design, artistic leads from not only French style, but style from French who came from former French African and Asian colonies. The mixtures are wonderful to my eye, speaking as an African American. The last part of this attraction, I have developed many French friends who live in Paris. They share their daily lives with me, and make me feel welcome in their home town. Riding the metro and buses easily, it feels almost like I live there.
How has Paris impacted your work as an artist?
As an artist, I am able to really see European art history. I took art history in art school at Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, but to actually see and touch the history is the best. Traveling is a long-lasting way to remember history. I have also spent time traveling to other cities, such as Barcelona, where I saw, painted, and devoured the culture as well. Spending a month last summer in Paris, I took the class first, then used my creative energy to continue to paint beyond the 2-week class. I now have an exhibition of 18 small watercolor paintings at the Arts Club of Washington, entitled “Summer Painting in Paris.”
What have you brought back from Paris?
I have used my Paris painting classes to create a body of work to exhibit in various venues. I have exhibited at the Arts Club of Washington, Wheaton Mall Pop-Up Gallery (Wheaton Arts Parade Gallery), Friendship Heights Community Center, Moore College of Art Alumnae Exhibitions, Strathmore Hall’s Washington Watercolor Association exhibitions. It’s not “big bucks” income, but it’s fun to show and meet other artists.
What would you say to future or potential PCA summer students?
No matter how old you are, you can always be an artist. Picasso lived to 90+ and still made art. Art-making keeps me sane in a crazy world. The role of the artist is to look beyond the obvious. See beauty in weird places, in weird faces, in weird spaces. We have that ability to see beneath and inside. Connect those dots. See those patterns. I would say to potential students, take this chance to grow yourself more. Meet new people, see new sights. Get out of your comfort zone. Be a world citizen. You will not regret it a day in your life. I don’t!
Merci beaucoup, Carol! We look forward to seeing you back in Paris – à très bientôt!