Friday, February 22, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 51

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on August 8th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 23 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 23

Backroad rambler: Carol Simon's work features whimsical interpretations of still life and world travel

By Rebecca Rose

Carol Simon admits she has a very patient husband.

The artist, whose work currently can be seen at Gallery Los Olivos in a one-woman show running through Aug. 31, laughs when she talks about driving through the backroads of Europe and spotting a place she wants to sketch. 

Carol Simon’s travels in Europe have heavily influenced her work. The artist says she loves old buildings, especially the kind found in places like Wales.

"My husband is really sweet," Simon said. "I'll start screaming for him to stop and he stops so I can work. He just calmly pulls over and lets me work."

That patience with the enthusiastic artist has paid off in a lifetime of work, which can be seen at various galleries and businesses throughout California including Cottage Hospital and galleries such as Katherine Designs in Montecito. A member of Santa Barbara Art Association and Scape, she also worked in the Goleta Creative Arts Program as a teacher for 15 years. 

Her latest exhibit, A Country Ramble, gives art lovers insight into her journeys as well as the playful balance of color and form Simon is known for. Simon has been painting for the past 33 years, but it was a different art form that led her to painting. She was a musician, spending decades studying and performing various instruments including the clarinet, piano, and organ at UC Davis and the University of the Pacific. She retired after 42 years with the City College Symphony to focus on her painting. 

For Simon, music and art are almost symbiotic. She said music and art have a lot of connections both in their creation and what it takes to master either. 

Artist Carol Simon said it took a while for her to find an interest in still life painting, but once she did, she fully embraced it. Her work can be seen at Gallery Los Olivos through Aug. 31.

"There is rhythm and harmony and discipline," she explained. "There's rhythm in art by repetition of color or lines, patterns. Your eye will go from one place to the next."

One of the keys to being a successful painter and musician is the art of discipline. Simon said patience is paramount, as well as pushing yourself to do the work itself.

"You have to be a disciplined person to be a musician and an artist," she said. "You have to sit down at that easel whether you feel like painting or not. It's the same with music." 

Simon studied with influential artists including Marilyn Simandle, Ted Goerschner, and James Armstrong. She was drawn to painting because she was seeking a more visual means of expression, something that could combine her knowledge of form in music and her love of the visual world. 

"I think I was always a visual person," she said. "And I always loved looking. I think looking is a key to painting."

Simon prefers working in oil over watercolor or acrylics owing to the versatility of the medium and its monumental color range. She spent 15 years doing watercolor until she discovered a knack for oils. After that, she said she became addicted to the medium, especially for the bright and thick colors it allows artists to experiment with. 

Carol Simon’s paintings are currently on display at Gallery Los Olivos, part of a one-woman show called A Country Ramble. Simon is a classically trained musician who played music professionally for more than four decades.

When asked what her favorite subjects to depict are, Simon is crystal clear. She has a unwavering passion for classic architecture, especially the kind seen in the rural communities of Europe. She and her husband have taken numerous trips to Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain, and France. She said Wales is by far her favorite place to visit, dotted with a lot of old buildings and bold landscapes.

"I love European villages," she said. "That's really my passion. We find wonderful buildings and structures. I love old buildings that are not straight lines. I like crooked lines in stone buildings, with good landscape behind them."

Simon said she will pull off the road when she finds something that catches her eye and tries to capture the moment either in oil sketches on small canvases or in photographs. Then she takes the work back to her Rose Cottage studio in Santa Barbara where she turns them into oil paintings she describes as "whimsical and joyous." 

Simon's paintings do not shy away from the artist's fanciful vision of country life. She verges on impressionism, especially in her landscapes. But the style remains uniquely Simon–bold and inviting colors that allow the eye to wander from corner to corner of each canvas, telling a tale of a jovial world where viewer and creator can find harmony in nature or architecture. Whimsy is another striking element of Simon's work–she doesn't differentiate between the natural world and the human-made one. Stone and concrete get the same loving attention as skyscapes and animals, because to Simon they posses the same kind of pure organic beauty. 

Simon says
Artist Carol Simon’s one-woman show, A Country Ramble, runs at Gallery Los Olivos through Aug. 31. The gallery is located at 2920 Grand Ave., Los Olivos. More info: (805) 688-7517.

As for advice to younger or new painters who want to try their hand at art professionally, Simon urges them to jump into it without fear. 

"You have to do a thousand canvases," she said. "They told me that when I first started and I was so unsure. But you have to just keep at it. Always have an easel up. Always have a painting going. It keeps your juices flowing."

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose got lost on the backroads. Contact her at

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