After several years of dabbling with acrylics, I started getting serious about painting a few months after finishing my BA in History in 2012.  Since then I’ve been challenged to think about whether the paths I was traveling would bring me satisfaction, and art has increasingly pushed itself to the fore.  It’s become a very meaningful part of my life.

I also enjoy many different ways of exploring the outdoors, including painting on location.  I enjoy looking at the underlying geometry of mountains, trees and clouds, and seeing the complexity that makes every painting a challenge.  Because most of my paintings are based on places I’ve hiked, many of them have special memories attached.

Reading about art history also feeds my painting.  It’s a way of learning about what has worked for artists in the past (and sometimes, what hasn’t), and inspires me to find new ways to apply various techniques.

These three elements come together in the blog and in my work, as I continue to develop my voice and gain an understanding of the creative process.  I hope you enjoy following me on this journey.

~ Carissa

Why Chrome Oxide?

Chrome oxide green paint was an early alternative to the highly dangerous arsenic-based emerald green paint that was commonly used in the early to mid-nineteenth century.  (Read more here.)  Viridian, a brighter, more popular pigment, was synthesized from chrome oxide green, which is more mellow and opaque.  Chrome oxide green is one of my favorite acrylic paints to use to create the deep yet gentle colors of hillsides carpeted with trees.  Apart from earth tones, it’s also one of the oldest pigments on my palette—many of the bright colors in use today are twentieth-century innovations.

As a student of history, avid reader of historical novels, and museum geek, I value a sense of connection to the past, while appreciating the freedom of the present.  During the nineteenth century, when chrome oxide green and many other new pigments became available, the doors were gradually opening to experimentation with new techniques and approaches, and while artists continued to produce historical and mythical scenes, traditional techniques were applied to new subject matter like the Rocky Mountains.  Artists like J. M. W. Turner, the Impressionists, and the Hudson River School sought to capture the atmosphere of a place and time, and to do so, they often drew heavily on their own observation and experience of the world.

I’ll admit that I’m sometimes tempted to buy new colors of paint for the way they roll off the tongue—or don’t, in the case of “phthalo.”  I loved that combination of letters in high school, although it was several more years before I learned how to pronounce it and decided it would be a good name for my first car.  “Azo,” a synthetic yellow dye, is also quite useful for Scrabble.  Then there’s potter’s pink, Turner’s yellow (although more for the mental association than the sound), and yes, chrome oxide green.

But with its place on my palette, and its historical connections to a fascinating era, that decision turned out pretty well.


This novice artist welcomes comments and conversation, but please keep it polite. Inappropriate or offensive comments may be edited or deleted.

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