AUSTINTOWN — Perhaps Jennifer Carlson’s trajectory into the art world was as meandering as her recent paintings are colorful.
“I remember being upset that I couldn’t draw certain things, and I compared myself to them, but I still loved doing it,” Carlson, 24, said, referring to her mother, Bambi Carlson, and her babysitter, Joan Masterson. , both of whom inspired him largely because they were interested in art and enjoyed writing.
Jennifer Carlson also cited her uncle, Brett Masterson, who painted for her and did a portrait of Adam Lambert from “American Idol.”
Carlson, a 2016 Mathews High School graduate who grew up in Fowler, recalled that her high school only offered one combo art class, though she found it to be kind of an escape. Still, her foray into finding her colorful niche—what she calls “intuitive abstract art”—didn’t come to her immediately after striding across the stage with a high school diploma in hand.
Carlson soon realized that she also had a budding interest in journalism and photography. Over time, the young artist found she wanted to “test the waters and try everything,” which also included receiving her first professional camera and taking an art history class at Youngstown State University.
She majored in photography, but anything about her painting abilities didn’t click at the time, Carlson said.
“I loved to paint, but I felt like I was never good at getting things precise,” she explained.
Eventually, Carlson earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art, with a focus on graphic design, which led to freelance work in graphic design and photography after YSU. She then sought a job as a full-time graphic designer, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which initially upended her plans, when “everything was a question mark”, she recalls.
Nevertheless, Carlson found a freelance position with Boardman Printing, but was able to take many pictures on the side. She also worked full-time for another printing company, where she printed labels from large machines.
Despite the stability such work provided, Carlson’s creativity felt “stunted,” and October 6, 2021 marked her first painting since graduating from YSU, she continued. . For a time, his life’s mix consisted mainly of canvas, creativity and full-time work.
This cohesive painting combination allowed Carlson to build a stronger foundation by learning and developing her own style and technique – one she calls “non-representational”. Perhaps he could be obliquely compared to the late master of avant-garde jazz Ornette Coleman, who once played a white plastic alto saxophone and whose style largely consisted of playing melodies outside the conventions of traditional jazz such as relying on fixed chord structures in fixed bars and set beats. Additionally, Coleman played trumpet and violin.
“I don’t just paint objects or things,” Carlson explained. “I like to put paint on the canvas and let the paint speak for itself.”
The pandemic also acted as a turning point for Carlson, in part giving him more time to focus on his craft and helping him resist comparison with other artists.
Perhaps the most direct and powerful influence on Carlson’s work is his love of color, particularly complementary combinations and how they relate to each other and evoke certain emotions.
Throughout the health crisis, works of art have played three other vital roles for Carlson: they have helped her avoid stagnating in her creativity, provided her with an additional purpose and offered her another way to do dealing with anxiety, she said.
The ambitious painter also draws parallels between writing and art, which help her more easily achieve her goals and track her growth as an artist, Carlson explained.
Carlson, who sold several of her large, brightly colored acrylic paintings at YSU’s annual Summer Festival of the Arts last month at Wean Park in Youngstown, said she plans to travel more extensively with her works and, eventually, photography.
“I see myself forever being a full-time artist with no limits to what I do,” she added.
Besides his mother, Carlson’s family consists of his father, Eric Carlson, as well as brothers Joseph, Johnathan and David Carlson.