Carmen Lugo's work is on display at the Greenhouse this month! We love her and we want you to get a chance know her and fall in love as well! Please join us on July 29 for the artist reception. But until then, we asked her a few questions and she was gracious enough to answer them.
If you didnt paint, what would you be when you grow up?
When I was younger, I always wanted to be either an artist, or a lunch lady. For some reason I really admired our lunch lady when I was in elementary school (Mrs. Tillman...still remember her name.) I even used to cut the tops off of my mom's stockings and make "hair nets" for my stuffed monkey and stuffed rabbit. I think she was a small piece of home when I was having a bad day in school, so I looked forward to seeing her. We never spoke much, but for some reason she was kind of a grounding presence. So I guess I just wanted to be that for someone, someday. Other than that, I'd probably like to own a ranch, and teach riding lessons. I really enjoyed that when I was younger, and I still miss it.
Whats the one color you refuse to use?
I don't know if there is a color I REFUSE to use. At first I would have said pink, just because I'm not personally a big fan of pink. But recently I wanted to push myself and did a short series of tongue-in-cheek paintings with a subtle feminist tone, using pieces collaged from old text books. I used a lot of pink- A LOT. At first I thought "What am I doing? This isn't me." But when I viewed them as a whole, I really liked them, and I even started mixing pink into my usual color palettes. I was pretty pleased with myself for pulling off some pink works that I liked, and they all sold. So I guess it worked out.
Tell us about the progression of subject matter in your work.
The progression of subject matter in my work, do you mean my body of work, or working on an individual piece? That's a tough one of both levels. If it's a non-objective piece I'm working on, I lay down many layers of paint, writing, scraps of paper, whatever. The first part is strictly emotional vomit, as it were. After I get that stuff down, I start to refine it a bit and work with the composition, covering up bits, muting aspects of the painting, bringing other parts out, to make it more interesting, visually, and create a connection between everything I've put down. If I'm working on a piece with a more realistic subject, I generally put everything together, spatially, in my head, and work on the drawing or painting as a whole. If painting, I put down a first pass of blocks of shapes, then move back to refine everything in subsequent passes, until someone takes it away from me, or I feel comfortable with it. I'd work on them forever, if I could. When drawing, it varies.
What is your favorite de-stress snack when you’re in the middle of a painting marathon?
I forget to eat a lot when I'm painting. Mostly everything just fades away when you're in that zone, so unless I get to a stopping point, I don't really snack when painting. But I do pour coffee, and forget to drink it until it gets cold, then drink it when I come to a stopping point. Oh well.
If you could paint one Greenhouse Biscuit, which one would it be?
This is tough because I feel like I'm cheating on the other biscuits. But one of the prettiest I've had recently was with the roasted red peppers. So that one. Don't tell the other biscuits, though.
Clearly we are interested in your snack habits. Anything else you’d like to add or expand on?
My snack habits are weird. Usually it's stuff that grosses my husband out. Peanut butter and onion sandwiches, mustard sardines with hot sauce are two that he cringes at, but they're really good. My staple around the house for snacking is usually a jar of kimchi. And pickles. Anything pickled. I also like vegetarian corndogs (I'm not a vegetarian, I just like the taste of the brand.) GOAT CHEESE. Really any cheese, but goat cheese on anything, and I'm there. I also love creme brulee, basil, fresh vegetables, hummus. Pad thai. Not a snack, but a favorite. I could talk food all day. You shouldn't have asked this one. I'm cutting it short for your own good.
You're imagination is incredible. What is it about teaching children you do you love the most?
Thank you:) That's another tough question. There are so many reasons I love teaching children. First, I feel more comfortable around them. I can joke, or voice ideas comfortably. They still imagine things "What if you were an ant? What would all of this look like? What other bug would you ride to school? What would you use as a swimming pool? What would you use for carpet? Shelter? What bug would you ride into battle?" Are totally acceptable questions to ask kids. Most adults don't seem to dig that as a conversation starter. On a serious note, I like showing kids that art can be a learned skill. Sure, some things are innate, and it comes more easily to some than others, but showing them how to build a mental "tool box" of skills, and call on those tools to create art, is wonderful. Showing them how to use value, contour, and color mixing to create something that they are proud of is rewarding. Usually, kids take it way beyond that, and I have to stay hopping to keep up with ideas to challenge them. That part can be tricky, because every child is different. Some kids can take a piece that's unsuccessful, shrug it off, and move on. With others, you have to create a lesson that's tough enough to challenge them, but still let them land in a (somewhat) comfortable spot, until they learn to accept that not every piece will be successful. Everyone's comfort zone is different, and you have to learn how to adjust to that and be able to slowly push them. I have to be honest with them, and let them know that I, too, have cried out of frustration, and it was a waste of time. I too, compared my work to everyone elses, and it was a waste of time. I too, don't get every line down perfectly the first time I draw, and I proably never will. But I keep going. Seeing them realize that it's work...that no matter how good you are, or how good you think you are, you will still have to work. You'd think that would discourage them, but it doesn't. They just push themselves harder. Kids are awesome.
Also, tell us about your cat and the inspiration she provides for your work. (I think this question is a dead giveaway that Kait the cat lady wrote these questions)
Two cats. Lola and Penny Lane. Both rescues. Both TOTALLY different personalities. The only artwork I can remember those lazy bums inspiring is a painting underneath my coffee table. Lola likes to lay on her back under our coffee table. One day I was wondering what it must look like from her point of view, so I got down there and scooted next to her. Wood. Just wood. So I grabbed some pencils and ended up painting a field of poppies and bees under my coffee table. My husband walked in from work very confused. But...now they have something to look at, I guess. Other than that, they aren't extra inspirational. Just very good for down time. And I swear they can sense "the painting zone." When I'm working, they want to be right up under me. I feel a big connection with them, then.
Quick background (experience, schooling, mistakes, for the wins, etc.) on how you came to be.
Background...these should all be easy questions, but they aren't. Life. My dad bringing home alligators and wild animals, and keeping us around nature. My mom making hot chocolate and checking us out of school for snow flurries, keeping us nurtured. The lunch lady smiling at me when life was tough. My best friend Carrie crying with me in a car once. My sisters fighting for AND with each other. My husband, and every move he makes. He who shaped me most as a person, is patient, understanding, quirky, and beautiful.
Design and painting classes. AUM, Troy, MGCCC. Mississippi Art Colony. ACCE collective. Community murals. Freelance teaching, Learning rules, ignoring rules, following rules. Trial and error. Insults, accolades, people hate it, people like it, people don't get it, you make money, you lose money, you're in high cotton, you're putting out fires, You do work on commission for a casino, you do work anonymously to leave in the street for someone to find. You search the internet for books and classes to keep learning. You email old professors and beg for old slides. You look at stuff you find on the ground, and keep it. Each lesson is just as important as the next. What you learn is up to you, no matter your schooling, or what you paid for it. What you keep is up to you. What you discard, is up to you. You can get a masters and never paint again. You can never take a class in your life and be a sensation.
In the end, you either do, or you don't. And people like it, or they won't.