Dan’s Papers cover artist Elaine Karton’s painting “Along Town Line Road” infuses her folk art style into the lush greenery of a beautiful local scene. As Karton describes it, her painting celebrates the natural setting, untouched by man in any visible way, while relating her subject in its purest form. The artist, who works in many styles, including abstract and collage, points out the magical way her folk interpretation captures a scene’s inherent truth, its story, in a way realism or photography cannot. Karton also applies this to her house portraits—a service she’s offered and enjoyed successfully for many years.
Is this cover painting an actual place?
The painting chosen for the cover is “Along Town Line Road.” It is a real place I photographed on one of my many bike rides out east with my husband. I was inspired by the pure naturalness of the setting—no buildings, no telephone poles. In the last few years, my husband and I have become avid bike riders on both forks. My husband is in much better shape—he lost 65 pounds by riding—and rides much farther and faster. I enjoy stopping, a lot, to enjoy the beautiful scenery and take photographs.
Tell me a little about how you developed your folk art style?
I have always been attracted to the folk art style because I feel it is a story in its purest form. The artist is not emphasizing technique, proportion, light and shadow, but sincerely representing the things they feel are important enough to paint.
How did you get into painting house portraits?
I enjoy doing house portraits because as Dorothy [in The Wizard of Oz] learns, “there is no place like home.” I was so shy as a child and I loved feeling safe at home and studying all the little details that make up a home—the furniture, decorations, patterns, lines, color, etcetera. I’m a sucker for decorating magazines. I fall in love with certain rooms and homes, and I want to live in all of them. Having people thrilled to see the details of the homes they recognize and cherish acknowledged and captured in a painting that will last forever is very satisfying.
What inspires your work?
It’s hard to say. On some level it’s very basic, in the DNA. Just look at the cave paintings around the world. It’s combining the visual and the creative process that does something to the brain. I think humans have evolved to tell our story either on cave walls or oral histories that were eventually written down. On a different level, I get inspired by other artists’ creativity and I want to try new things, to push my skills with color, with composition, different types of construction and texture.
What happens to a scene when you paint it?
First, I’m saying that I’m not out to create a photograph. We have cameras, so painting should be something other than photographic. I like art that is inventive but also a jumping off point from the familiar. Folk art to me is very human in an “it takes a village” kind of perspective. We are all in this together, and this is the immediate world and my human take on it.
Do you have any great influences?
My main artistic influences are Van Gogh, Horace Pippin, Romare Bearden, Grandma Moses, and the Aboriginal artists of Australia.
How did you get into painting?
I fell in love with creating artwork in childhood. As I mentioned, I was very shy, and in school my teachers praised my artistic abilities a lot, I think as a way to coax me out of shyness. To me, if you praise any child for their abilities, they will work at it and develop those abilities.
You run two frame shops. Did you enter that business as a result of your art?
I did enter the business because I was able to help people design the best way to display their artworks, and they felt confident with someone who understands art techniques and art history.
To see more of Elaine Karton and her work, or to commission a house portrait, contact Trapani Art & Frame in Manhasset or Garden City, trapaniartandframe.com.