Featured artist: Caroline Adams

Remain, 22x28, egg tempera and oil on Ampersand Claybord


Caroline Adams, an egg tempera artist, discovered Claybord for her abstract landscape artwork. Inspired by the many places she has lived, her work draws from the colors, shapes, and lines of each place.

2020 Series, 16x16, egg tempera on Ampersand Claybord


Q: You have said that your landscapes are not of any particular place but are an idea or a feeling. Tell us more about this.

A: As I travel through the world, I spend a lot of time looking at the landscape, examining the clouds, the way the light is hitting different places, the change of the color in the sky from the horizon to high above, the way a yellow field can feel like a glowing stripe across a valley, the lines and shapes that are created by the contours of hills and mountains. I spend the time to observe because the details evoke an emotional response - I am pulled out of my noisy head. When I paint, all of these pieces come together to inform my composition, color placement, feeling of light, and development of space. I am not thinking about the one place where I saw all of these elements together, I am thinking about the elements and how they fit into my painting. I am thinking about recreating the idea and feeling that drew me in. The ambiguity of the paintings often allows different viewers to find in them their own familiar space.


2020 Series, 16x16, egg tempera on Ampersand Claybord


Q: With that in mind, you created a series of nine paintings meant to interact together as a group or stand on their own. Does the whole series represent one larger idea?

A: The larger idea that the paintings represent is a sense of connectedness between all the parts. Each part of the series is an observation and all together, they are a more complete story.



Q: Tell us about your process of layering the egg tempera onto the Claybord?

A: I begin every egg tempera painting with a yellow ochre wash. I mix the dry yellow ochre pigment with egg yolk and a lot of water. I use a large brush to loosely cover the Claybord panel. I let the paint pool in places to create an uneven background. The next layer is burnt umber - again a watery mix that I lay down with a slightly smaller brush. I create the beginning lines and shapes of the landscape and clouds but still am focusing most on the quality of the paint.

The Claybord panel absorbs the paint really well - it is easy to get a washy feeling like watercolor. Once this layer has dried, I will flood a translucent whitewash over the sky that will begin to form the clouds. At this point, I have a panel filled with lots of intentional and unintentional marks, splatters, and brush strokes. I use these as a framework to begin building a landscape. I use lots of small lines to make shapes and planes. I go back and forth between thinking about the actual elements of the landscape I am painting, and just responding to the paint and how it is interacting with what is already on the panel. When I have finished the painting, I put 2-3 layers of varnish that give the panel more depth and a soft sheen.


2020 Series, 16x16, egg tempera on Ampersand Claybord


Q: How does having a printmaking background help with using egg tempera?

A: As a printmaking major in college, I spent a lot of time working with intaglio - etchings and engravings. I was particularly drawn to the meditative processes of making hundreds of tiny lines across a whole plate. Egg tempera is traditionally painted in a whole series of lines building up the color with layer after layer of lines. For me, egg tempera is a perfect way to translate what I love about etching into a painting. I don’t use the egg tempera in the most traditional way. I paint the lines, but I space them a bit, so they are not just a means of building color, but an element all on their own.

Another printmaking process I have used quite a bit is monotype. I just use one dark ink to make landscape images. I begin all of my paintings with a monochromatic underpainting that is directly connected to the monotype process.


2020 Series, 16x16, egg tempera on Ampersand Claybord


Q: Do you prefer to do more realistic landscapes or the more abstracted?

A: I love making abstracted landscapes. Above all, what I like about painting is the paint. I want the pieces I make to feel like paintings not just a recreation of a landscape. When I am painting, the more abstract I get, the more evident the brush strokes and medium.


2020 Series, 16x16, egg tempera on Ampersand Claybord


Q: Have you found that your painting style or technique has changed in your moves from the US to Germany and eventually to Colombia?

A: Every time I move, I collect something new from the landscape. I grew up in Chester County, Pennsylvania surrounded by rolling farm fields that fade into the horizon. When I moved to an island in Greece, the flatness of the sea became a prominent feature in my imagery - as well as the thin subtle lines of the distant islands. Ecuador showed me an entirely different type of landscape with huge mountains and tremendous clouds - for the first time, the clouds moved down into the land in my paintings, I had never seen that until I lived in Quito. Where we lived in Germany was very similar to the landscape I grew up with in Pennsylvania. My paintings returned to the rolling hills with some new colors. There are almost neon yellow fields of rapeseed that showed up in a lot of my work. Now back in a mountainous city, Bogotá has reminded me a bit of Quito with the way the clouds move through the valleys. I think the shift from country to country doesn’t always happen in the first year or two I am living there. Sometimes it takes quite a while of living in the new environment for the colors, shapes, and lines to seep into my psyche and eventually find their way onto the panel.


2020 Series, 16x16, egg tempera on Ampersand Claybord


Q: What do you love most about Claybord for your egg tempera work?

A: Claybord has a velvety smooth surface that is almost impossible to replicate. When I first began painting with egg tempera, I was preparing my own panels. This meant making my own gesso with rabbit skin glue and dried pigment and essentially chalk. You have to put several layers on the panel to create a thick, absorbent surface suitable for the egg tempera. Between each layer, you need to let the panel dry and then sand it until very smooth. It takes a lot of time and in the end, the product is not nearly as good at the already-prepared Claybord. Egg tempera needs a very absorbent surface to hold the paint. When I use a very thinned-out wash, the Claybord will absorb a whole pool of water without having any effect on the quality of the panel. The wash stays in place. I love how crisp and fine my lines are on the Claybord. I can use paint to make marks as fine as a pencil and with the same brush have a thick stroke that gets darker at the edges and stays clean and soft in the middle. The Claybord’s smooth surface makes me want to paint.



Artist Bio:

Caroline Adams grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She received her BFA in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2001. She spent three years studying and teaching printmaking and bookmaking at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts in Greece, two years in Quito, Ecuador painting and mentoring students, and four years in Frankfurt, Germany painting and working with children’s art classes. Caroline has shown at numerous galleries worldwide, including Calloway Fine Art & Consulting in Washington, DC, Metaxa Gallery in Paros, Greece; Ileana Viteri Gallery in Quito, Ecuador; Artists' House Gallery in Philadelphia, PA; Shelburne Art Center in Vermont; the Yellow Springs Historical Society in Pennsylvania; Somerville Manning Gallery and Hardcastle Gallery in Delaware, and Galerie M50 in Frankfurt, Germany.

Caroline has lived in Washington, DC on and off since 2003 while not abroad with her husband, a Foreign Service Officer. Since August 2019, Caroline has been in Bogotá, Colombia. To see more of Caroline’s work, visit her website and Instagram.


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Comment by Antoinette Herivel |

lovely work Caroline. I had a wonderful semester in 2001 at the Aegean Center- wished I had stayed a year but had to work! I did learn a lot! I love doing egg tempera once in awhile (Studied with the marvellous Jane!)but usually the traditional way- I like how you approach the medium - will have to try again. Thank you ( Antoinette- Gabriola island BC Canada

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