Fields of Color: A Conversation with Carolyn Mackin

Blog Home / Fields of Color: A Conversation with Carolyn Mackin
02 Nov 2021

For almost 10 years, Massachusetts-based artist Carolyn Mackin has been creating abstract paintings full of color, pattern, and texture. Her passion and curiosity allow her to explore and originate thought-provoking designs.


We’ve recently partnered with Carolyn and we currently showcase her work in our ActonCambridgeFramingham, and Middleton showrooms. With this new collaboration, we had the opportunity to sit down and get to know more about the artist behind such inspiring paintings.


Riding the wave one painting at a time



Carolyn has always considered herself an artist. She started her career as a fine art photographer, but pivoted into painting after having dreams of dancing with big canvases. Little did she know at the time that a big canvas would be her preference for painting, giving her the freedom to make grander gestures.


Yoga and meditation are key components to Carolyn’s mornings. They help her release physical and/or mental tension, find calmness, and reach a clear, focused state-of-mind.


A self-described “late day, late evening kind of creative,” Carolyn typically begins painting around mid-to-late afternoon. She might fill her space with essential oils, and there’s always background noise like music, TV, a podcast, or even a phone conversation. She then starts to get lost in the movements of painting while taking moments in between to reflect on her work and decide where to go next.


“I try to ride this sort of wave of energy of what feels good in the moment and then step back and analyze, so it’s that sort of continuous process of circling in and then back out,” she explained.


Since she goes through this rhythm, acrylic paints suit Carolyn’s style and workflow best. Their fast dry time allows her to paint, step away, then add more as needed. There’s a ton of flexibility with acrylics as well, from a wide range of colors to different finishes like glossy and matte. She also appreciates that they’re less toxic than alternatives like oil paint.


Canvas to canvas: Custom work vs. the unknown



Carolyn’s experience with each painting she creates can vary. For instance, custom pieces give her some sort of end goal. She gets to know her clients on a more personal level so she can understand what they’re looking for in a painting.


“Often with my custom clients, I’m going into their homes, I’m seeing the space, I’m getting to know them... and for me that’s part of the joy of the whole process. I let them title the piece so if there’s something that makes it feel extra special for them, then I like to offer that as well. I feel like it’s a privilege when people invite me into their homes, especially if they want me to make something special for them.”


When she isn’t creating for a client, however, the process can be unknown.


At the beginning of the year, for example, Carolyn took a 12-week course where “I abandoned the things I would normally do and the things that I know would successfully complete a painting. And I just trusted that if I wanted to bring my work to a new place, I had to go deep into the unknown and it was scary and it was frustrating because I made so many ugly paintings.”


What eventually came out of this experience was Carolyn’s newest collection, Exquisite Grit. Appropriately named for the hard work that went into her paintings, Exquisite Grit represents the transformation of each piece that she ultimately came to love.


Whether she’s working with a client or diving into the unknown, Carolyn enjoys both journeys. She also knows what it’s like to go in with a certain vision in mind, only for it to turn into something entirely different. In fact, it happens just about every time she paints. The beauty here, however, is the bravery she finds herself faced with while learning to let go of something she loved, but had to paint over because it no longer worked with the rest of the piece.


“I’m constantly thinking I'm doing one thing and then just allowing it to be what it’s supposed to be,” she shared.


Inspiration around the world



Whether it’s in her home, throughout her community, or across the world in a foreign country, Carolyn believes there’s inspiration to be found around every corner.


“Colors and patterns are two of the things that really inspire me, but they can inspire me in so many different ways,” she explained. “It could be in my travels and seeing gorgeous architecture in the shape of a beautiful archway. Sometimes it gives me chills being in these beautiful big stone archways and walking through a street in Morocco or anywhere in Europe and just feeling the power of that arched shape or seeing a gorgeous tile in Italy on a floor and loving that pattern and that repetition.”


Inspiration can also be found in places you may not have previously considered:


“It could be going to the design center in Boston and flipping through fabrics and feeling all the textures and patterns, or seeing somebody's beautiful home and the way they’ve decorated it and collected things from all over.”


Bringing art into the home: An artist’s take



Art wears multiple hats: it evokes emotion, expresses different personalities, and even initiates conversation.


When it comes to choosing artwork for your home, Carolyn said, 


“Love the piece. I think just loving the artwork itself is really important. I would say scale is also important.”


She encourages homeowners to find that one statement piece - something they genuinely love and can enjoy for years or even pass down through their family. While it may be an investment, she believes it’s one worth making.


Carolyn also recommends reaching out to artists if you need help choosing a piece for your home:


“If you love the artist’s work, but aren’t really sure what size you should be getting or what would work in your particular situation, reach out and ask for some help. Artists always love hearing from people who enjoy their work.”


Instilling joy through art



At the end of the day, Carolyn wants to inspire positivity and pleasure through her work. She loves connecting with others this way and leaves space for them to pull their own interpretations from her paintings.


“I have my idea of what they’re about, but that doesn’t mean the person who looks at it needs to feel the same way. They’re gonna bring to it their own life experience and I love that. I love hearing how people interpret my work or what it evokes for them.


“I recognize that I’m not making work for the masses,” she continued. “I’m not trying to make work that every single person on this earth is going to love. It’s for the subset of humans that it resonates with.”

Author: Marycatherine Karcich