Born and raised in South Carolina, watercolor artist Caroline Cockfield Stomski has always had a love for art and wildlife. We first found out about Caroline through Instagram and I was so intrigued by her South Carolina Herons Series as well as her Abstract Heron Series that followed. In this interview, Caroline shares both her inspiration and artistic process.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Growing up I always loved art. I was constantly doodling or drawing and trying out new art supplies. I studied art in college and when I graduated I wasn’t sure where to go with an art career. So I went to graduate school and got my Master of Teaching degree and taught high school art for two years. While I was teaching I started taking commissions as a side job for pet portraits. Until I realized I could actually make it as a true artist.
What is your biggest source of inspiration?
As long as I continue this artist journey I will always give God the glory for my inspiration/talent. I love animals and I believe God has given us these creatures to take care of and also give us happiness. I recently listened to a podcast that was hosting Maria Brophy. In her book, she talks about art and creating. One quote said, “When something comes easily to you, that is what you are meant to be doing.” Those words described exactly how I feel when I paint. I enjoy painting animals and I feel closer to God spiritually when I’m painting because he gave me this talent to spread His goodness and happiness. I can only hope when others view my work they can feel joy.
Do you prefer cold press or hot press watercolor paper?
I prefer Arches 300lb Cold Pressed paper. It is so durable and it allows for the most beautiful texture in paintings.
Is there a particular brand of watercolor paint or color in particular that you enjoy featuring in most of your paintings?
I love M. Graham & Co. watercolor paints. It has a wonderful honey consistency that allows you to have really rich colors on your paper.
Where is your favorite place to paint?
I have converted a bedroom in my house into a studio. I am such an introvert so I love to trap myself in my studio for hours and paint.
You create such beautiful wildlife paintings featuring everything from birds to farm animals. When did your love of wildlife first begin?
I grew up on a farm and have always had a passion for animals. As I started my art career I was constantly painting pet portraits and then realized how much animals made other people just as happy as they made me. So I began to paint farm animals to wildlife and I knew then that painting this subject matter meant so much more to me and gave my art a purpose.
Do you create your pieces from photographs, memory, or a little of both?
When I start a painting I usually can visualize the painting in my mind first. Then my next step is to find that subject and take pictures. I travel on back roads, I find places that have wildlife rescue exhibits, or I find friends that possibly have taxidermy of the animal or pose I am looking for. I have even taken pictures of the taxidermy at the Cabela’s store to get inspiration. It’s hilarious the number of looks I get when I take pictures there.
You recently completed ‘The Heron Series’ inspired by the herons of South Carolina. What was it about the heron that drew your interest?
I started the Heron Series because the Heron is a huge statement of South Carolina. I wanted to paint something a little different with the heron so I picked two poses and created different color backgrounds to match different areas that a Heron could travel in SC. For example, one painting is named Carolina Swamp and another is Marsh Views; I have seen Herons in places at the beach to swamps in the midlands.
You’ve also created fun abstract herons and each painting is paired with two small abstract paintings. What was it like making the transition from your traditional painting style to abstract?
When I start a series, sometimes another idea comes to the surface during that series. When I was painting the Herons and using bright colors, I thought to myself how cool would it be to make the Heron abstract and add some fun pattern with it! With that idea, it turned into an entire series of its own.
In addition to the wildlife paintings and heron series you’ve created, you also do commission pet portraits. What do you enjoy the most about creating portraits of clients’ beloved pets?
What I enjoy the most about creating pet portraits is the excitement and love that someone has for their pet. I think pets have such a special place within a family so it’s no wonder they want a painting that will be remembered forever hanging in their home. I love making each pet portrait completely different than the other and I make sure to capture the personality of each specific pet.