Carol Struve: From Full-Time Nurse to Full-Time Artist
When did you first know you were an artist who wanted to teach art?
After high school I wanted to pursue art studies but my father didn’t support that. My mother and aunt were nurses so I went to nursing school instead. I started taking art classes at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in my late 20’s while working as a registered nurse at the Deaconess Beth Israel Hospital located in the Harvard Medical Center. MCA was across the street. I loved the classes and figured out, early on, I wanted to pursue a career as an artist and teacher, rather than continue working as a nurse full time.
In the end, being a nurse paid off because I had earning power, a lot of flexibility, and could support myself while pursing my art studies and career without going into debt. I also learned that certain nursing skills such as the need to be organized, prioritizing tasks, and developing critical thinking skills were useful in my art practice as well. Eventually I went on to earn a BFA and MFA in painting and taught college art for 20 years.
Favorite medium(s) you use to make – and teach – art.
Painting, drawing and printmaking are foremost in my studio practice, all of which involve using a range of media and processes. I taught all levels of painting (oil & watercolor) and drawing. Design process and color theory continue to be important in my studio practice. My most recent work has been printmaking with a focus on monoprints and other basic techniques like trace prints. These processes are more spontaneous and relate more to my love of painting and drawing, less so than other printmaking processes such as etching, lithography or silkscreen.
What are the most interesting new trends in your field? Is your teaching changing as a result?
The advent of electronic media had a major impact on my approach to teaching. The ability to collect and present images of artworks from around the world, masterworks and those of contemporary artists, allowed students to see an incredible range of possibilities in ideas and materials. Computer research (images & articles) broadened the scope of students’ access to all sorts of meaningful information from ancient times to current. Let’s not forget Social Media like Facebook and Instagram, [which are useful] tools to communicate with others and to promote oneself. Lastly, the computer is a tool I often use to help solve a problem with a particular piece I’m working on or to find answers to a technical problem.
Talk about your teaching philosophy and how you work with students.
In my own practice, I focus most on process and that certainly comes across in my teaching. As an artist and teacher, it’s about the journey rather than the destination. I believe in being supportive and encourage each student to pay attention to their natural inclinations and intuition. I also help students fine tune problem solving skills. This includes learning about the formal elements, technical matters and material use. It’s also important to have fun along the way!
Who was your most influential mentor and why?
There are many, many important mentors that helped me along the way to becoming a professional artist, too many to single one out. Many have been teachers; many have been, and still are, friends or peers.
How has teaching enhanced/inspired your work as an artist?
Working with images, ideas and materials is a constant in teaching. This inspires and fosters my desire to explore a range of possibilities, to ask the question “What if?”. What if I use this material instead of that material? What if I change the scale, work larger rather than small? What if I change the color in that upper right-hand corner? Helping students look at a range of possibilities has helped me to follow the same path in my studio practice.
What do you like best about being involved with The D.R.A.W.?
It’s an affordable program designed to serve people from the local community, from all walks of life, and from all ages and cultural backgrounds. Lara [Giordano, Executive Director,] and JoAnna [Ruisi, Artistic Director, of The D.R.A.W.], are devoted professional artists and teachers who understand how art making can transform lives and are always on the look-out for ways to improve the program.
Do you show/sell your art in galleries? Local or elsewhere?
After 47 1⁄2 years I’ve retired from nursing and am looking forward to being more active in making and showing my work as well as some teaching. In 2019 my work was included in group exhibitions in New York City, Beacon, Woodstock, Hillsdale NY and Kingston. Over the past 25 years my work has been included in solo and group exhibitions throughout the USA.
Other information you wish to provide.
My husband and I love living in the beautiful Hudson River Valley. We are artists who feel fortunate and grateful to be part of this large community of diverse professional artists who are incredibly supportive all around.