Artist Focus: Carol Peek

November 22, 2021 § Leave a comment

Carol Peek | The Guardians

From American Art Collector

THE SUBTLE GRADATIONS of yellow ochre to blue violet in a desert landscape, the contrasts of scale and years between a massive 200-year-old cypress and a handful of sheep, or the first time a mare reveals her colt to the world — these are a few of life’s endless joys that call artist Carol Peek to the easel.

“Staying curious in life as well as at the easel are key elements to keeping my work exciting and new; translating this excitement, appreciation and curiosity to the canvas is the challenge,” she says. “Each new painting is an attempt to solve a creative problem.”

In Subtle Shifts, Peek restrained the values and saturation of color in the mountains to a narrow window and gradually changed the hue and temperature from foreground to background in a subtle progression: warm to cool and yellow orange to blue violet. “Working within a narrow confine such as this creates an exciting challenge for me to solve,” says Peek. “The ‘power of limits’ keeps me interested and engaged and each painting feels like a new dawn, full of possibilities.”

Carol Peek | Subtle Shifts

‘A serious and deeply felt experience’

November 14, 2021 § Leave a comment

“AS YOU KNOW WELL, art is an incredibly powerful tool,” wrote J. Randolph Evans, U.S. ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to artist Carol Peek when she loaned two of her paintings to an exhibition commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Luxembourg and the Battle of the Bulge.

She does indeed know well. Her father, Charles Bruce Peek, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, not far from Luxembourg. “My father’s experience in the war was a serious and deeply felt experience in my home growing up,” she told the ambassador. “I cannot find the words to tell you how meaningful this is for me, to be privileged to use my artwork as a unifying and uplifting message.”

Her paintings were on display as part of an exhibition in the ambassador’s residence in Luxembourg from 2018 to 2021.

Carol Peek’s journey

July 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

Carol Peek | Subtle Shifts

THE CALENDAR STAYS FULL as Carol Peek soaks up courses in art history, wraps up the remodeling of a new home and studio, and occasionally sneaks off to her cabin in Wyoming. She finally feels settled, but the memories never fade completely. Back in 1999, she was giving birth to her second child as her husband lay dying in the same hospital in Santa Rosa, California.

Peek recites a timeline of events, pausing to process each chapter. She met Bill Griffin at an art show, and it was love at first sight. Recognizing each other as soul mates, they talked about art, and he bought two of her paintings that first day. Once Peek said “I do” to the fun-loving attorney, the couple searched for a place where they could enjoy horses and Carol could concentrate on her art. A 30-acre ranch in Santa Rosa fit the bill.

“I thought I’d marry a cowboy, not an attorney,” Peek laughs of her preconceived notions. “Instead of working on the ranch, we bought the ranch.” As daughter Anna came along, Peek savored her enviable life. She had it all — a great husband and daughter, a healthy place to raise kids, and an inspiring setting for her art. “I had my dream studio, and the neighbors had a dairy, so I had 90 subjects right next door,” Peek says, alluding to her frequent bovine portraits.

Shortly after the 1997 ranch purchase, however, Bill brought home the devastating diagnosis of lymphoma. Doctors gave him a dismal prognosis and, by 1999, he was declining drastically. As his time grew short, physicians induced labor for Carol so Bill could meet his new son, Will. He lived a few more weeks.

For Peek, grieving became incremental, as she raised two children and pondered her future. “I didn’t want that tragedy to define my life,” Peek says. “I committed to two things: raising my children and staying an active artist.”

In 2010, after living in Utah for six years, Peek returned to California, where she finds inspiration everywhere she looks, even during a 10-minute drive as she takes her son to school. “I can see between one and 20 paintings along the way,” she says. “They’re unexpected miracles.” Peek spends much of her time in the studio, but she also goes out on location to paint and to be inspired — “to fine tune my color work and to remember the light and shadow,” she says.

Along with painting and teaching, Peek also is continuing her studies, as she works toward a Master’s in Fine Art from the Academy of Art. Her daughter is now 21, and her son is 18, which means that Peek soon will become a member of the empty-nester club, something she views with mixed emotions.

“Maybe I’ll travel for a year and paint,” she says. “I feel like the whole world will open back up for me, but raising my two children has been the most wonderful thing I have ever done, or ever will do. The last 21 years have been doing that’s best for my kids; I want to see how the next five years unfold.”

— Excerpted from articles published in Art of the West magazine in 2006 and 2017.

Radical Revival: California Plein Air

May 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Carol Peek | Spring Bounty


Beginning in the 1860s and continuing until the present day, California has been a center of plein air landscape art. Energetic artists have ventured out into nature to capture the scenic beauty that the state offers in abundance, from majestic sights like Yosemite and Mount Shasta to sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.

The literal translation of the French phrase plein air is “open air,” or “outdoor,” but when applied to paintings, the word has acquired a broader meaning. Plein air not only covers landscapes that were actually painted on location, but also studio works closely based on nature observed firsthand. The term is often applied to California painters of the early 20th century. Plein air paintings capture the appearance of nature passed through an artistic temperament.

The revival of interest in early California plein air painting has had an interesting side effect — the rise of California landscapes in the same general style by living artists. Over the last 20 years or so, a culture has grown up that has supported the movement back to traditional art.

Without setting out to do so, Carol Peek [and other contemporary painters have] revived the landscape tradition made popular a hundred years ago. An animal lover from childhood as well as a prodigy in art, Peek naturally gravitated toward creating beautiful images out of the rural vistas she so enjoyed. Peek’s authoritative draftsmanship creates an image of almost surreal clarity. Her composition alternates strips of dark and light, from the shadowy immediate foreground to the brighter middle ground where the cows graze, then dark again in the oaks giving way to the lighter distances. She has reduced her palette to related shades of green that appeal to the eye in a way that a chord in music appeals to the ear.

We can dismiss these artists as reactionary practitioners of an outdated aesthetic. But perhaps we should consider another way of judging them. Like the original French impressionists, they are rebelling against an establishment that controls museum life and the mainstream media. Plein air painters ignore increasingly academic modernism to create paintings of considerable virtuosity out of the actual visual world.

The last several decades have seen a marked increase in the movement to conserve what is left of unspoiled nature. We may not be Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau; nor are we Victorians. But whether we were back-to-nature freaks in the 1960s, backpacking zealots in the 1970s, or are merely entranced by the views from the Ahwahnee Hotel’s dining room, most of us still seek out natural beauty for pleasure and enlightenment. Our plein air artists satisfy this deeply human desire, and they create art of our time.

— Excerpted from Antiques magazine, May-June 2012.

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