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Blog about the studio, life and travels of visual artist Carly Drew.

Filtering by Category: NOTES ON

Clarity in the Cold

Carly Drew


Once the haze of summer has finally let go and the first fire has been lit, the cooler weather sweeping in always brings with it a mysterious sense of clarity. I wrote about it a few years ago and it still holds true. I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly what brings me to such a focused state at this time of year, maybe its the crystalline atmosphere and shifting light that puts everything into a different perspective. Whatever it is, there’s a bit of magic in that cool breeze and a little more drama that sets fire to the imagination, begging to be reckoned with. The incoming flood of inspiration usually coincides with the calm before the storm of next year’s shows and the less than fun aspects of studio work like taxes and planning kick in. Having a few precious months void of paperwork and devoted to making always comes around when I need it the most. The studio turns back into a place of inspiration and exploration, where I can enjoy the process, take risks and respond to intuition. It’s a time to play with new ideas, figure things out and get back into a rhythm that doesn’t have to respond to the world around it for a little while.

Do you have a time of year where you are more inspired than others? Comment below with the time of year and why you think that is, cause I’d love to hear what times of year other creatives feel like they are the most productive!

No One Stops for Mediocre

Carly Drew

Carly Drew No One Stops for Mediocre.jpg

Over the past few semesters I've witnessed a troubling trend - students are becoming ok with mediocre. And I'm not just talking about ones taking the class to fill an elective, it's students that are interested in pursuing the subject as a concentration. It's what they want to do, it's what they have a passion for, but they're missing one crucial component to be successful as a creative: drive. To make it in a creative field you have to be self-motivated enough to be the hardest worker in the room and do this you need to have something that keeps you going through 12+ hours on the meticulous elements of a project or problem-solving issues. For many artists and designers a large part of that drive comes from making our vision a reality and the feeling of gratification that comes after finally seeing our ideas come to fruition after a very long, laborious process is extremely rewarding. 

Sadly most students don't really get to experience this and I'm seeing less and less of that drive in the classroom. The ideas are there, the thought process is there, but the execution is either lacking or nonexistent. This drive is often tragically misplaced into an array of distractions and media consumption. Video games, Youtube, and social media are all participants in the cult of immediate gratification constantly vying for our attention. They are shorter, more instantaneous rushes that briefly mimic the same sense of reward you get in the creative process, except you aren't actually making anything, you're simply consuming. In small doses it's ok to  consume to get inspired, but when it becomes an obsession then it becomes dangerous to the drive to create. Those little adrenaline hits start to make larger projects, such as a drawing that takes a few weeks or a professional project that could take years to make a reality, seem much less exciting. Why spend hours and hours to get the same sense satisfaction? Why spend so much time struggling to figure something out when you can get that same sense of reward by opening up Instagram? The important thing to remember that digital gratification is a false illusion. The work isn't yours and you don't see the years of hard work of blood, sweat and tears that went into making that amazing photo or 20 minutes of video. Be conscious of media consumption and don't let it eat up time spent on what really matters: making. 

With that said, at the end of each semester I always write a note of advice and encouragement to my students that are based on my observations throughout the past few months and since school starts back this week, I thought it'd be good time to post an excerpt from one of these notes. A lot of young creatives stop before they even get started and I hope this will help inspire students starting classes this month to keep their eye on the prize. 

Carly Drew End of Semester Note Spring 2018.jpg



Thoughts on Turning 30

Carly Drew

Yellowstone National Park at sunrise. 

Yellowstone National Park at sunrise. 

I turned 30 two weeks ago and believe it or not I'm actually pretty excited. Mostly because despite a few near death experiences (hello being face to face with a black bear a few months back) I actually made it to 30, but more so because turning 30 has a certain kind of freedom to it. When you're younger you spend so much time worrying about who you are and what other people think, that it can really take away from focusing on what you really want and living life to the fullest. With that said, here are 30 life lessons I've learned over the past 30 years.

1 | FIND SOMETHING THAT REMINDS YOU HOW SMALL YOU REALLY ARE | The universe is a big place. Figure out what reminds you of this and find a way to tune into it as often as possible. For some people its religion, for some it's travel and for others it's communing with nature. For me it's staring up at the night sky and thinking about all the people that have done the same before me. There's nothing more humbling than remembering you are just a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things. 

2 | SEE AS MUCH OF THE WORLD AS YOU CAN | I don't just mean the big places like Italy or Japan, but exploring your own backyard is just as important. Get outside of your bubble, meet people and experience new things, you'll never know what you'll find.

3 | TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO BE OUTSIDE | Some days I'm not even sure why I have a house, because I spend more time outside than in. Fresh air does a body good, so go for a walk, feel the sun on your skin and take a minute to actually appreciate the weather, regardless of what its like. 

4 | GET COMFORTABLE BEING ALONE | I've noticed more and more that people struggle with being alone. This can apply to simply being home alone or going out somewhere by yourself. Learning how to enjoy being alone is one of the most empowering things you can do. 

5 | HEALTH IS WEALTH | My Mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was in middle school, so I learned quite early on that nothing in life is as important as taking care of yourself mentally and physically. It's been almost 20 years since her diagnosis and she's still in great health because she's made it one of her priorities. If you aren't in top shape it's much harder to achieve your dreams and be there for others. 

6 | YOUR SCARS TELL YOUR STORY | I have a lot of scars and each one tells a particular story of something that's happened in my life. Over the years I've learned to be proud of them, they mean I've taken some chances and done things outside my comfort zone and a couple of them resulted from something just plain stupid enough to make for a few good stories. 

7 | DON'T LIVE IN THE PAST | You can't change it, so it's not gonna do you any good to worry about it. What you can do is focus on what you will do today to get closer to where you want to be. 

8 | HARD TIMES ARE NECESSARY | Always remember that hard times lead to better times. Without the hard times you won't know how amazing the good times really are.

9 | ENJOY THE PROCESS | The finish line isn't everything. If you don't learn how to enjoy the journey of getting from point A to point B, life is gonna be very long. This can apply to school, jobs, projects, working out, anything really. Taking the time to enjoy the process of doing something will make life 10,000x easier. Good things take time and always being in a rush means you miss a lot of the smaller and often more memorable moments along the way. 

10 | BE THE ARCHITECT OF YOUR EDUCATION | A degree doesn't mean you're done learning and college isn't necessary for everyone. Figure out what you want to do and then see what type of education best suits that. There are so many great options now a days from trade schools to technical colleges, traditional universities and even online learning. Most importantly your education needs to be tailored to you, because at the end of the day a piece of paper is not a magic ticket to your dream job, it's how you use what you've learned to get that job. In the same light that piece of paper doesn't make you an expert. Continue to cobble together your education from a lot of different sources - read books, go to conferences, find mentors, etc. Keep exploring your field and remember that learning should be a lifelong endeavor. 

11 | DO THE BEST WITH WHAT YOU HAVE | A true craftsman never blames their tools. Most people starting out at something can't afford their dream equipment, space, etc and that's normal. Creating within constraints has produced some of the best work throughout history, so do the best with the resources you have and remember creativity is all about making something from nothing in the first place. 

12 | TAKE ANY OPPORTUNITIES THAT COME YOUR WAY | You will be amazed at the places you end up if you just seize seemingly random opportunities. A couple years back I was out in Arkansas for an exhibition reception and met a fellow that suggested we stop by and see an old friend of his on our way home. His friend was an artist in Oxford and little did we know the artist we were visiting was none other than Glennray Tutor. The couple of hours I got to spend in his studio that afternoon were priceless. I got a lot of great input on some things I was struggling through in my own studio practice at the time and I couldn't have been more grateful to have the opportunity to speak with someone that had been in the field for so long. If I never made that call I would've missed out on something truly special. 

13 | TALENT IS A LIE | Amazing things don't just come out of thin air. You can have a natural affinity for something, but to get really good at it you have to put in hours of practice and hard work. Anyone can learn how to be great at anything, all it takes is a lot of patience and determination to make it happen.

14 | DREAM JOBS STILL REQUIRE HARD WORK | Here's a little secret, the only reason why so many people don't make it in art or other creative fields is they don't want to put in the work. That's it. Want to be an entrepreneur, artist, designer, writer or any other type of self-sustaining, self-employed or freelance individual? Great, just be prepared to work 20x harder than anyone else in the room. 

15 | DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS | Social media has really compounded this issue over the past few years. When you are constantly being bombarded with Jenny's amazing vacation or the fact that Barb just bought that awesome house in the best part of town, it's hard to remember that social media is just a highlight reel. Everyone has ups and downs and comparing yourself to others only wastes your precious time.

16 | GET GOOD AT REJECTION | Being an artist means that you apply to lots of exhibitions, publications and opportunities on a regular basis. You know what that also means? You get pretty good at being rejected on a regular basis. Usually it's nothing personal, your work just didn't fit the show or they simply selected somebody else for the award. Applying in the first place already puts you one step closer than the people that were too afraid to put in an application. What's it gonna hurt to apply to that dream job, submit your writing to a magazine or ask for that promotion? Nothing and you never know what will happen until you put yourself out there. 

17 | LEARN TO TAKE CRITICISM | This is something that art school prepares people for that is vastly underrated. At some point in your life you will put something out into the world that you will get feedback from and one of the best things you can do is learn to take criticism. Regardless of whether you get positive or negative feedback, you need to be able to objectively analyze it to see what the value of that criticism is to you. Then either use it to help you move forward or leave it by the wayside. Remember that at the end of the day good criticism will never make you feel personally attacked and if it does, then the feedback is probably from someone that has issues with themselves.

18 | TEACH SOMETHING TO SOMONE | Einstein said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't know it well enough." Teaching will make you better at what you do and will also make you a more well rounded person, period. You need to have a lot of things to be a good teacher, patience, empathy, understanding and tenacity to name a few. These are all things that will help you in your own work and life no matter what you do. 

19 | LEARN HOW TO SPEAK IN FRONT OF A CROWD | This ties into the last one, but best thing I ever did was start teaching college classes. Before grad school I was always the student quietly working in the background, then I got thrown into teaching and it forced me to become comfortable talking in front of people. First you might have to fake your confidence, but just like anything else the more you practice the easier it will be. 

20 | ALWAYS SEND THAT THANK YOU NOTE | Don't underestimate the power of a thank you note, some of the best working relationships I've ever had have started with a simple thank you. 

21 | SAY HELLO TO EVERYONE YOU MEET | It's amazing how many times I see someone completely ignore another person. Walk around any college campus or any city and you'll usually see people staring at their phones to avoid interacting with other people. A simple head nod and a smile or a "Hi, How are you?" goes a long way and I don't just mean to other peers, say hello to the janitor, the waitress, the security guard, the plumber, etc. You never know who will be the one that let's you in a locked building at 7:00am, make a late night call to fix your air conditioner or stop to help you out if you're stranded on the side of the road. 

22 | LIMIT TIME ONLINE | The best thing I ever did was decide to limit both social media and email to 30 minutes at lunch and 30 minutes in the evening. It's amazing how much time you add to your day if you aren't on your phone 24/7. 

23 | HAVE A BACKBONE | Hold your own and don't let people walk all over you. 

24 | FAMILY IS EVERYTHING | When I say family I don't mean just your blood relatives. It can mean your best friend, the honorary uncle, your roommates and the people that have always been and will continue to be there for you. 

25 | HAVE A SMALL, BUT SOLID CIRCLE | You don't need a ton of friends, you just need a few really good ones. Life isn't a popularity contest and having hundreds of friends isn't going to make you any happier. 

26 | SOMETIMES IT'S OK TO WALK AWAY | If something or someone is causing you more harm than good it's time to let it go.

27 | DON'T GIVE A DAMN WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK | Over the past few years I've gradually made peace with the fact that I don't really care that much anymore. By the time you approach 30 you realize that most people are so busy living their own lives that they don't have time to pay attention to you in the first place, so you do you.

28 | LIFE LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE | Not everyone gets married, goes through college or has children and some people choose certain types of lifestyles. In this day and age we should be able to recognize the fact that as long as someone is happy and isn't causing harm to another person, then they should be able to go on with their lives without judgment.

29 | LIVE SIMPLY & BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE | If you live out in the middle of nowhere you probably already know this, but you don't need a new Lambo or mansion to live a happy life. As long as you have a roof over your head, good people around you and food on the table thats really all you need.

30 | NO ONE EVER REALLY HAS IT ALL FIGURED OUT | My parting advice is that no one really has it all figured out. Do I know where I'll be in the next 30 years? No. Do I want to know? No, because it will change as I do. Everyone is just doing their best to hang on and roll with the punches and enjoy life for what it is - a series of unpredictable, but insanely beautiful moments.

Northern Roots & Southern Disposition

Carly Drew



Welcome back to my little corner of the internet! I recently made the decision to get into blogging again. This space was originally started as part of a grad school seminar assignment, but I let it go to the wayside when working two jobs and running a studio took over every aspect of my life. After recently stepping away from one of those jobs to simplify things and have a little more studio time, I realized I miss having something that forces me to actually write down my thoughts. I’m not naturally a writer or a person of many words, so this has always been a challenge for me. This past year I’ve been relying on the crutch of Instagram as a visual diary, which doesn’t do much when it comes to thinking things through little more. I also find it increasingly important for artists and creators to have control over their own digital platform, one that doesn’t rely on algorithms or is controlled by whatever the newest data feed looks like. Jason Lee recently wrote a goodbye letter to his Instagram feed and while I’m by no means ready to leave that space, I completely understand his perspective. Social media is fast and immediate gratification. As someone that spends several weeks making images it’s hard to place them into a context where they only get a second of thoughtless time, then quickly get lost in the bigger picture of someone's social feed. So here I am, back to my old stomping grounds and writing some slightly longer form content that I hope people will enjoy spending some time with. As part of my re-introduction to the blog, below you will find little more on how my backstory has shaped my work, why I make the type of work I do and what you can expect to find documented in the blog over the coming months.


All of my family is originally from a very small town in the Appalachian mountains of western Pennsylvania. I spent a lot of summers on my grandparents farm growing up and will always have fond memories of running through cornfields, chasing wild turkeys and Mom (not so gently) scrubbing the coal dust off the bottom of my feet after walking barefoot on the back porch. Western Pennsylvania is a beautiful, but sometimes hard place. There’s a lot of interest in energy and agriculture in the region and at times those interests create intense dynamics in families. This is what happened to my family after my grandparents passed away, things got straight up Hatfield and McCoy over land and mineral rights. One of the hardest things to struggle with in your younger years is figuring out who you are, but that even harder when a lot of the places and people you thought you knew all change in the blink of an eye. A lot of things were said and relationships shattered that will most likely never be reconciled. The older I get and the more my own stubbornness comes to light, I realize this happens. There are some things you need to walk away from. Things you need to stop fighting for so that you don’t get twisted up and lose yourself. That’s not to say it's the end of that chapter in my life, but sometimes you need a little distance to make up your mind on things. In grad school I decided to start making work about how energy and land politics impact the family dynamic in order to help myself process some of the things that were going on in my own family. It was an incredibly hard for me to pull from such intense personal struggle and put it into a public context, but eventually I realized that in the process of making such personal work people could relate more to the complexities of these issues and connect to the work on another level. The two series that started out of those explorations, Contested Grounds and Will + Testament, have evolved into two of my favorite to date and even though the subjects are now no longer as deeply personal as the family farm, they are still rooted in places that resonate with me. 



While I spent a lot of summers in Pennsylvania, we lived on the other side of Appalachia in the mountains of South Carolina. This region is steeped in independent spirits, sleepy mountain hollows and afternoon storms that’ll make you forget the rest of the world exists. It was here I learned my affinity for red clay and the hard work that came with farm life. Most of my days were spent in a dusty riding ring, cleaning tack and going on long trail rides through the foothills. Unfortunately a bad riding accident and a few broken bones made it a necessity to turn attention to other things so that my body could have time to heal. This is when I turned my attention to drawing, which was really the only other thing I was ever good at. If there’s one thing I learned from all my years with horses is that hard work is everything. I got lucky that I stumbled into the classroom of someone who realized that I knew how to work and showed me how to apply that to a field that I didn’t have the slightest clue about. It was here that I learned not to give up easily and became a firm believer that results are always proportionate to the time you put into something, two things not many people these days have the patience for. To this day the combination of my stubbornness and work ethic are probably the only two reasons I’ve made it this far. Throughout the work you'll see a lot of this show up in the tenacity and patience involved with the line work, which often results in richly colored and detailed drawings. You'll also see the colors of Southern Appalachia in each piece, from the rusty red of the dirt, to the bright blue of the sky and the rich greens that show up after a summer storm. These colors paired with the drama of the heavy and humid atmospheres typical to the South, have all become constants in my palette and daily life. 


Another major component of my work is the time I spend on the road. I get restless. Guess you could say I’m a bit of a free spirit in that I don’t do well staying in the same place for long. Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live and relish having a little piece of mountain that I call home, but travel has always been an essential component of my life and I really wouldn't have it any other way. Part of the blame goes to the constant road trips between southern and northern Appalachia, but most of all it was my Grandpa that passed on the inclination to see the world. He once rode his motorcycle from Pennsylvania to Montana, traveled around the US in an Airstream and had a passion for wildlife and the land that was passed on to all of his grandchildren in some capacity. One of the things I’ll always cherish are the old National Geographics that he used to give me, and whether he realized it or not, flipping through those pages only fueled my need to see the world. So you see, there was no getting around the fact that I would spend a good portion of my life on the road. It’s in my blood and is what I need to keep my creative side going.


Guess you could say I got lucky that a large part of my education came out of the long days covered in red dirt and all those years driving through the heart of Appalachia. The energy and land politics, nuances of rural life and the little bits of my personal history that make up the drawings run deep in my veins. I consider myself lucky that all of these things, both the good and the bad, somehow created the perfect little storm that made me who I am today and opened my eyes to the world. You can often tell a lot about a place and it's people by reading the landscape and the remnants of what they have left behind. Sometimes it's a somber tale of loss and other times it's one of progress, but regardless of which there is always a story to tell. The source imagery for my work comes from my time traveling through rural America and in particular the mountains of Appalachia, is what inspires me and makes me excited to create. Each one of the drawings becomes a part of that story and when placed together create an even larger dialogue about rural culture. More importantly though is that at the root of it all is the moment when I'm driving down those old backroads, breathing the evening mountain air and looking at the last bit of light on the horizon. It's always a good to take a moment to put life into perspective and remind yourself that the world is bigger than you are. 



What you can expect from this space is a curated selection of the things that inspire, interest and directly influence my work rooted in the the topics above. There are a few main series that I'll be dividing the posts into to make the blog easier to index. You can see all of the posts in each category by clicking on the series name beside the category listing at the bottom of each post. Here is a quick run down of each category and what it will be about.  "Exhibitions & Events" is where I'll be announcing where you can see my work on display. "Field Notes" will be made up of notes on the things I'm reading, listening or watching that inspire me. "In the Studio" will act like a window into my workspace, where you'll be able to catch snippets of the creative process, tutorials and what I'm currently working on. Any road trips, hiking excursions and travels abroad will be documented in the "On the Road" series. "Notes On" (which is probably the one that excites me the most) will have longer form posts that detail my inquiries into the intersection of visual art, history, creativity, science and environmental theory. I've always enjoyed the fact that my work encompasses all of these things on some level and look forward to sharing my thoughts on them in more detail. I look forward to getting back into the habit of writing over the next few months and hope you enjoy reading the posts as much as I enjoy writing them. On another note if your story has impacted or inspired your work, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

To keep up to date please subscribe via rss in the link below. I'll be adding an email subscription and newsletter soon. For more day to day posts, follow me over on Instagram



Thomas Moran & the Hudson River School

Carly Drew

Thomas Moran,  Valley of the Catawissa in Autumn,  1862. 

Thomas Moran, Valley of the Catawissa in Autumn, 1862. 

In the previous posts I discussed my first impressions of the museum and talked about my experience at the Picturing the Americas symposium, but in this one I'm changing it up a bit and talking about one painting in particular, Thomas Moran's Valley of the Catawissa in Autumn. During my four days at the museum I circled back to this piece about 20 times and it was without a doubt one of the works I was drawn to most at Crystal Bridges.

This post got away from me a little bit. I originally set out to talk about the Hudson River painters, but instead found myself contemplating the true power of an image. At first glance Moran's painting seems like just another moutain beautiful view of the Appalachians. A predictably foggy morning that resembles every other painting and photo you find of these mountains, but there was an undeniable magnetism with this work. It's a similar view to what I've seen hundreds, if not thousands of times. In a flash all of those memories and personal history interlaced with a painting loaded with so much context and meaning. It was the most real and sublime experience, I've ever had with a work of art. 

There is something to be said for the simple power of place in a work. Even though this painting is a little over 150 years old, there are so many resemblances to home for me that feel familiar, but also leave me awestruck in a way I hadn't been for a long while. Over the years as an art student you realize that not many people feel the paintings of the Hudson River Valley are relevant today. Part of that is true, as can be said of any artist that made work in the past, because history never lives in the present. Part of that is also false, becuase history still plays a credible role in the way we live our lives everyday and propel ourselves forward. For me I've always admired their work, theres not doubt its technically solid and showcases the beauty of the land, but it also has a strong political connotations, personal history and was a founding movement for American art. Several strong traits that should never be discounted. So why is it that so many people can't seem to get past this nagging feeling that these images are done? That they are trite, over wrought and something that any contemporary artist should shy away from in their own work? This is not to say that in the canon of art history they have been downplayed in any way, but as an influence and lineage for contemporary artists its sometimes hard to link back to that particular movement. It's like there is a gap or they are on a pedestal that is out of reach and can't be touched. 

Obviously this is a lie. If you paint any landscape in North America you reference these painters in some way and link onto a tradition that has defined this country like no other. This is what I was thinking about while sitting on that bench in the museum, coming about as close to some type of meditation as I ever will. It was then I came to the realization that it's not the Hudson River School's paintings that we have a problem with, it's the percieved idealism that feels tired and outdated. The idea of perfection in a place has become so loaded, there are moments we can't get past them. This idealism is what most people associate with the Hudson River School, so its easy to see why they have acheived both canonical status and notoriety in the art world. I mean they are partly to blame for the rise of Thomas Kinkade, someone that unabashedly took what these painters were trying to accomplish and turned it into something without any semblance to reality. Creating a distorted, absurd and sickly sweet idealistic fantasy.


The Hudson River School was more than ideal in their work though and I think that's what a lot of people miss. These painters were depicting the way a nation was growing, spearheaded an entire shift in political symbolism to nature, bolstered the attachment of religion to the natural world, the changes in the landscape due to natural resource consumption, had a strong voice in land politics and were a cause for conservation movement. They took all of those ideas and added to them the strength in depicting places that were also steeped in personal history. You can feel the care and the reverence in the way the works are painted and there is no denying it. The power of place is real in these images, they are testaments to a specific time and intentions. This is what most people grab onto without realizing it and is what makes us feel the work versus just seeing the work.

Beauty in the form of idealism is long gone in contemporary art circles, we are all but numb to it and in some ways that is a good thing. Making work today is much different than it was 150 years ago, audience included. People can get an implied sense of sublime from any image on an iPad, iPhone or what have you. It's been oversensitized and so when we really get hit in the face with an artwork or moment in real life its hard to actually enjoy it, or hell even recognize it. It's something you've seen too times, but havent really paid attention to. As a landscape artist today it's my job to make people stop and take notice. I have chosen to still make beautiful, sublime images reflcting back on what the Hudson River painters set out to do, but my images are almost the reverse in intention. My goal is not nation building, I work with a strong sense of place and personal history at the forefront. It's to show the strength, humor and turmoil of living a rural life in places today. To look at how technology, changes in resource and land politics have deeply personal impacts. It's to bring attention to these forgotten or unnoticed moments of sublime in everyday life. It's linking back to the American landscape tradition, while redefining it at the same time...making it mine and mucking it up a bit. So when I look at the Thomas Moran piece above I see more than the beauty of the landscape, I see a charged image full of intention, one which I graciously nod back in the work I have chosen to make.  

Fall in the Southland

Carly Drew


In the south its officially fall when the muscadine vines start to yellow, misty rain that sticks around all day kicks in and the mornings smell like burnt leaves. There's always been something refreshing about the seasons changing that feels more renewing that the New Year itself. Its like the quick cold snaps and never ending rainy days are the signal to get cozy. To pick back up on projects that got pushed aside during the summer, when the weather was too nice to even think about being inside. This is my most productive time of year. Days are spent hunkered down in the studio, drinking more hot tea than necessary and punctuated by a few long walks with the dogs to let the crisp breeze kick my focus back in...that has to be my favorite thing about fall. For me its never been about the sickly sweetness of pumpkin spice everything or the excuse to wear plaid (not that one is ever needed), instead its the weather giving you an urgency to do do anything. Summer is long and lazy, but fall gradually whispers that its time. Time to get busy again because you are inspired. Time to wander off on tangents and trust the process. Time to indulge the little sparks of creativity and sudden clarity that flicker in with the smoky sweet smell of the season. Every year when the first hints of yellow take hold I rest easy in the thought that soon my mind will begin to reel with the possibilities of the coming months and oddly enough find peace in the excitement of new projects on the horizon. 


ACL Surgery

Carly Drew


Over the past few months I haven't been posting much here or on social media. There are times when you need a break from the crazy that comes from keeping up with both real and online life. At the beginning of March I tore my ACL doing a mud run in Charleston. The doctor thought it was a sprained patella tendon, so I went on with life thinking it would be better in a week or two. Three weeks later I was stepping out of my truck bed when my leg collapsed completely. Realizing it was probably more serious than a sprained patella, I went to an orthopedist who sent me for an MRI that confirmed my ACL was completely torn. He had me in reconstructive surgery by the second week of April, where I had an autograph using my own patella tendon to repair the non-existent ligament. 

The surgery went great and I was home resting by lunch, but the recovery process would take much longer. I learned quickly that an injury of that magnitude takes a great deal of time, energy and patience. After four months of physical therapy, long hours of working on my own and pushing myself as much as I could, I was finally released from PT at the end of August feeling 110%. There is still some scar tissue and a little stiffness every now and then, but thats to be expected six months after a major knee surgery. More importantly by slowing down and taking time to focus on recovery, I was able to come back even stronger. It gave me a challenge that I haven't had before and sometimes thats all you need to push yourself forward.  

In the spirit of replacing one challenge with another, I've decided to come back to blogging. Writing has never been something that I've been fond of, but I hope putting renewed energy into it will push me in a different way than my ACL recovery has. It's already been an exciting few weeks getting ready to share all the new projects I've been working on and I look forward to sharing them with you soon!

Hunting + Contemporary Photography

Carly Drew

When researching contemporary work on the subject of hunting there are very few painters, drawers or printmakers that come up. While this was disappointing, I did find a number of photographers that were interested in documenting hunting. Albeit in a more documentary spirit, the fact that photographers are interested made me wonder about their approach to the work.  This was interesting to me because it added another facet to the fact that a lot of hunting is documented via photography on social media. After digging around a bit the two that struck me as most similar to my work conceptually are Brian Lesteberg and Erika Larsen. Below are some images and a little information about each, with links to their websites if you are interested in learning a bit more about them.

Brian Lesteberg chooses to document hunting around where he grew up in rural North Dakota, the images are both quiet and intense at the same time and deal with more than the momentary action of the kill, emphasizing preparation, anticipation and conclusion in an introspective manner.

Erika Larsen traveled the United States for two projects about hunting, Young Blood and The Hunt.  In Young Blood she focuses on the next generation of hunters and coming of age as a functioning part of their environment, while revealing a tradition as it carries on.  In The Hunt focuses on the primal nature of the act and, much like Lesteberg, the pervading sense of calmness and introspection that accompanies it.

Rembrandt's Slaughtered Ox

Carly Drew

Part of my graduate research is exploring the visuals of hunting in both traditional genre painting and contemporary trophy snapshots. An activity that typically takes place in rural areas, hunting is an important signifier for the way contemporary relationships to the land are evolving, making these images serve as important documentation of those ideas. This is why I wanted to write a series of blogs that focus on starting a visual dialogue about the interactions that take place between man, nature and culture through hunting.

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