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

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.

Summer Reading List

Carly Drew

I’m not a big reader, but I love books. Reading has always been a bit of a struggle for me and I need absolute silence to focus. Even then sometimes I still have to re-read things several times in order to process the information. If there are lots of images and diagrams then great, but the second I see page after page of solid text things start to run together. I’m a maker, so the easiest way for me to learn by doing, which is why it's always been hard for me to learn anything from a book. Despite this one of my goals for this year is to read a chapter or article every morning. The first few months I used this to catch up on all the poor National Geographics that had been long abandoned on my reading nook table. By the time I finished those it was already summer, so I decided to go old school and make myself an official reading list. A little extra motivation in the form of a book list was just what I needed to finally get into the habit of reading, there's nothing more satisfying than checking titles off a list and not having to think about which book to crack open next. Read on to discover which the topic and books I chose for my summer list, then see which ones I'm considering adding to my list for the fall. 


Creativity and habit building were the motivating factor behind the books I curated for my summer reading list. The creative process has always been a topic I’ve been interested in and over the past several years between studio work and teaching I've formed a lot of my own thoughts and observations. Habit building is something I became interested in recently because for the first time in a long time I'll have several solid days devoted to studio work. For years I’ve been squeezing studio time into the odd windows between teaching classes and now that most of my weekdays are becoming devoted to studio I get to make my own schedule, which can be both a good and a bad thing. This made me interested in seeing how other creatives approach structuring their days, so it made senes to build my summer reading list around both creativity and habit building. 

Steal Like An Artist // Austin Kleon

Thoughts // If you want a book that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished reading something in a short amount of time, while also being chock full of solid advice, this is it. I “amen-ed” to half of the book, because Kleon is often saying things I find myself saying to my design and drawing students. It's so easy to get caught up in trying to be original or cool and young artists often forget that what really makes them unique is their own life and unique mix of influences. Kleon gets this and I really think every freshman art student should be required to read Steal Like an Artist. Personally I think it would take a lot of the anxiety out of the creative process and head off some of the blatant copycatting running rampant in the arts and social media. It's also a good read for veteran artists in that it serves as a reminder to get back to the basics of why we love to do what we do. Steal Like an Artist cuts a lot of the fluff that other similar books before it have relied on and could easily be considered an updated, clearer and more concise version of the classic Art & Fear. 

Show Your Work // Austin Kleon

Thoughts // Since I enjoyed Steal Like an Artist so much, I went ahead and bought the follow up book, Show Your Work. Kleon's second book creates the essential road map for getting your work out there into the universe. The internet has drastically changed the way that artists can interact with potential clients/collectors and Kleon paints an accurate picture of the opportunities and pressures that come along with creating anything in the digital age. There's a lot of subtle branding advice and also some great online professional practices for creatives throughout the book. He also touches on everything from idea generation to sharing your work and offers insight on how to make genuine connections by becoming the purveyor of your own story. Most importantly though, he discusses why it's finally time to kick the old school notion of "selling out" to the curb, emphasizing that we shouldn't be perpetuating the starving artist narrative any further than it's already gone, one thing that I agree with 100%. Overall this paired with his first book, Steal Like An Artist, are a great introduction to what it's like living and working as a creative in the internet age. 

Better Than Before // Gretchen Rubin

Thoughts // Knowing yourself and your habits are half the battle and Gretchen Rubin gets it. I can honestly say I learned a lot about the way I operate and do certain things from this book. Rubin has a sense of genuine curiosity and a nice writing style that makes Better Than Before such an interesting read. One of the ideas I was especially keen on was the notion that "habits are the architecture of daily life," especially as they can easily make or break your day. As someone that constantly has 50,000 things running through their mind at any given moment, I find that having structure helps keep me from getting distracted and lets me focus on the important things. I also loved the idea of the "power hour" where you do all of the tasks you've been putting off throughout the week. I now do this on Friday afternoons, by organizing my to-do list, zeroing out my inbox and cleaning up my studio space for the following week. This helps me tie up any loose ends and be able to relax, enjoy the weekend and know exactly what I need to focus on the next.

My biggest critique of the book is actually the four Tendencies. They are a bit hard to follow for people that don't 100% fit into that framework and there are a lot of extra subsets to these Tendencies that can get confusing. I'm still not sure exactly which framework I fall into and think her "Distinctions" are a lot easier to work from in terms of habit building. Regardless I still gained a lot of valuable tips and tricks from the book that have helped me refine my daily routine and would definitely recommend this book for anyone in charge of their own schedule.

Big Magic // Elizabeth Gilbert

Thoughts // I won't lie, I have mixed emotions on this one. This might be the most over-hyped book on the list and I'm not quite sure it lived up to my expectations. Don't get me wrong, the book is beautifully written, has lot of interesting personal stories and delves into the insecurities of the creative mind, but I felt like there was something missing that I still can't quite put my finger on. What I did enjoy was how Gilbert denounces some of the unrealistic representations associated with living life as a creative and that she advocates not being a martyr for your art. Her discussion on crafting your own education and the fact that you never really stop learning was especially on point as well. 

On the flip side there's a lot going on in this book and it's not all cohesive. There were some contradictory parts and a few chapters ending up reading more like a self help book than an exploration of creativity. Gilbert also talks about the idea of creativity in almost religious terms and when it came to the discussion of independent idea spirits floating around from person to person she started to lose me. I'm a believer that ideas come from living your life and being inspired by what you do on a daily basis kind of person, not a divine inspiration kind of person...but hey, to each their own. Overall there were some really great sentiments in the book, but I found that it was ultimately geared more towards novices. If you feel like you need a "permission slip" or don't have the courage to create something on your own, then this is the book for you. The rest of us will just get to work. 


Have you read any of these books? If so I'd love to hear what you thoughts on them. My fall reading list will be going up towards the end of November, this way I have time to actually read the books and give my thoughts on them. You can find out what I'm currently reading over on my Instagram Stories and see the books on my wishlist here, that way if you want to read along with me you can. The books on this list will most likely continue exploring the various aspects of creativity, currently I'm eyeing up: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, Living a Creative Life by Sharon Louden and then I'll be going a little old school by re-reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  If you have any suggestions for what to read next or any other good books on creativity let me know in the comments below!

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State of the Studio

Carly Drew

Carly Drew State of the Studio August 2018 3.jpg


The "State of the Studio" posts document what's happening in the studio from a birds-eye view, putting all of the bits and pieces from the blog, sketchbooks and other snippets shared here and on social media together into a bigger picture. It's a good way for me to keep you in the loop on what's going on project wise and giving you a better idea of how I work in terms of a longer term schedule. In this edition you'll find out how the new studio space is shaping up, get a sneak peek at sketches for new large scale work and also find a really exciting announcement for a new project coming this fall!

Study for a drawing based off images taken in Silver Point, TN.

Study for a drawing based off images taken in Silver Point, TN.


After moving into the new house last year it took a lot of time to figure out how I was going to set up the new studio and shop (on top of figuring out what to do with the rest of the house, but thats another story). The house was originally an old hunting camp in the mountains and has been added onto several times over the years, so there are lots of interesting character in the layout. Luckily the move has allowed me to almost triple my working space with the the addition of a separate woodshop. This space has allowed me to create a more fluid working process from the early stages of panel prep to finishing and framing. The new studio has tons of natural light and the additional space has opened up the opportunity to comfortably work on multiple large scale projects at once. Currently I’m building an adjustable wall-mounted system to hang in-progress work on and a cork wall for studies and reference photos. In the near future I’ll be removing the old flooring, redoing trim work, adding better lighting and repainting the walls. I'll also need to resolve a shortage on flat file storage (but seriously though what drawer/printmaker isn’t in that boat?) and build storage racks/shelves for the closet as well as larger desks to increase table surface. I’d also like to add a small seating area, but that will definitely be down the road a bit. There's still a lot of work ahead, but for now I'm extremely happy with the new space and how it's finally starting to come together.

Lots and lots of sketching...

Lots and lots of sketching...


I've got that large scale work wild hair again (not that it every really left in the first place) and getting back to working on some big drawings feels good. When you work large scale its a very physical experience, your whole body is involved and you get to move more than if you are focusing on a smaller work. There's also a lot of problem-solving that has to take place, which makes for some interesting tool choices. The downside to larger drawings is that they are a lot more time consuming, which means they usually turn into several month long projects versus smaller work which can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Progress always feels super slow and it's much harder to keep that initial motivation after the two month mark. In the end it's all worth it though, because I love the way large work shows and how it commands a space. Can’t wait to start sharing more of the process and behind the scenes with you as things start to take shape, but for now you can check out the images above for a few of the first composition sketches for work that will be taking shape over the next few months. 

Ink washes are great because they help you see value shifts and identify the light source, especially if you are working from multiple images like I do.

Ink washes are great because they help you see value shifts and identify the light source, especially if you are working from multiple images like I do.


I have this bad habit of taking one thing off my plate and then adding another, so later this year I’ll be launching the Drawn South Project. I’ve been simmering on this project for a few years and now felt like the right time to bite the bullet. One of the main things I enjoy about my studio work is that it brings rural culture into the fine art world, but unfortunately the time and process devoted to making my larger work often means that the price reflects that. Once you add in the materials and potential gallery commission, it's not too often that the people I ultimately make work for or about can’t afford to purchase one. The Drawn South Project is meant to bridge that gap. It's a documentary style project launching this fall that will make a portion of my work more accessible. This project will represent various landmarks around the Southern Appalachians in a smaller scale format that can be presented individually or grouped together to create a gallery wall. The smaller scale means they will cost less to produce, keeping them in a much lower price range than the larger scale work. The tentative launch date is the middle of October, so keep an eye out for sneak peeks and official launch announcements over the next month or two over on Instagram

Hope you're as excited as I am about all of the things happening in the studio! What are you most excited to see as it takes shape over the next few months? To keep up to date you can subscribe via rss in the link below. I'll also be adding an email subscription and newsletter later this month too, so keep your eyes open for that option soon. For more day to day posts, follow me @carlyddrew on Instagram.

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!

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Solo Exhibition @ Tennessee Tech University

Carly Drew


From January 22nd to February 22nd I'll be having my first university solo exhibition at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee. I'm very excited for the opportunity to show six new drawings and be able to display my work in a location that faces a lot of the issues that I discuss through the drawings. You can find more information about the exhibition here.