THE NEW YORK TIMES
Barkhamsted Artist Captures Landmarks on Notecards
From the cascading waterfalls of Kent Falls State Park in Kent to the colonial buildings of Miss Porter's School in Farmington, if it is a notable Connecticut site, Carol Wallace will probably commemorate it on a notecard.
With her growing line of notecards, Mrs. Wallace has depicted popular sites throughout Litchfield County and the Farmington Valley, and is enlarging her line to include scenes of Fairfield County, Hartford, New Haven and other areas.
But although Mrs. Wallace is mostly known for her note cards, they make up only part of the Barkhamsted artist's pursuits, which range from creating wine labels to technical drawings of machinery, to large watercolors that hang in galleries.
Unlike other artists, who may prefer not to call attention to their commercial work, Mrs. Wallace takes great pride in her versatility.
"I've had people who have wanted to be my agent and have me work in fine art exclusively, but I enjoy working in different areas," said Mrs. Wallace.
A Nature Lover
Most of her artwork depicts Connecticut, where Mrs. Wallace has lived for more than 20 years. Born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Wallace is a nature lover whose home overlooks woods, a pond and several stone bridges her husband, Richard, built. The Wallaces own a small Christmas tree farm and every spring they tap their maple trees.
They have two children, 15 and 17 years old, but it was when her offspring were much younger that Mrs. Wallace embarked on her art career although she did not realize she was doing so at the time.
"When my son was two, I decided to paint a series of nursery rhyme illustrations for his walls," she said. "My friends saw them and wanted to buy some so eventually I began selling my paintings."
Her notecard business got its start three years ago, when she suggested doing some notecards for her church, St. John's Episcopal Church in New Hartford. She donated her work for the fund-raising project. "I had no idea it would be successful," she said. "They assembled and sold 500 sets of cards."
The idea was adopted by the Beardsley Memorial Library in Winsted, commissioned Mrs. Wallace to create a card showing several of the town's architectural landmarks. That card was successful as well, so she decided to enter a joint project with a Torrington printer, Harry Langenheim, to create a line of quality notecards. Litchfield County, where Mrs. Wallace lives, and the Farmington Valley, where her husband has one of his law offices, seemed natural subjects.
For the 24-card project, Mrs. Wallace also assembled a team of freelance writers to write brief histories of each scene for each card. These histories help set her cards apart and also satisfy her own sense of curiosity. "I'm frustrated by cards which showed historical scenes but didn't have any information beyond that," she said. "I've always had a natural curiosity and I knew people buying my cards would appreciate knowing about the area. And Connecticut certainly does lend itself to history."
For example, the card depicting the famous West Cornwall Bridge notes that this 18th-century covered bridge, which spans the Housatonic River, is built of native oak and was nearly demolished before it was saved by the community. It "remains today as a link to the area's past and an outstanding landmark," the card notes.
The cards vary: some are black and white line drawings, while others feature touches of color. Mrs. Wallace likes to employ an unexpected touch...at the edge of Sutton's Bridge, a footbridge at the White Memorial Foundation in Litchfield, is a whimsical yellow flower, and a tri-fold card of Folly Farm in Simsbury features some sheep peeking out.
Hope Business Will Expand
Mrs. Wallace has since added more cards, making a total of about 30. She also has hired a sales representative to take her cards statewide, so she expects to begin illustrating other scenes throughout Connecticut as well. Eventually she hopes to expand to other parts of New England, and already has a card depicting a scene at Acadia National Park in Maine, which can be purchased in the Park's gift shop.
Initially, though, she went store-to-store with the cards herself, and was received rather skeptically at first. Since then, however, store owners has changed their minds, and many ordered her new cards "without even seeing the designs," she said with satisfaction.
In addition to the notecards, Mrs. Wallace regularly contributes drawings to The Litchfield County Times, a weekly newspaper, and has done illustrations for the Register Citizen of Torrington, as well as in publications for the Litchfield Hills Travel Council and the Waterbury Business and Convention Bureau.
As a fine artist, Mrs. Wallace usually leaves the constraints of her tightly done line drawings aside, preferring instead to work in watercolors. Some of her paintings are abstract, others impressionistic. She also enjoys working with acrylics and is willing to try virtually any medium.
"Tag Sale People"
Mrs. Wallace's artwork has been exhibited at the Silo Gallery in New Milford, the Washington Art Association and the Gallery on the Green in Canton. Her exhibit at the Hopkins Vineyard Gallery in Warren led to the vineyard's owners commissioning her to create watercolors to be used as wine labels. Currently, an exhibit of her original line drawings is on view at the White Memorial Foundation.
Mrs. Wallace also has advertising clients; she illustrated a brochure for the Mayflower Inn in the town of Washington, and has done mechanical sketches for a Torrington machine shop. She enjoys creating humorous artwork and haunts tag sales, seeking subjects for a series of caricatures she created entitled, "Tag Sale People."
Occasionally, she puts her non-artistic talents to work. In 1982, she initiated and produced a series of television commercials for the state's Better Yet Connecticut tourism campaign, persuading Paul Newman and others to donate their services. For this, she was presented with the 1982 Connecticut Tourism Award.
In June, she will showcase the many styles of her work in a show at the Atelier Contemporary Art Gallery in New Milford. But those expecting to see just notecards or fine art should not be surprised if some "Tag Sale People" creep in. "It does get confusing, but I do a lot of things," Mrs. Wallace said. "I'm not just one artist."