Art Treatise: Brushstrokes

BY Amy Kilgore Mangus

Wilmington artist Todd Carignan 39 pads around barefoot in his studio. Tubes of paint are scattered about and numerous paintbrushes are neatly organized nearby. His art silhouette figure drawings and portraits of singers and musicians adorns the walls of the historic two-story yellow house.

In a corner room upstairs Carignan set up shop. A longtime friend wanted to open a satellite law office in Wilmington and offered the artist space to work.

 It s a little cramped but I can do my paintings in the corner and get my music going   he says.

Carignan s diverse love of art came from his education at Savannah College of Art and Design where he majored in sequential art or comic book visual art. He returned to his native Wilmington soon after graduation.

 After I graduated   he says   I came here and kind of fell into the more fine art crowd. I have several different styles and I ve got a lot of different interests.

His style depends on his mood.

 I ll do shows in different spots. Some art galleries want work that is more conservative and colorful featuring landscapes and downtown. I did a show at Artfuel (a local tattoo shop and art gallery) that was edgy and more pop art. 

Carignan mainly works in oil and acrylics but also plays with pastel ink print making and computer design.

 I read a lot and pick up art magazines and start playing with different things. I m teaching myself watercolor right now   he says.

Travel and his family inspire him.

 I ve done more paintings and drawings of my two boys and my wife than I have of anybody   he explains. A trip to Vietnam in 2009 inspired a series of impressionistic paintings.

 My mother-in-law is Vietnamese and when my wife was three or four months pregnant with our first son we visited Vietnam for about three weeks and met all my wife s extended family   he says.  I took hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pictures and so I ve been doing paintings based on the photos. I think at some point I ll make a nice coffee table book about the trip.

He enjoys painting people and genre painting.

 That goes back to my comic book upbringing. I like telling stories   he explains.

Landscapes and painting water interest him as well.

 There s something about the way water moves flows and catches light   Carignan says.  I like the challenge of it. It s got a life of its own and maybe it s got its own little story. 

While Carignan s work is never quite the same in genre or tone he strives to fulfill his creativity while satisfying his customer s taste.

 There s a balance between what an audience wants and what you want to do   Carignan says.  Trying to fill that balance is challenging. I m pretty fortunate because I work in so many different styles. It s probably a double-edged sword because I don t have one recognizable style. But I don t want to be bored.

Carignan juggles marriage and fatherhood and when not teaching at DREAMS of Wilmington and Cameron Art Museum he works at Townhouse Art & Frame Center.

 My wife is very patient. Sometimes I ll put the kids to bed then come here at 10 o clock at night   he says.

He was the featured artist during the month of August at Manifestationz Art Gallery in Cary North Carolina. His one man show  Vietnam meets Pop Art  runs at HOWL Gallery/Tattoo in Fort Myers Florida through September 30.