Watercolor wizard

Local arist Lopez adds color to Madison

By Don Ward

(July 1999) – It didn’t take long for Lopez to develop a following. Known for her watercolors and chalk pastels of local scenes, the Ohio River valley, flowers and fountains, Lopez has several repeat customers who often make special requests.
Lopez is usually happy to oblige.

Carolyn Lopez

Photo by Don Ward

Madison-based artist Carolyn Lopez
displays her art throughout her home.

“The outdoor scenes seem to sell the best, but I enjoy painting flowers the best,” said Lopez, 65, who works mostly at her kitchen table at her home on West Second Street.
It is there that she also sells her paintings.
“Sometimes people will bring me a photograph of a house or scene that they want me to paint,” Lopez said. “Many of my paintings are hanging in homes and businesses around town. I’ve even got one in the King’s Daughters’ Hospital.”
In addition to flowers of all types, Lopez has painted many versions of the Broadway Fountain – a Madison landmark. In all, she guesses she has completed hundreds of paintings since those early art lessons under the tutelage of Hazel Baker and watercolorist Herman Fox.
“I started with oils, but now I only do watercolors and pastels on sandpaper imported from West Germany,” she said. “I do well with pastels, but I enjoy watercolors more.”
Unfortunately for her, the pastels are her biggest sellers.
Elyse Taylor of Madison discovered Lopez’s work 10 years ago when the budding artist displayed some of her paintings at the Cards ’N Such store, where Lopez then worked. Taylor was interested in obtaining a painting of Madison’s Hanging Rock Hill.
Lopez invited Taylor to her home to view her other paintings, and Taylor wound up buying one of the hill, just as it appeared many years earlier.
“She’s a great painter,” said Taylor, who directs the Hanover College Campus Center and runs the annual Christmas Crafts Show there.
“She had taken the time to research what the Hanging Rock Hill was like when it was only a dirt road. Plus I love watercolors,” Taylor said. “She does great work for people who are into Madison history.”
Lopez is no stranger to the Madison area. The daughter of John and Faye Collins, she grew up on a farm in nearby Hanover. The family moved to Dayton, Ohio, when she was 10 months old, but by her seventh-grade year, they were back in the area.
She spent much of her adult life working at various retail stores in Madison – Bear’s Jewelry Store, Lord’s and Bula’s dress shops, and at Cards ’N Such, a picture framing store where she spent 10 years.
Her first husband, Carl Schafer, died from leukemia in 1967 at age 36. She remarried in 1970 to Jesse Lopez of Madison. He had also lost his first wife to cancer.
Their downtown home is decorated with Carolyn’s paintings – from her early pieces to her most recent ones. Many of her works contain her signature red bird, perched somewhere in the background.
Lopez is well known in the Madison art community. She has displayed her work every year since 1983 at Madison’s prestigious fall art festival, the Chautauqua. In fact, in 1977 she was commissioned to paint the official Chautauqua poster, a high honor among local artists.
Lopez doesn’t travel to sell her work, like many artists. She prefers to stay close to home and, besides the Chautauqua, only displays her paintings at the Hanover College Christmas Crafts Show.
Lopez began seriously painting for profit around 1985. She’s painted a variety of subjects, including bookmarks.
Recently, she added a new item to her repertoire – personalized wedding invitations.
Though popular locally, she remains modest about her work. “I don’t claim to be a great artist. I mainly do it for pleasure. And I really get humbled at the Chautauqua.”

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