Artist Carol Peebles (carolpeebles.com) has been teaching for 21 years. In fact, this year marks the 10th anniversary of her drawing atelier, Blue Easel Club, which has more than 300 members who practice the art of drawing portraits, figures, still lifes and landscapes. Throughout her career, Peebles has remained a student as well, devoted to developing her classical realism through consistent work that pushes her to expand her skills.
Her latest project is a weekly commitment to drawing the interiors of the churches and synagogues in New Orleans. As an instructor at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts, she began taking students to churches to teach perspective. Then last year, she and fellow artist Winston Labouisse began drawing a church a week during a Sunday morning service.
“We started going to a church each Sunday and before we knew it we had drawn 33 churches,” says Peebles, a New Orleans native. “We decided to do every church and synagogue. Now we’re on a mission.”
For Peebles, the undertaking has proved both exhausting as a lesson in perspective and uplifting as an experience that gives back to the artist.
“It gives you an appreciation of the architecture, especially with the old churches that have such history,” she says. “It makes you think about who prayed here in 1899. There is an emotional connection. It’s been such a huge gift.”
Peebles’ skill for accurately depicting the architectural form of these places is enhanced by her gifts for capturing light and color, both of which help convey the divinity of her subject. Though she describes some of her depictions of stained glass as more suggestions than exact renderings, there is no mistaking what each of these interiors looks and feels like. She has successfully embedded the drawings (some rendered in gentle pinks, others in ethereal blues – depending on the church and the mood) with the inspirational emotion that she experienced.
“We started with a love of drawing old historic buildings, but the project evolved into a wonderful realization of how much good there is in the world,” she says. “You see so many people trying to find their higher self.”
Peebles’ collection of about 200 churches opens at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts Academy Gallery Nov. 2 and runs through Nov. 30. In July, she will also offer the “Drawing Churches” workshop. For more information, visit blueeaselclub.com