Living

Her good 'Fortune'

Artist Carrie O'Neill’s painting "Fortune Teller" graces the cover of this year's fall arts walk map. The painting features subtle colors and focuses on nature.
Artist Carrie O'Neill’s painting "Fortune Teller" graces the cover of this year's fall arts walk map. The painting features subtle colors and focuses on nature.

Carrie O'Neill, whose work is featured on the cover of the Arts Walk XLI map, speaks the language of flowers. The ink-and-watercolor images in her current series of work - including "Fortune Teller," commissioned by the city for the map and for its art collection - use plants and flowers as clues to a deeper meaning behind the images.

“During the Victorian era, people used to give each other bouquets of flowers, and the flowers that were included each had their own meaning,” O’Neill said. “The person receiving a bouquet would know your feelings about them based on the flowers included in the bouquet.

“My paintings include plants and flowers, and that adds to the narrative, if someone wants to read into it.”

O’Neill also speaks the language of clean lines and subtle colors, a combination that lends an appropriately autumnal flair to “Fortune Teller.”

“There is a refined quality to Carrie’s work that is well-suited to the fall cover,” said Stephanie Johnson, arts and events manager for the city’s Parks, Arts & Recreation department. “It’s a less-is-more approach that brings a nice balance to our recent Arts Walk covers.”

O’Neill is layering meaning into her work with the Victorian definitions. She’ll show a series of eight pieces, including the cover image, at Bryce’s Barber Shop tonight.

The artist also creates the images in layers, working first with tracing paper and pencil, then with ink and finally with watercolor washes.

“Each painting has a lot of washes of color to build up the color,” said O’Neill, a California native who moved to Olympia to study art at The Evergreen State College. She graduated in 1996.

“Fortune Teller” has about two dozen layers of watercolor.

“In the actual images, the colors are very subtle,” O’Neill said. “They are very, very thin washes of water and color.”

Ginkgo was her choice for the cover art because of its fall appeal, but she wasn’t able to find a Victorian-era meaning.

“I did some research and found a poem about ginkgo leaves by Goethe,” she said. “When you look at a ginkgo, are they two leaves coming together or are they splitting apart?”

O’Neill’s graphic lines and connection to the natural world might remind some of Olympia papercut artist Nikki McClure, who along with partner Jay T. Scott also is exhibiting her work at Bryce’s.

And that’s no accident.

“I’m friends with Nikki, and we talked about doing this last springtime,” O’Neill said. “I think our work would work well together and share the same space well.”

The two share interests, as well. “Gardening is important to Nikki, and I do a lot of gardening as well,” she said. “Including elements of the natural world makes a lot of sense, living here in such a beautiful place.”

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