Nostalgia Trip

Architectural renderings give local artist a historic niche

Carolyn Serrano is in the building.
Portrait by Karin Strickland

When Carolyn DeMorest Serrano was growing up in Michigan in the 1950s, a career in the arts seemed a bit remote, although her mother’s much-admired seamstress work sparked an early interest in pattern and design. “I always liked to draw,” Serrano remembers, “but I never followed through until later in life.” 

She held down a full-time job in Texas while working toward an advanced degree in business administration, but after a couple of decades, she turned seriously to a career in the arts, where she had wanted to be all along. 

Photo by Karin Strickland

When she moved to Hendersonville in the 1990s, she worked in a gift shop on Main Street and taught drawing. Today, she is a fixture at Hendersonville’s Curb Market, where she can be found most days surrounded by examples of her architectural and life-study drawings. The Curb Market has been in continuous operation since 1924, and Serrano’s been part of it since 2005; she was invited to join after her drawing talents became sought after by downtown merchants looking for eye-catching promotional graphics. (She credits “the loving support and encouragement” of her husband Ed for helping advance her career.)

Serrano has also become a well-known annual presence with the Heritage Crafters at the Western North Carolina Mountain State Fair and at the Village of Yesteryear at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh.

The precision and bold lines of Serrano’s work are particularly suited to her longtime interest in the architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which downtown Hendersonville offers in abundance. “My grandmother loved antiques, and because of her I’ve always loved history,” Serrano says of her attraction to the weathered bricks and stone of structures like downtown’s iconic courthouse or the old Justus Pharmacy building, both of them popular subjects in her repertoire.

Photo by Karin Strickland

Ten years ago, Serrano embarked on a project to draw all 13 of Henderson County public schools as a fundraising project for the county’s Education Foundation, and she recently completed a series of landscape drawings for the Green River Preserve. A drawing of the historic Blue Ridge Baptist Church, with its thrusting facade and assertive lines, captures the endurance of the congregation’s 180-year history.

Photo by Karin Strickland

“I actually started with watercolor,” Serrano says, recalling her early efforts, “but I couldn’t get the definition I wanted, so I turned to drawing.” Modeled from photographs and depicted with a Rapidograph technical pen and a ruler, her images occupy that alluring territory halfway between the real world and our softer memories of it — an effect enhanced by Serrano’s use of a colored pencil or ink in some of her work. Her original drawings are produced by NC Printing in Hendersonville to become limited-edition prints and notecards.

The artist renders meticulous lines with a Rapidograph technical pen.
Photos by Karin Strickland

In the past two years, Serrano’s ventured even farther afield to teach during mission trips to Nicaragua, where she’s taught art classes combined with Bible study. “Art becomes a universal language when shared with others,” she says.

And she continues to teach closer to home — at first it was children’s art classes; then she advanced to leading adult classes at Blue Ridge Community College. She describes her methods: “[My students] all start by working from an enlarged photograph or some magazine art. I show them how to connect up the dots where the lines meet, but from there on, I want them to come out with their own interpretation.

“I want them to draw what they see, not what I see.” 

Carolyn DeMorest Serrano’s signed and numbered prints and notecards are sold at her Curb Market Space (221 North Church St., on the Washington Street side). For more information, including inquires about commissioned pieces, call the artist at 828-595-0901 or e-mail ArtByCarolynAnn@gmail.com. Winter Curb Market hours are Thursday and Saturday, 8am-2pm (828-692-8012, “Curb Market” on Facebook, curbmarket.com).

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