- June 8, 2020
Carol Roman has a formula for water. It took her years to come up with and she now gets frequent compliments on it.
How do you create a formula for water?
Well, you take a little of this paint, a little of that one, mix them together, test to see if it’s right, and finally, you have water. Not just any water. Turquoise, beautiful-like-you’ve-never-seen, only-on-Longboat-Key water.
Roman is an artist, capturing the sand, sea and sky of Longboat Key and the surrounding areas. You can often find her at Essence of Time in Cortez, painting when business is slow. But for the months of August, September and October, you can also find the local artist’s renditions featured in the gallery at All Angels by the Sea, where it is available for purchase. However, it’s not likely that you’ll see many canvasses when taking in the bright colors and real textures of Roman’s art. You may see a door, or a window frame, or maybe just a long, thin piece of wood.
“A lot of times the wood and the different elements that I paint on was to camouflage my non-perfect painting, you know,” Roman said. “If I painted on this, then they won't notice that it's not such a good painting, but it'll look cool because it's on this cool piece of wood.”
The choice of wood, though a match made in heaven, was not accidental. When she started painting, Roman owned a furniture-building store called Simply Put on Cortez. Roman would paint on odd pieces of wood, whatever was laying around. After picking up a brush about 20 years ago, she’s taught herself all she knows.
“I could see a painting on something,” Roman said. “But I couldn’t see a painting on a piece of canvas.”
Now, she usually picks up a brush every day. Years ago, Peach’s Restaurant asked her to do the art for all 10 locations in the Sarasota and Bradenton area. It was a big job.
“We couldn't find huge canvases like that,” Roman said. “And I said, ‘You know what, my husband's a builder. He's got these old doors, hollow core flat doors. Yeah, I'll paint a scene on that. And we can attach it to the wall, see if you like them.’ So we did it.”
These days, her art can be summed up neatly: “If it sits still long enough, it's going to get painted,” said Roman.
Sitting still around Essence of Time are cabinets, doors, windows and stray bits of wood brought to life by Roman, who makes wood shine like the sand on Longboat in the middle of the day. Her clouds, often shaped by her mood, billow in the sky and it’s always a perfect day on the beach. Watered-down acrylic paint is her medium of choice, often resulting in a watercolor effect on a gently scalloped wave. Even the muddy water from rinsing out her brushes gets used for shadows.
“There are just wonderful little mysteries revealed through through manipulation of paint that I just love so much,” said Roman. “You know, I just have fun every day. I just love life.”
Roman does a lot of custom work, commissioned by people who have seen her art. Sometimes it’s furniture, sometimes it’s a mural. But it’s never really planned.
“That's why I have so much fun — because I don't even know what I'm going to do half the time,” Roman said. “I just eyeball what I'm going to do, and just paint and it comes out. My son in law calls me a very chaotic painter.”
In doing custom work, especially work that can get so large, Roman is often invited into people’s homes. At first, that felt strange, until her son-in-law advised her to break down the requested scene into shapes. Then, everything clicked into place and she was off and running. Now she just tries to keep up with the commissions.
“When I'm in people's homes, they like to open up to me. I can share the gospel with them and just, you know, enjoy them and whatever their troubles are,” Roman said. “I can listen to them. And it's almost like therapy for people.”
When Roman talks about painting, it’s with a nearly childlike glee, the kind that can only be genuine from someone who has never lost an ounce of love for what they do. Like her paintings, Roman is real and bright and unique. The self-taught painter is always innovating, unencumbered by what her art “should” be or the proper way to paint. The only time she took art classes, the students from Ringling raved over her freewheeling style, jealous that no professor had gotten in her head to tell her the rules of painting.
“That made me feel justified in what I was doing, so I forgot about the classes,” Roman said.
Trial, error and the internet have been her biggest teachers. A baby wipe manipulates the sand in a new way or hands do a better job than brushes, and suddenly Roman has another technique to add to her repertoire.
“I haven’t gotten my feet up there yet, though,” she said.
Before the beach scenes, there were mountains and goats (including her neighbor’s goats, whose likenesses wound up on a six-foot-long board) from when she lived in Tennessee. Scenes in Wisconsin are also fair game, especially hay bales.
“I have goosebumps just thinking about hay bales,” Roman said.
Her journey with paint has been one full of love and brightness, which is extremely obvious from her work. When you take a glance around Essence of Time, it’s easy to spot a Carol Roman.
“The Lord's given me a gift that I can do something that I truly enjoy and touch people at the same time,” she said. “I just feel really blessed.”