A newsletter for artists of all genres, throughout Northeast Wisconsin

January 2018

Artist Spotlight Q & A


Phone: (920) 446-3756

Email: carol_toepke@yahoo.com

Website: http://www.collectionsbycarol.com

Carol and Roy Toepke

Business Name: Collections by Carol

STORE: https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/carol-toepke.html

BLOG: http://collectionsbycarolblog.wordpress.com

Business email: info@collectionsbycarol.com

What is your main art form/genre

We love photography. Photography is a rewarding way to explore and discover the world, and engages one’s curiosity, creativity and imagination. Merging art with craft, science and math, photography engages the mind completely.  Roy and I are a husband wife team from NE Wisconsin and each of our images is the result of patient hours spent in the field, at events, or exploring, learning, feeling and seeing new things right in our own backyard.  We focus a lot of our energies on "environmental and social portraiture". We embrace the power of being able to adjust the digital raw camera data into works of art with the detail, authenticity and direct connection to the subject matter of choice. It is very important to us that our images are photographs because it means they are in fact real events that we experienced in real places, with real subjects, in the natural beauty of our multidimensional, seasonally-driven state and beyond.”

What does “being creative” mean to you?

Good Question!

First, it is an exciting time in photography, and we fully embrace the power of being able to adjust the digital raw camera data into works of art with the detail, authenticity, and direct connection to the subject matter of choice, that comes with photography. 


Second, we do our best to capture our photographs in traditional single exposures. And in every case, we try to make our art honest to the original scene, with modest contrast and saturation adjustments for aesthetic considerations.

Third, we also enjoy using our ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like to create meaningful new original somewhat abstract interpretations of the same subject matter. 

Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely wanted to do?

To be perfectly honest, no, not really….here are some simple examples:

Carol: From the beginning, as far back as I can remember at least, I had always "created". While baking cookies I would always add a new ingredient.  While learning to sew I would create shortcuts to finish a project or adjust a pattern to fit my needs.

Roy: As a kid who lived near the Wolf River we tended to hang out there a lot.  We were thought of as the original "web-footers" because we hung out there so much.  I also had a need for speed.  My dad by trade was a mechanic, so my dad and I designed and built a small hydroplane boat that I raced and then later sold, and repeated. 

So it seems, it was a part of our DNA to change or alter what was laid out for us.  It seems our "creativity" originated based in filling our needs.  Now later in life and entering the world of retirement, we found ourselves returning to what we loved most when we were first married and before children; travel and photography. First, to support our rediscovered love, habit and addiction and to gain the equipment we needed to do what we loved most; we did shoots for magazines, calendar companies and ad campaigns for communities.  While on location we began shooting everything in nature...ever expanding what we discovered and observed.  It was then when we expanded into the seasons, birds, blooms and butterflies, then waterfalls, landscapes and lighthouses. The past two years we expanded into shooting ice, spinning wool, the weather and the northern lights. And finally we are adding in that travel aspect that we have been waiting to do. If you want to peg our creativity it’s based in need...the need to travel and enjoy the world around us....and the best way to do that is to photograph it.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

Since all of our work is outdoors we need to make time to get outside as much as possible.  "JUST DO IT" seems a tagline that fits our process.  We do a lot of research (to locate and find our subject matter of the day) and then get out there.  We have learned that our type of photography can sometimes take a lot of planning.  Setting aside time to get to and from locations as remote as the Sax Zim Bog is a great example: I have a hard time remembering it takes time to get to a location....I'm already shooting the minute I get in the car, if only in my head.

We have also learned that our photography is "get out there and shoot what you find" or as a friend has called it "dumb luck shooting". You have to have trust in the process.  As a nature photographer we shoot what we see...sometimes we go out to shoot snowy owls and do not find a one.  But at the same time we might find rime ice, ice glazed trees or hoar frost.  The biggest lesson is "you can't shoot it, unless you are out there".  The more exposure we have to the outdoors is relative to how many images we can capture.  This in turn is relative to how many images we can expect to get out of a day’s shoot.  If the birds aren't there, you have to ask yourself "is there a secondary opportunity"?

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?

Carol: That's easy.  I created a whole set of images probably 6 years ago called "Crosscuts of Wood".  I think I created 29 images of tree rings from different trees.  And about two years ago I found a site where I took several of the images and created scarves with the "Crosscuts of Wood" prints on them.   I wear them with jeans and a T-shirt and get so many compliments.  What I love most about that is I even get to wear my art.  I can also make canvas bags, pillows, mugs, phone covers...almost anything...even shower curtains. Our artwork is all over our home.  

What are you trying to communicate with your photos?

Carol: I am an environmentalist and I love to create environmental portraiture. I've been pursuing and preaching environmentalism since my freshman year in college. I hope our work speaks for itself...that it is an example of who we are and what we love most in the world around us, as it is what we will be pursuing the rest of our lives. I believe I first began to really love the outdoors when I took a canoe trip down the Wolf River with my sophomore class Biology teacher's class. And later when faced with environmental issues in a Forensics’ competition in 1973 I learned enough to make it my goal to learn and teach, if only by example, just how important our environment around us is to our own survival. If you treat the earth, nature and our wildlife with loving care and really observe what the consequences of your actions are...you will learn the earth, nature and wildlife will repay you with enrichment far beyond what you sew. Photography, our photography shows exactly that...how beautiful our natural world really is if you just take the time to slow down and observe it. We hope that our photography exudes and extends beyond us and our time here on earth. We hope that we somehow enrich the future world with our own quiet and peaceful recordings of our meanderings.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

Carol: I would absolutely love to take our photography to another level. I would love to combine it with multimedia design. I love the idea of combining the beauty with recycling or re-purposing items of ephemera. I've taken only one class with another artist I adore: Mel Kolstad of Fond du Lac, WI and I plan to take more.

What’s the best advice you have ever received about how to be more creative?

I was asked one time by a photographer that I admired, "Why do you believe that this image is special?" And another question by another artist: "What makes this image more marketable than another similar image...say you were placed next to another photographer doing similar work?"

What advice would you give a young artist who is just starting out?