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Candace Bialczak: Inspired by Everything

Interviewed by Jr. Board President June Aarsen, May 23, 2023

On Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting with local artist Candace Bialczak, who had just returned from a visit with her daughter in Seattle. We talked about gardening and travel, and how Candace is spending her retirement harnessing more creative energy than she thought she ever had in her youth.

Candace’s journey as an artist began at Southern Connecticut University. She originally worked for an insurance company, however, this job was uninspiring for her and she decided to explore the field of medical illustration. Since there were only two programs in the country for this at the time, she found herself studying at the University of Illinois. Unfortunately, the precise, meticulous nature of medical illustration made it harder for Candace to feel connected to her art. She felt as though she was just copying as accurately as she could, and even after leaving medical illustration she continued to create paintings that were as realistic as possible. In Candace’s opinion, realism is easier than stylistic, expressive art. Carrying the mindset that realism is what makes art good only ends up inhibiting creativity.

When medical illustration no longer appealed to Candace, she returned to Connecticut and continued her studies at the University of Hartford. She studied art which was much more subjective and worked with mediums like acrylic and oil paints. After taking a watercolor course she fell in love with watercolor painting, which is still her primary medium to this day. In much of Candace’s art, we can see the influence of both her background in medical illustration and in watercolor, which inspired her to ‘loosen’ her style.

For a while, Candace worked at her parents’ frame shop and sold her artwork up front, until she decided it was time to get a ‘real job.’ She got her teaching degree and taught art in Wallingford for many years. She retired in 2020 since it became very difficult to teach art virtually. “It’s just not the same,” she says, “You can’t teach pottery and painting online.” In her retirement, Candace is still dedicated to arts education and helping others. She now teaches adult art classes at the Arts Place in Cheshire and spends much of her time gardening and working in her studio during the summer. She loves to take inspiration from the little things in life and always pays attention to detail. “I take inspiration not necessarily from other art but rather from other things,” says Candace, especially from nature and her travels. Recently in Seattle, she noticed a hanging art piece from someone’s roof which led to the creation of a multimedia project of her own. She has begun using mixed media much more frequently than she had before retirement. She also has concern for the environment and recycles many of the old pieces of work she made as an art teacher. With piles and piles of unfinished artwork, she creates new collages, her way of “upcycling”. She encourages others to do the same. Although she thinks she lacked ideas years ago, she now finds herself with “too many ideas,” and is constantly finding new ways to use her art. To young artists, she says it is beneficial to have lofty goals, step out of the box, and be confident!

To close our conversation, I asked Candace about her experience with Shoreline Arts Alliance and if there was anything she as an artist would like to see more of in our community. She immediately remarked how she thought her experience with the Shoreline Arts Trail was “fantastic,” and how it keeps her present with art. She had stopped selling her pieces on the green or at markets due to the hassle of setup and the damage that was often done to her art in transit, and the Arts Trail allowed her to sell her work comfortably. She also feels that the Art League allows her to meet and socialize with other artists, which made her feel like she was part of a community with shared experiences. In response to something she would like to see in our community, Candace suggested the idea of local artists creating pieces to recognize landmarks or features, such as community gardens, in our Shoreline Towns.

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