‘I just fell in love with it’


Lillian Gottschling

Nola Carstairs poses with her piece, “Untitled” which won her an honorable mention at the Clackamas ESD Art Show.

The Clackamas Education Service District Regional Art Show took place in late March and early April of 2022. With the support of Diane Gauthier, Art II teacher, five students submitted their original work: Mercedes Geerhart, Kaelin Kehm, Emerson Karl, Rhiannon Soto, and Nola Carstairs. 

Below is an interview with Carstairs discussing art, what it means to her, and the piece that got her an honorable mention at the Clackamas ESD Regional Art Show. 


[Lily Gottschling]: So first off, what work did you enter into this show?

[Nola Carstairs]: I [submitted] a piece that I did last semester for Art Two. It was an 11 by 17 watercolor. Basically, the assignment [for the class] was to just pick a word and then make a collage [depicting] that word.

LG: Yeah, what medium was that work done in?

NC: Watercolor and ink.

LG: So, you said it was based on a word, right?

NC: Yeah.

LG: What word did you have?

NC: Well, when I first [got] the assignment, I actually didn’t want to do it because we weren’t allowed to pick our words, [we only picked from] a list that was already predetermined. So, I tried to find a word that was as close to what I wanted to do as possible. The word was ‘comprehensive’— “all elements coming together.” So basically, what I did was I picked one piece that I really liked, and then I made the collage off of that.

LG: Oh, that’s a really cool assignment. 

NC: Yeah, it was.

LG: So, was there some kind of personal meaning to you for that word specifically, or for how you represented it?

NC: I just really wanted to do something that had a lot of whimsy to it and that was my ultimate goal with this project.

LG: Oh wow, that’s super interesting. So, if we can kind of go back in time a bit, when did you kind of first start getting into art? 

NC: I’ve really kind of always been drawing. My dad drew a lot when I was younger so that kind of influenced [me]. I feel like I didn’t actually like seriously start drawing until freshman year, and then last year I finally decided that [it’s] what I wanted to do as a career, so I’ve really been trying to push myself, medium-wise.

LG: When did you first find the medium that worked best for you? And did you go through a lot of other mediums before you kind of found the right one?

NC: Yeah, I definitely used to do a lot of pencil and marker stuff [in] middle school and that’s all I did. But probably [my] freshman or sophomore year, I started water coloring, and I just fell in love with it. I think the way that it looked on the page was just perfect, it wasn’t so permanent I guess. You know, I love it. And it’s still one of my favorite mediums even though I don’t do it as often. It’s definitely like, my go-to for a bigger final piece.

LG: So going to the district art show, what made you pick this piece? And do you think this was a good piece for you to represent in this form? 

NC: That’s actually a funny story. So last semester, I finished the piece, and [Gauthier] had asked me if she could have it and had mentioned that she was going to put it in an art show, and I said yes because I didn’t like it so I didn’t really care what ended up happening to the piece. Like months later, she was like, ‘Hey congratulations,’ and I asked ‘Congratulations for what?’ and she said, ‘Oh, you’ve gotten into the art show.’ I didn’t even remember that [it] was happening. It was kind of a surprise for something that I [didn’t] actually like very much, but it was just nice to see it all hung up and everything.

LG: Yeah, so do you feel like your appreciation for that piece has grown since then? Or just your relationship with it?

NC: Yeah, I think [I like it] more. Maybe not for that piece specifically, but like, just not being so hard on the pieces that I don’t like because obviously other people liked it. 

LG: Yeah totally. So, kind of going forward, you said you wanted to do art as a career, right?

NC: Yeah, I do.

LG: What are your after high school plans in terms of whether you’re going to college or specific schools for art or like kind of what are your goals? And like, what are your career plans, if any?

NC: Yeah, I am going to college. I decided not to go to an art school, though, because of how expensive they were. So, you know, I was having a hard time and trying to decide where to go that wasn’t in a city and that wasn’t in California, so I ended up choosing to go to Southern Oregon University down in Ashland. They’re really known for their artistic community, so I thought that’d be really nice. I’m excited to go so [and] I just want to become an illustrator. 

LG: Are there any specific formats of illustration that you want to specialize in or places that you would want to work at?

NC: I would love to work in character design because I love making characters. I’d love book illustrations, not like kids’ books, per se, but if I could illustrate covers or inside illustrations, I think that’d be great.


As mentioned by Carstairs, her untitled piece that was submitted to the show was made for an in-class project. The premise: select a word from a pre-made list and create a piece that reflects your relationship with it. Gauthier saw this assignment as a way for students to access a new facet of their creativity— something that proved successful for Carstairs. As someone who has been involved in the art program since her freshman year, Carstairs has been able to develop as an artist, something that Gauthier hopes happens for all of her students.

“She has always produced thoughtful, detailed work,” Gauthier said. “The class allows her to try new mediums and concepts, which she takes on with diligence and sensitivity.”

While Carstairs is the only individual who received an honorable mention out of Gauthier’s students, the experience remains impactful and valuable to those involved.

“It makes me very proud to see my students’ works on display with those of their peers in the Clackamas area,” Gauthier said. “I also feel is it a valuable act to share one’s work in a public setting. It is a great confidence booster.”