Just inside the door of Carina Colvin’s childhood home near Springfield hangs a pastel of three circus horses the artist rendered at age 7.
Containing both art and horses, it represents the essential elements in life for the now 24-year-old whose stunning chalk drawings offer visual garnishes that border on eye candy for visitors to Current Cuisine deli and catering in Yellow Springs.
As an artist, she has impressed from the start.
“I have kept (her) pictures even since she was 2,” said mother Michelle Colvin, who home-schooled Carina and older brother, Jacob.
“Crayons, colored pencils, regular chalk – she worked wonders with whatever medium you gave her. She was definitely an artist since birth,” the mother said.
>> PHOTOS: Carina Colvin turns chalk into art at Current Cuisine deli
Carina’s other love — animals — also manifested itself in childhood, shortly after the Colvin family built and moved into their country home and Carina joined a 4H Club. A rabbit project led to an introduction to a horse, a migration to a 4H Horse Club, and instruction in riding that continues to this day.
“I was going to be an equine vet” and enjoyed the introductory courses for the profession in a program at the University of Findlay, Carina said. “But all your professors say that unless you absolutely want to commit your life to this, do not do it.”
Harboring some doubts — and sobered by faculty cautions about a high suicide rate in the profession — the switch to an art major was a natural.
Carina began taking art classes in second grade when, by chance, their mother took a tutoring job in science at the Springfield Museum of Art’s afterschool Infusion Campus.
There the young artist was taught by Lynda Pauley, who, a few years later was more than happy to take them into the adult daytime classes of her Prairie’s Edge Studio when the program closed.
Carina “has a great natural talent for visual art but also the dedication and work ethic that it takes to really use art in her life,” said Pauley, calling them hard working.
The winning combination of hard work and talent led to several first places at the regional Scholastic Art Awards and a silver medal at the nationals in an event that had 19,000 entrants.
Pauley said she was so excited, “I felt like I was winning it.”
As one might hope and expect, Carina’s love of art broadened and deepened at Findlay, where she won fans among the art faculty. But that same love was tested by the rigors of the sustained focus required to earn summa cum laude grades and a pandemic that, among other things, led to the cancellation of what would have been the first commencement ceremony in the home-schooled student’s life.
They were leaving the burnout behind when they applied for a job at Current Cuisine, unaware of the eatery’s tradition of using colorful chalk drawings to advertise specials – a tradition that goes back to 1989, when the Current family bought the store.
“It’s just a part of the job for whoever wants to do it,” co-owner Karen Current says. When friend and co-worker Cara Spaugy volunteered to hand off the chalk work about a year ago, Carina was given the opportunity to keep her hand in art.
Today marks the final date of the current French food special brought to customers’ attention by their “April In Paris” pastel – a drawing that features Parisian architecture.
Because “I have friends who live there,” Carina said, the friends were consulted on the work’s contents.
The artist’s brainstorming more often involves an online search for reference images that avoid being stereotypical but must still be representative of the food at hand.
Their brilliant gallery of solutions includes a festive Mardi Gras mask; an angled pair of slender boats representing the floating markets of Thailand; two accurately rendered Asian elephants; a sombrero atop a skull to celebrate the Mexican Day of the Dead; a frothing-over beer stein for Oktoberfest; and the piece that inspired this story, a spring seafood special that shows a scuba diver swimming through the flora and fauna of the depths.
As is typical, the artist said, they “struggled with that one because the white chalk didn’t stick as well” as was hoped.
As typical, however, is the warm and regular praise that comes Colvin’s way by customers as drawn to the art and, at the same time, the artist.
“People are very nice. I definitely get a lot of feedback,” they said.
Art interests aside from pastels include the mediums of graphite, oil paints and photography – particularly editing in Photoshop. All are likely to play a role in Carina’s not-quite-immediate future.
“I think probably next year or the year after, I’ll try not to work quite as many days and get back into (art).”
But, for the moment, Carina said, “I’m enjoying life:” Spending: spend time with a new horse; establishing financial stability; and prepare for a wedding with their love, Cass Georgeson, who also works at Current Cuisine.
“We have a townhouse apartment, and I garden, and everything needs attending to,” they said.
Among the things that will have to be attended to shortly is erasing the “Spring in Paris” drawing from the chalkboard at Current Cuisine.
While the thought of that will make many of her fans sad, that’s a feeling Carina seldom shares.
“Only a couple of them have lived up to what I’ve hoped for,” and the erasing removes the scant flaws only the creator sees.
But the artist does, at least, take pictures of them.
And the images that can be seen in a photo gallery in today’s digital edition so they won’t be lost.
They’re likely to become part of the gallery in a house outside of Springfield in which a 7-year-old’s pastel of circus horses hangs on the wall.