When Corinne Hartley left the Chouinard Art Institute in 1944 after two years of intensive study she was confident about drawing the figure and had a portfolio to prove it. An opportunity soon opened for her to work in what she calls “the high powered field of commercial art – fashion illustration.” She immediately took the job, and for the next thirty years continued to utilize her drawing skills as a fashion illustrator and, in off hours, as a painter. Her main subjects were women and children. When photography began to inch its way into fashion advertising, she made the transition by exhibiting her work at local galleries gradually establishing a solid career as a fine artist. Immensely popular with the public, her life-like portraits were widely coveted, and she began to feel the pressures of keeping up with her growing number of portrait commissions where children and adults continued to be her subjects.
Over the years Hartley has felt equally at home working in several mediums – charcoal pencil, watercolor, and oil. In the 1990s she began exploring sculpture as well, energetically making it a capstone to a career that spans more than sixty years.
Accepting additional responsibility in her art life, Hartley found teaching a rewarding enterprise and continues today conducting studio classes and plein air workshops where students and teach grow together. She has an immense capacity for work, painting in the day-time hours, sculpting at night, teaching one day a week, and recently has been hard at work writing her very first book on “How to Draw Children.” Though her early records are incomplete, it is estimated she has created over 5,000 original works in her lifetime.
In an art world that thrives on diversity, and a public with eclectic tastes, Hartley is determined to stay within her genre. Her works are about humanness, the kind of undeniable realism that art can express, even over photography. There’s a certain innocence portrayed in these works – laughing children, smiling teens, serene, thoughtful adults, all done with an overlay of “I see the world like this” exuberance. She believes in the core values of human love, compassion, and joy, and her conviction is that art talent is a gift from a benevolent creator.
“I believe love can be made visible,” she says. “My desire is to bring joy to my audience – to put a smile on people’s faces. When I see that smile I know they’re touched in a special way. That makes me happy.”
Who cannot welcome such a worthy goal in days when art is being continually challenged to illuminate individual thought, express honest emotion, and thereby communicate with a world community increasingly conscious of its oneness.